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Guard Aided Escape Results in Murder, Rape and Texas Federal Prisoner's Death Sentence

Federal prisoner Sherman Fields filed a direct appeal of his convictions and death sentence for murder and rape following his armed escape from the privately-operated McClennan County Detention Center (MCDC) in Waco, Texas. His convictions and sentence were affirmed.

While detained on federal firearm charges at the MCDC in 2001, Fields absconded after purchasing a fire escape door key from a guard for $5,000 and obtaining a .22 pistol. Once free, he acquired another pistol and a car from a friend.

He visited his ex girlfriend, Suncerey Coleman, and her newborn baby at Waco's Hillcrest Hospital. Fields and the somewhat reluctant Coleman drove to nearby Downsville after he persuaded her to accompany him. They had sexual intercourse and he then shot her in the head twice and hid her body in some bushes. Days later he attempted an armed abduction of Hillcrest Hospital employee Tammy Edwards, for unclear reasons; the attempt failed but he managed to flee in her car.

Within weeks Coleman's body was discovered and Fields was soon arrested. While self proclaiming pro se status with court instructed counsel on standby, Fields was convicted of seven charges. He accepted appointed counsel at a separate sentencing hearing, objecting to out of court admissions on confrontation clause grounds. The district court sentenced him to the jury recommended death penalty and he appealed.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the convictions and sentence, finding his claims were without merit. A dissenting judge would have remanded the case for determination of any confrontation clause violations. See: United States v. Fields, 483 F.3d 313 (5th Cir. 2007), cert. denied.

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Related legal case

United States v. Fields