After a week-long trial and five-and-a-half hours of deliberation Tuesday, a Daviess County jury acquitted Damian M. Fields of any culpability in the June 2022 fatal shooting of a man on West Seventh Street.
The jury ruled Fields, 28, of Livermore, was not guilty of participating or conspiring in the June 13, 2022, death of John Leak Jr.
The jury found Fields not guilty of conspiracy to murder and not guilty to lesser charges of conspiracy to commit second-degree manslaughter and conspiracy to commit reckless homicide.
“Obviously, we are pleased with the outcome,” lead defense attorney Leigh Jackson said after the verdict. “We appreciated the extraordinary service our jury provided.
“They (jurors) worked hard. It was a hard week.”
Fields was charged along with Derrick Carroll, 30, of the 1600 block of Mayo Street, in Leak’s death.
Although Fields was cleared of the charges, he will not be released from incarceration. Fields pleaded guilty in November in McLean County to a charge of receiving stolen property, for stealing a vehicle in Richland County, Illinois. Fields was sentenced to eight years in prison in that case. By Fields’ testimony, he and Carroll were together when they stole the car.
According to the state’s offender database, Fields will be eligible for parole in February 2024.
In her closing argument, Jackson said the lead Owensboro Police Department detective in the investigation, J.D. Faith, did not investigate other leads and suspects.
Carroll is alleged to have shot Leak. The bullet retrieved from Leak and a shell casing found on West Seventh Street were matched to a gun found under the northbound bridge from Henderson to Indiana.
“What you did not hear was any evidence that connected Damian Fields to that gun,” Jackson said.
Fields testified Monday he had loaned a silver Chevrolet Impala owned by his mother to a man he only knew as “Puta” who sometimes gave him Percocets in exchange for using the vehicle. Fields testified “Puta” took him to Bally’s casino in Evansville and then left with the vehicle, leaving Fields to later find a ride back to Owensboro.
“He didn’t have to tell you about the Percocets, but he chose to, because it was important to understand why he would loan his car to a person,” Jackson said.
Fields testified he said he had seen Carroll at the casino that night, that the two reconnected later in Owensboro and decided to leave town together for Illinois, where Fields had family members. They took Fields’ mother’s Impala, which Fields said he found parked behind his aunt’s house near Legion Park.
Jurors asked to review trial testimony from a cell tower expert who testified how Carroll’s and Fields’ phones were both shown in the proximity of cell towers in Olney and Peoria, Illinois, after the shooting. Jurors also asked to review surveillance and door camera footage of the shooting.
Jackson told jurors police received tips about other possible suspects, and said Faith “won’t specify how he eliminated the other suspects.” Faith testified Monday that other detectives ruled out other potential suspects.
Of the other possible suspects, Faith “didn’t interview them. He didn’t try to interview them, and he didn’t determine if any of them had left town,” Jackson said.
Later, Jackson said Faith believed Fields and Carroll were guilty and “tailored his investigation to that conclusion.”
Commonwealth’s Attorney Bruce Kuegel, in his closing, argued the evidence was conclusive that Fields was involved in the shooting.
“Damian Fields was a passenger in his mother’s 2009 Chevy Impala that was operated by Derrick Carroll,” Kuegel said.
The video of the incident shows Leak pulling into his mother’s driveway and a light-colored passenger vehicle stopping behind him. Then, two men exit the car and confront Leak. A loud pop is heard, and Leak drives away.
Leak crashed a few blocks away and was pronounced dead of a gunshot wound at Owensboro Health Regional Hospital.
“Damian aided in the confrontation” with Leak, Kuegel said. The video, Kuegel said, showed the men with their arms extended at Carroll’s car, seeming to indicate both had handguns.
“I submit to you the passenger is being as aggressive as the driver,” Kugel said.
The light-colored vehicle seemed to have a yellow towel in its back window on the video, and a yellow towel was found in the back window of Fields’ mother’s Impala when it was found wrecked in Olney, Illinois. Fields admitted stealing a car out of Olney after wrecking the Impala.
Kuegel defended the work of OPD.
“There has been a lot of finger-pointing at Detective Faith and the job he did,” Kuegel said. “He told you exactly what he did.”
OPD eliminated suspects and possible vehicles, but “the names keep popping up” of Fields and Carroll, Kuegel said. “What (detectives) are doing is process of elimination.”
Kuegel noted that Fields had lied to Faith and left out information during his interview.
“(Fields) didn’t mention the car and didn’t talk to the detective about going to Illinois,” Kuegel said. “That didn’t come up.”
Fields testified he lied to detectives because he was on parole and not supposed to leave the state when he went to Illinois.
After the verdict, Kuegel also said the jury worked hard on the case.
“We appreciate that the jury listened to the case and gave it consideration,” he said. “These types of complicity cases are always difficult cases. My compliments to the police department and Detective Faith for his work on the case.”
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