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Both sides rest their case Monday in Fields trial

Monday, June 28, 2010 | 10:36 p.m. CDT; updated 10:43 p.m. CDT, Monday, June 28, 2010
Tausha Fields, center, listens to testimony from Detective David Wilson with one of her attorneys, Kim Shaw, left, during trial on June 28 at the Boone County Courthouse. Wilson answered questions from the defense about her continuous contact with the authorities prior to her arrest.

COLUMBIA — Testimony in Tausha Fields' murder trial came to a swift end Monday afternoon, with both the prosecution and the defense calling their final witnesses within a period of two hours.

Fields did not take the stand. Closing arguments from the prosecution and the defense are set for Tuesday morning.

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Fields is charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action for the Aug. 24, 2004, killing of Mitchell W. Kemp, one of her former husbands.

Attorneys from both sides agree Fields brought Kemp to the south Boone County farm she shared with then-husband Gregory W. Morton. Morton shot Kemp, and Fields helped bury the body on the property. The sides disagree about the nature of Fields' involvement.

Monday's witnesses — for the prosecution and the defense — included four members of the Boone County Sheriff's Department, Boone County's chief medical examiner and various acquaintances of Morton and Fields.

Fields' attorneys questioned four final state witnesses about the assistance Fields gave investigators in the months prior to her arrest.

Public defender Paul Hood pointed to Fields' cooperation with investigators and her involvement in the search for Kemp's body.

Boone County Detective Bob Brown was one of several detectives who downplayed Fields' role in the investigation.

Brown testified that even though the department's efforts throughout the spring and summer of 2008 had not been successful, he was certain a body would have been found regardless of Fields' August 2008 visit to the property when she led authorities to the grave.

Major Tom Reddin, second-in-command at the Boone County Sheriff's Department, said he made the decision not to arrest Fields immediately after finding the body.

Reddin testified that he and his department were "playing Tausha" in order to get information from her about the body, the murder and Morton. He said they were afraid Fields would stop giving information to the department if she were arrested.

Boone County Sheriff's Department Detective David Wilson testified that after Fields' eventual arrest in Dickinson, Texas, on Dec. 19, 2008, Fields changed her story from previous interviews with him, when she denied any involvement in Kemp's death.

In footage of the December interview shown Monday, Wilson told Fields he would give her a final chance to tell him everything she knew about Kemp's murder, adding that her cooperation might encourage prosecutors to go easier on her.

Fields then admitted to bringing Kemp to the farm and being present during the murder.

In the video, Fields continued to assert her innocence. She told Wilson the only things she was guilty of was infidelity — for seeing Kemp behind Morton's back — and not reporting the crime.

When Wilson told her the department didn't believe she pulled the trigger, Fields asked repeatedly why she was under arrest for murder.

Wilson confronted her with statements made against her by various witnesses alleging that she'd lured Kemp to the property with the intention of having Morton kill him, that she'd spat on Kemp's body and that she'd later taken his van to be destroyed, which Fields denied.

During the interrogation, Fields said that though her relationship with Kemp hadn't been perfect, she never wanted him to get hurt.

When asked why she didn't report the murder, Fields said she was traumatized by the incident and was afraid Morton would hurt her or her then-1-year-old daughter if he knew she told.

"I watched what he did," Fields told Wilson. "What do you think he would've did if I'd taken Lexie and left? And I knew what happened?"

After hearing testimony from 23 witnesses over five days of proceedings, assistant prosecutors Richard Hicks and Andrea Hayes rested their case at approximately 3 p.m. Monday. Subsequent testimony from the defense lasted approximately two hours.

Fields' attorneys called witnesses to the stand to discredit Morton, who prosecutors said had been duped into murdering Kemp.

Jami Bowden, 33, of Alabama, testified that she met Morton and Fields when the couple moved to Foley, Ala., in 2005. Bowden said that when she first met the couple, she noticed a huge difference in Fields' demeanor depending on if Morton was around or not.

Bowden said that Fields seemed to be "on eggshells" around Morton and scared into obeying him. When Morton wasn't around, Bowden said Fields was calm and laid back.

Bowden also described an altercation in 2004 in which she said Morton charged at her repeatedly and threatened her with a rifle. Bowden said she took out a 1-year restraining order against Morton.

Testimony ended with Johnny Miller, who met Morton at Boone County Jail in the fall of 2008. Miller, who is serving a 15-year sentence for first-degree robbery, said the two shared a cell and quickly became friends. Miller said he decided to "snitch" on Morton after Morton shared vague details about his crime and asked Miller for tips to pass a lie detector test.

Morton, who testified extensively against Fields last week, pleaded guilty in June 2009 to reduced charges in exchange for his testimony.

Before ending the day, Judge Gary Oxenhandler questioned Fields about her decision not to take the stand. Fields answered quietly that she had made this decision on her own, with sufficient advice from her attorneys.

Closing arguments will begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday.


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