Fields v. Com., No. 1997-SC-0424-MR.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (Kentucky)
Writing for the CourtCooper
Citation12 S.W.3d 275
PartiesSamuel Steven FIELDS, Appellant, v. COMMONWEALTH of Kentucky, Appellee.
Decision Date24 February 2000
Docket NumberNo. 1997-SC-0424-MR.
12 S.W.3d 275
Samuel Steven FIELDS, Appellant,
v.
COMMONWEALTH of Kentucky, Appellee.
No. 1997-SC-0424-MR.
Supreme Court of Kentucky.
February 24, 2000.

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COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED

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Oleh R. Tustaniwsky, Thomas M. Ransdell, Assistant Public Advocates, Department of Public Advocacy, Frankfort, for appellant.

A.B. Chandler, III, Attorney General, Frankfort, David A. Smith, Kent T. Young, Dana M. Todd, Assistant Attorneys General, office of Attorney General, Criminal Appellate Division, Frankfort, for appellee.

COOPER, Justice.


During the early morning hours of August 19, 1993, Bess Horton was murdered in the bedroom of her home in Grayson, Kentucky. Her throat was slashed, and she was stabbed in the head with such force that the knife buried to the hilt in her right temple and the point of the blade protruded from her left temple. Officers Ron Lindeman and Larry Green of the Grayson Police Department were in the neighborhood investigating a suspected burglary when they saw a light in the Horton residence. Lindeman entered Mrs. Horton's bedroom through an open window and discovered her body lying in her bed. He also encountered Appellant Samuel Fields in the bedroom in possession of a knife, two razor blades, and numerous items of Mrs. Horton's jewelry. Following a trial by jury in the Rowan Circuit Court, Appellant was convicted of Horton's murder and sentenced to death. He appeals to this Court as a matter of right. Ky. Const. § 110(2)(b). We reverse for a new trial, because (1) the jury was permitted to hear the recorded narrative of a staged videotaped reenactment of Lindeman's investigation of the crime scene, and (2) the trial judge erroneously failed to instruct the jury on manslaughter in the second degree as a lesser included offense of murder.

I. FACTS.

Appellant's girlfriend, Minnie Burton, acted as a chauffeur for Mrs. Horton and ran errands for her when requested. In exchange, Horton allowed Burton to live rent-free in a duplex apartment located near Horton's residence. There was evidence that Horton decided to evict Burton and that she cut off the water to Burton's apartment, forcing her to spend nights at the homes of friends. There was also evidence that Burton had remarked that "someone ought to kill (Horton)," and that

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she had told a friend, Phyllis Berry, that Horton kept a metal box containing $4,000.00 in her bedroom. This latter information became significant when another witness testified that Berry had confessed to him that she and Minnie Burton went to Horton's residence to steal the metal box and that she (Berry) killed Horton when Horton awoke during the burglary and recognized Burton.

From about noon on August 18, 1993 until after midnight, Appellant, Minnie Burton, Phyllis Berry, and others drove around Carter and Boyd Counties, consuming large amounts of alcohol, mostly beer. The group made two separate trips to Ashland to purchase several cases of beer. They stopped at the residence of Phyllis Berry's brother in Boyd County, where Appellant drank some whiskey and ingested some "horse tranquilizers." Appellant and Burton finally returned to Grayson with the intention of spending the night at a residence occupied by Appellant's mother and brother. After entering the residence, Appellant continued drinking beer and began quarreling with Burton. When he began throwing food, furniture and other objects, including knives, around the kitchen, Burton fled the residence and told Appellant she was going to her apartment. After destroying some more personal property and threatening his brother with a knife, Appellant broke the glass on the kitchen door with his fist, causing lacerations of his right arm. After retrieving several more cans of beer, Appellant proceeded to Burton's apartment.

