Attorney wants murder case dismissed, cites omissions made by officer under TBI investigation

photo Cordalro Stricklane
photo Chattanooga Police Department detective Karl Fields

Ripples of Officer Karl Fields' alleged misconduct continue to move through the Hamilton County Courthouse a month after he was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into his handling of a rape victim's case.

On Monday, an attorney for slaying suspect Cordalro Strickland filed a motion to dismiss his case based on omissions she said Fields made in his report.

Fields has been on leave from the Chattanooga Police Department since early September, when a rape victim in a case he was investigating came forward with lurid text messages she said Fields sent to her phone. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has been called in to examine the case.

Strickland is accused in the July 2011 shooting death of Melvin "Brando" Fennell, a 25-year-old father of three. Fennell was shot in his Arlington Avenue doorway, and two others were wounded in the attack. Strickland was charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and aggravated assault.

Fields' original report states that two witnesses told Fields they saw an older white car parked near the corner of Arlington and Citico avenues just before the shooting. They describe "a black male getting out of the passenger seat wearing dark shorts, a dark shirt, a dark ski mask and a white sock wrapped around his hand which was holding a gun," according to the report.

Strickland's attorney, Brandy Spurgin, said that description doesn't match Strickland.

Fields' report states that the witnesses wanted to remain anonymous.

The motion filed by Spurgin contends that eyewitness statements are necessary for the defense to properly prepare for trial, and that by failing to provide their names the state breached its duty to preserve evidence. According to the motion, the report of those two anonymous witnesses is the only suspect identification from the shooting.

Spurgin argues that Strickland would be defending himself without a full picture of witness statements.

Strickland's mother, Audrey Cunningham, said she has questioned Fields' handling of her son's case from the beginning. When she heard the allegations against Fields, she "was blown away," she said.

It's not the first time Fields' investigation of a case has come into question. He's been accused of losing key evidence, coaching a witness and failing to test all guns in an attempted murder case.

Because the TBI investigation is ongoing, it's not clear if Fields will be present for Strickland's trial.

Spurgin told Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Don Poole she plans to file several other motions this week. Strickland's next hearing is scheduled for Oct. 20.

Contact staff writer Claire Wiseman at cwiseman@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347.