A special prosecutor who successfully convicted three men in 2009 for a cold-case murder was recused from the case, including his entire staff, as defense attorneys for two of the defendants say the commonwealth violated their clients’ rights and withheld evidence which could have found them innocent.

Butler County Commonwealth’s Attorney Tim Coleman was appointed to prosecute former Central City police lieutenant Billy Fields, 71, Jimmie Cramer, 45, Jimmy Springer, 46 and Jeffrey Boyd, 52, for the October 1987 rape and mutilation-murder of 20-year-old Corinna Mullen.

Attorney Dennis Burke successfully convinced Christian Circuit Judge Andrew Self that Coleman may have to testify at a special hearing about exculpatory evidence withheld by the commonwealth that could exonerate his client, Billy Fields, as well as Jimmie Cramer.

Burke argued that Coleman cut a deal with the commonwealth’s star eyewitness, Samantha Robinson, so her husband, Mike Robinson, would receive “special consideration” from the commonwealth for her testimony, at her husband’s sentencing on unrelated drug manufacturing and trafficking charges.

Coleman disputed Burke’s contention that a deal was cut and pointed out that Mike Robinson was still given the same 22-year sentence under his original plea agreement.

“The fact that Mr. Coleman didn’t actually deliver on his promise, if there was indeed such a promise, is not relevant here,” Burke countered. “What is relevant is whether or not she relied upon and testified (at trial) because of those (promises).”

Self granted Burke’s motion with some reservations.

“I think that, and this is not necessarily a legal principle but it’s one, I think, should guide many of us in most of our affairs,” Self began. “When in doubt — don’t. And I have some doubts or concerns here so I’m going to grant the motion.”

Mullen’s battered corpse was founded in the trunk of her car by city workers outside a Central City parking garage. Court documents say she had been bound, beaten, raped, sodomized with a broomstick, mutilated, then stabbed and slashed to death.

Trial records state that the unmarried Mullen was in an extramarital affair with Fields and it was first believed she was killed because she claimed she was pregnant with his baby, which angered him.

Investigators later determined that Fields, Boyd, Dale Duncan and Mullen’s boyfriend Jimmy Springer were partners in an interstate drug trafficking and stolen property ring. Mullen told Central City police officer John Scott about the gang’s dealings.

Scott then told Fields.

Springer was acquitted in 1987 on the original murder charge, but interest in the case was revived after Kentucky State Police got a tip in 2005 that there was an eyewitness, Samantha Robinson. She testified at a 2009 trial that she was taken to Mullen’s apartment after she was abducted off the street by Fields and Boyd.

According to the appellate record, Fields forced Mullen into the bedroom as Boyd shoved the then-16-year-old Robinson inside as well. Robinson testified Fields began beating Mullen with a metal bar and then raped her, after which Cramer, Boyd, and Springer took turns raping the woman.

Robinson told jurors that Fields then grabbed her and sodomized her on top of Mullen’s battered body. Robinson testified that after she was raped, Fields beat Mullen again, then stabbed and cut her with a knife. Mullen, by then either dead or unconscious, was placed in the trunk of her own car, where Fields ordered Robinson to drive it to the garage.

After parking the car, Robinson fled to her grandmother’s home and didn’t speak about the incident until contacted by KSP detectives nearly 20 years later.

A court observer who saw crime photos of the victim at the 2009 trial said that Mullen was so badly beaten and mutilated that her race or gender could not be readily determined.

Cramer got 60 years for his part in Mullen’s death while Fields and Boyd received life sentences. In August 2011, the Kentucky Supreme Court upheld the trial court’s decision.

Fields was also convicted of evidence tampering in the case, as he was the first investigator at the murder scene and lost or destroyed much of the physical evidence connected to the case.

With Coleman now off the case, the Attorney General’s Office will have to appoint a new special prosecutor to hear Burke’s second motion on whether or not Coleman may or may not have violated Fields’ and Cramer’s rights.

Reach Steve Breen at 270-887-3240 or sbreen@kentuckynewera.com.

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