Burton had been unable to gain entry to her apartment, because Elmer Prichard, the other resident of the duplex, had locked the doors. Appellant arrived and told Burton that he had killed his brother (which he had not), and asked her if she would dispose of the alleged murder weapon. He gave Burton a knife, which she threw into some nearby bushes. Appellant then went into "a frenzy" and attempted to gain entry to Burton's apartment by ripping the screens off of the windows. Burton again fled. Elmer Prichard called the police and Officers Lindeman and Green responded to the call. Appellant testified that he then proceeded to the Horton residence looking for Burton, because Burton had told him of her intention to "rob" Horton. He sat on Horton's porch for a while drinking beer, then entered Horton's bedroom through an open window. He turned on his cigarette lighter for illumination and saw that the room had been ransacked. However, he did not notice Horton's body on the bed. He then began pocketing whatever he could find, including jewelry and a knife.

While investigating the attempted burglary of the duplex, Officers Lindeman and Green noticed a light inside the Horton residence. They found the garage door open, but the inside door locked. Lindeman then discovered the open window and climbed inside, where he found both Horton's body and Appellant. Some jewelry, a knife, and two razor blades either fell from or were removed from Appellant's pockets. According to Lindeman, he offered to read Appellant his Miranda rights, but Appellant was able to recite them verbatim. Appellant then stated: "Kill me, Ron. Kill me. I stabbed her and I'm into it big this time." Lindeman testified that when he asked Appellant why he had killed Horton, Appellant replied: "I don't know. Kill me Ron. I'm going to prison for the rest of my life this time." Appellant denied uttering these statements. His version was that Lindeman jumped on him and knocked him to the floor, then put a gun to his head, accused him of killing Horton, and threatened to shoot him.

Appellant was arrested and transported by Kentucky State Trooper Roy Wolfe to King's Daughters' Medical Center in Ashland for treatment of injuries to his right arm. Wolfe testified that in his opinion, Appellant was intoxicated.

After Appellant was removed from the crime scene, Officer Lindeman and an unidentified cameraman staged a lengthy and dramatic videotaped reenactment of the

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investigation leading up to Appellant's arrest and alleged confession. The cameraman filmed Lindeman as he retraced his route from the duplex apartment to the Horton residence, to the open garage door, then through the open window and into the bedroom. As he led the cameraman through the reenactment, Lindeman narrated where he was, what he was doing, and why. He also described Officer Green's locations and activities. After entering the bedroom during the reenactment, Lindeman used his flashlight to demonstrate how he drew his gun on Appellant. He narrated how the jewelry, the knife, and the razor blades had either fallen or been removed from Appellant's pockets, and repeated verbatim Appellant's confession to murdering Mrs. Horton. The camera was then panned around the bedroom to the jewelry, the knife, and the razor blades, then to some blood on the carpet which Lindeman described as Appellant's blood. Finally, the camera was focused on the bed where Mrs. Horton's body still lay, her throat slashed and the knife still buried in her right temple. The camera continued to focus on Mrs. Horton's wounds for approximately forty seconds until the video was concluded.

Appellant was treated in the emergency room at King's Daughters' Medical Center for some minor lacerations of his right arm. No stitches were required. Appellant was examined by Jason Dobson, an emergency medical technician (EMT), who opined at trial that there was too much blood on Appellant's arms and clothing to have been caused by such minor injuries. Dobson also testified that he asked Appellant how he got the blood on him and that Appellant responded: "You stupid s.o.b., if you had just killed some lady, you would be covered with blood, too." The blood on Appellant's arm was washed off at the hospital. Subsequent blood typing and DNA testing revealed that none of the blood found on Appellant's clothing was traceable to Mrs. Horton and none of the blood found on Horton's bed was traceable to Appellant.

II. VIDEOTAPED EVIDENCE.

Appellant moved in limine to suppress the videotaped reenactment of Lindeman's investigation, or, in the alternative, to suppress the audio narrative portion thereof, especially Lindeman's repetition of Appellant's alleged confession. The motion was overruled and the videotape was played to the jury in its entirety, both video and audio, not only during Lindeman's direct testimony, but also during both the prosecutor's opening statement and his closing argument.

