Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 80-C-4797 -- William T. Hart, Judge.
Cummings, Chief Judge, Pell and Cudahy, Circuit Judges.
This is an appeal from the judgment entered in the district court pursuant to jury verdicts returned against individual defendants in a civil rights case. Defendants-appellants raise only two issues on appeal. They contend that the verdicts are inconsistent and that the district judge erred when he placed on them the burden of proof with respect to one of their defenses at trial. For the reasons given below, we affirm.
The facts in this case were largely disputed at trial, but we believe the following to be a fair account. In the early morning hours of October 21, 1979, Donald Stone, a twenty-two year old black male, traveled by bicycle toward the intersection of two Chicago streets. Donald Stone fell from his bicycle, according to his accouant because a patrol car, occupied by Chicago municipal police officers Jacobs and Haymaker, turned at the intersection without stopping and struck the bicycle. In the version recounted by the officers, Stone was riding his bicycle with one hand, panicked when he saw the patrol car, dropped his bicycle, and abandoned it next to the car. According to Stone, following the accident the officers pushed Stone to the curb, uttered racial slurs, returned to their car, and left the accident scene. At trial, the officers denied both having pushed Stone or having insulted him. It was agreed at trial that shortly after the alleged accident, officers in an unmarked police car spotted Stone and that Stone informed them that he required an ambulance. Two marked police cars then arrived, followed by yet another patrol car, the one involved in the alleged accident.
At this point, all the policemen who subsequently became defendants in this case, Sergeant Schacter and Officers Jacobs, Haymaker, Maloney, and Lazzaro, were assembled at the intersection and huddled together conversing. Schacter apparently approached Stone and accused him of feigning injury. All were then distracted by the arrival of Mrs. Stone, who was in a highly excited state. Mrs. Stone claimed at trial that the officers struck her, but they contended that they subdued her, using only reasonable force, because she angrily pushed several of them. Stone then rose to help his wife and allegedly struck Officer Lazzaro. At this point one of the officers pushed Stone to the ground. The officers then handcuffed the Stones, placed them in separate patrol cars, and drove them to a nearby hospital. The officers testified that they failed to take the names of any witnesses to the incident because an angry mob had assembled and had begun throwing rocks and bottles at them. Sergeant Schacter and Officer Lazzaro, however, omitted references to the throwing of rocks or bottles in the statements they later submitted to the Office of Police Standards. Stone testified that when the patrol car arrived at the hospital, the officers pulled him by his feet from the car in such a way that his head struck the pavement first. The officers then reportedly kicked and beat him.At trial, the officers denied having mishandled, kicked, or beaten Stone. It was uncontested that Stone did receive emergency room treatment for a head laceration.
Following hospital treatment for the Stones, the policemen took the Stones to a police station, where Officer Haymaker, without the assistance of Officer Jacobs, prepared a case report which read in pertinent part:
Bicycle rider, No. 1, eastbound in Howard Street in the westbound lane, disregarded red light and, while carrying a pizza in one hand and a bottle of soda in the other hand, tried to avoid hitting another auto westbound by sliding his bicycle on the ground without striking any auto or object. Victim uncooperative in investigation. No damage to bicycle.
The report omitted all reference to the involvement of the Haymaker and Jacobs patrol car in the incident. Sergeant Schacter approved the report. He also failed to report the Stones' allegation of a hit-and-run accident to the "Major Accident Investigation Section," the police unit responsible for investigating incidents of that nature.
The Stones subsequently brought a civil suit in federal court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985. Four counts are pertinent to this appeal. Count I, a pendent claim, alleged that Officers Haymaker and Jacobs negligently struck Stone while driving their assigned patrol car on the morning of October 21, 1979. Count II, a Section 1983 claim, alleged that Sergeant Schacter and all four officers deprived the Stone of rights secured by the Constitution by using excessive force when they effected the arrests of the Stones. Count III, also a Section 1983 claim, alleged that the Stones suffered constitutional deprivations when the defendants arrested them without probable cause. Count IV, a Section 1985 claim, alleged that all five policemen conspired to hinder the due course of justice by engaging in a cover-up of the events of October 21, 1979.
The jury returned verdicts for the plaintiffs on two counts and for the defendants on the remaining two counts. On Count I, the jury found in favor of Officers Haymaker and Jacobs. On Count II, the jury found that Officers Maloney, Lazzaro, and Haymaker used excessive force against Stone and further found that Sergeant Schacter and Officer Jacobs used excessive force against Mrs. Stone. With respect to Count III, the jury returned a verdict in favor of all five policemen. Finally, on Count IV, the jury found against Sergeant Schacter and Officers Maloney, Lazzaro, and Haymaker. The jury assessed the sum of $4,400 in actual damages and $6,500 in punitive damages against the defendants on the excessive force count and $3,000 as well as $11,000 punitive damages against the four policemen on the conspiracy count. All five policemen moved unsuccessfully for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict and for a new trial. The policemen contended that the jury verdict in favor of Officers Haymaker and Jacobs on Count I was inconsistent with the verdict in favor of the plaintiffs on Count IV. They also argued that the court erred when it instructed the jury on Count II by placing on the defendants the burden of proving they applied only reasonable force. The defendants now appeal from the judgment entered in the district court pursuant to the jury verdicts.