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New Evidence Leads to Exoneration of Hilliard Fields in 1997 Sexual Assault of a Child

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Dallas South News Wire (District Attorney’s Office)

A writ hearing on actual innocence has been scheduled for the court to enter its findings in the case of State v. Hilliard Fields.  Prosecutors from the Dallas County District Attorney’s (DA) Office will ask the judge for a favorable finding of actual innocence for Hilliard Fields.  The hearing will take place on Monday, June 27, 2011, at 9:00 a.m. CST in the 292nd Judicial District Court, Judge Larry Mitchell presiding.

Fields, 39, was charged with sexually assaulting a minor child for an offense that allegedly occurred on February 23, 1997.  He was already facing a separate, unrelated drug charge, and on August 27, 1997, he entered an agreed guilty plea to the sexual assault charge and was sentenced by the court to five years imprisonment.  Mr. Fields also entered an agreed plea of guilty to the drug charge and was assessed the same punishment of five years, to run concurrently.  He served his five-year sentence and it has been discharged.

“Obviously anytime a minor accuses someone of sexual assault, it is an allegation that is taken very seriously as it should be,” said Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins. “Unfortunately for Mr. Fields, sometimes there are circumstances where a person truly is innocent, but because of ill feelings between the accused and other adults involved, the false allegation is allowed to escalate to the point of prosecution and that’s exactly what happened in this case.  This just shines the light on the fact that DNA is not the only type of evidence that can prove a wrongful conviction.”

This case started with a letter written by the alleged victim to Mr. Fields, who was friends with the alleged victim’s mother. At the time the sexual assault allegations arose, the alleged victim had a crush on Mr. Fields.  During the District Attorney’s investigation into this case, it was discovered that the alleged victim became angry with Mr. Fields when he brought a girlfriend to the alleged victim’s house.

The alleged victim then wrote the aforementioned letter to Mr. Fields. When the alleged victim’s mother saw the letter and read it, she concluded that her underage daughter and Mr. Fields were engaged in a sexual relationship and therefore, called the police. (The letter disappeared shortly after it was found and never made it into the hands of the authorities).    Mr. Fields never saw the letter.

According to the police report, the alleged victim’s mother reported that the letter contained descriptions of sexual activity.  However, the alleged victim has always maintained that nothing inappropriate ever happened between her and Mr. Fields.

After a thorough investigation, on June 23, 2011, the District Attorney’s Office formally agreed to relief in this case and the judge signed an order recommending that the Court of Criminal Appeals grant relief.

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