A videotape of a crime scene, including the position of the victim's body and the location and nature of the victim's injuries, is just as admissible as a photograph, assuming a proper foundation is laid. Bedell v. Commonwealth, Ky., 870 S.W.2d 779 (1993); Milburn, v. Commonwealth, Ky., 788 S.W.2d 253 (1989). If relevant and probative of an issue in the case, a videotape of a crime scene, like a crime scene photograph, is admissible even though gruesome. Mills v. Commonwealth, Ky., 996 S.W.2d 473, 489 (1999); see also Dillard v. Commonwealth, Ky., 995 S.W.2d 366, 370 (1999) and cases cited therein. While we have some reservations with respect to the propriety of focusing the camera on the victim's wounds for as long as forty seconds, we conclude that jurors would be no more inflamed by this lengthy depiction than by being exposed to a crime scene photograph for the same duration of time. Thus, we conclude that there was no error in admitting the video portion of the taped reenactment. The admission of the audio portion, however, significantly implicates the hearsay rule.

The audio narration on the videotape was undoubtedly an out-of-court statement offered to prove the truth of the matter...

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72 practice notes
  • Rundle v. Warden, San Quentin State Prison, No. 2:08-cv-01879 TLN KJN
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • November 21, 2013
    ...for the proposition that the prosecutor's actions were improper is a decision of the Kentucky Supreme Court. See Fields v. Commonwealth, 12 S.W. 3d 275 (Ky. 2000). Petitioner makes no showing that, under federal law, the prosecutor's actions were inappropriate. Petitioner has not establishe......
  • Paige v. State, No. 2105, Sept. Term, 2014.
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • November 30, 2015
    ...narrative testimony from in court witnesses providing "simultaneous commentary" of crime scene video), with Fields v. Commonwealth, 12 S.W.3d 275, 280 (Ky.2000) (finding error in pre-recorded narrative video when such narration contained inadmissible hearsay).9 226 Md.App. 129The Court stat......
  • Willoughby v. Simpson, CIVIL ACTION NO. 08-179-DLB
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Eastern District of Kentucky
    • August 29, 2014
    ...guilty of intentional murder or first-degree manslaughter if they concluded that Willoughby was intoxicated. See Fields v. Commonwealth, 12 S.W.3d 275, 282-82 (Ky. 2000) (recognizing that voluntary intoxication may negate the mens rea element of intentional murder and first-degree manslaugh......
  • Caudill v. Commonwealth of Kentucky, 2000-SC-0296-MR.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (Kentucky)
    • June 12, 2003
    ...killed Mrs. White. As noted earlier in Part I, issue 4(b), the videotape was not introduced. KRE 801A(a)(2); Fields v. Commonwealth, Ky.,12 S.W.3d 275, 280-81 (2000). Goforth complains, however, that Caudill testified at trial that, after her arrest, she "did a walk-through reenactment with......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
72 cases
  • Rundle v. Warden, San Quentin State Prison, No. 2:08-cv-01879 TLN KJN
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • November 21, 2013
    ...for the proposition that the prosecutor's actions were improper is a decision of the Kentucky Supreme Court. See Fields v. Commonwealth, 12 S.W. 3d 275 (Ky. 2000). Petitioner makes no showing that, under federal law, the prosecutor's actions were inappropriate. Petitioner has not establishe......
  • Paige v. State, No. 2105, Sept. Term, 2014.
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • November 30, 2015
    ...narrative testimony from in court witnesses providing "simultaneous commentary" of crime scene video), with Fields v. Commonwealth, 12 S.W.3d 275, 280 (Ky.2000) (finding error in pre-recorded narrative video when such narration contained inadmissible hearsay).9 226 Md.App. 129The Court stat......
  • Willoughby v. Simpson, CIVIL ACTION NO. 08-179-DLB
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Eastern District of Kentucky
    • August 29, 2014
    ...guilty of intentional murder or first-degree manslaughter if they concluded that Willoughby was intoxicated. See Fields v. Commonwealth, 12 S.W.3d 275, 282-82 (Ky. 2000) (recognizing that voluntary intoxication may negate the mens rea element of intentional murder and first-degree manslaugh......
  • Caudill v. Commonwealth of Kentucky, 2000-SC-0296-MR.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (Kentucky)
    • June 12, 2003
    ...killed Mrs. White. As noted earlier in Part I, issue 4(b), the videotape was not introduced. KRE 801A(a)(2); Fields v. Commonwealth, Ky.,12 S.W.3d 275, 280-81 (2000). Goforth complains, however, that Caudill testified at trial that, after her arrest, she "did a walk-through reenactment with......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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