published Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

Woman claims Chattanooga detective coached witness to lie in murder case

The attorney for a 25-year-old defendant facing a murder trial next month alleges that a Chattanooga police investigator coached a key witness to lie about his client.

Robin Flores, attorney for Cordalro Stricklane, is asking a judge not to allow testimony identifying his client from Detective Karl Fields or Mariah Stoudemire into his client's Feb. 12 trial.

According to a sworn affidavit signed by Stricklane's aunt, Deborah Wilson, she overheard Fields tell Stoudemire in the hallway outside Sessions Court during a preliminary hearing that she had "messed up this time" and "not to worry about it because I am going to school you."

Wilson claims Fields told Stoudemire that he would tell her everything about Stricklane and he would "tell her what to say in any future hearings," according to court documents.

Chattanooga police spokesman Officer Nathan Hartwig said Fields declined to comment and referred questions about discussions between investigators and witnesses to the Hamilton County district attorney's office.

Stricklane is charged with shooting and killing Melvin "Brando" Fennell on July 3, 2011, at Fennell's 818 Arlington Ave. home. During the shooting, police said, Stricklane also wounded Calvin Garner and Stoudemire.

Prosecutor Cameron Williams, who is handling the case for the district attorney's office, declined to comment on the pending case, which is office policy.

Wilson claims to have heard the conversation during the preliminary hearing and did not inform Flores of the incident until nearly a year later, according to court records.

The affidavit also alleges that then-prosecutor Lila Statom took part in the conversation and told Stoudemire to pay attention to what Fields was saying.

Statom was appointed a General Sessions judge on Dec. 17 by Gov. Bill Haslam to fill a seat vacated when Judge Ronald Durby left the bench for medical reasons.

Statom could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Flores attacked Fields' credibility in other ways, citing his 2006 suspension without pay for making up a story about being carjacked to cover up an off-duty, single-car crash in which he was the drunken driver.

He also alleges that Fields showed Stoudemire a photo lineup after the shooting and that she identified someone other than Stricklane. Fields then showed her another mix of photos, all of which were of Stricklane, Flores said.

Flores said Fields' past incidents bolster Wilson's claim in her affidavit and that information from Fields and Stoudemire identifying his client as the shooter shouldn't be allowed in front of a jury.

Defense attorneys previously have questioned Fields' credibility on the witness stand.

During the February 2012 murder trial of Jamaul Herman, defense attorney Mary Sullivan Moore asked similar questions. A jury acquitted Herman of the murder charge but found him guilty of evading arrest.

Criminal Court Judge Don Poole is expected to hear arguments about the allegations on Jan. 28.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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