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WILLIAMS v. THEZAN

January 5, 1989

EUGENE WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
LAWRENCE THEZAN and JOHN FITZSIMMONS, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BUA

 NICHOLAS J. BUA, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

 In February 1986, a grand jury indicted plaintiff for murder. He remained incarcerated for 21 months until the State of Illinois elected to drop the murder charges against him. Following his release, plaintiff filed this § 1983 action against two detectives with the Chicago Police Department. Plaintiff claims that the grand jury would not have indicted him if defendants had not coerced a third party to make a statement that implicated plaintiff in a murder. Defendants have moved for summary judgment. For the reasons stated herein, this court grants defendants' motion.

 FACTS

 At approximately 2:45 a.m. on January 30, 1986, Warren Guardipee was shot and killed with a.38 caliber bullet on the Chicago Transit Authority's Granville Avenue el platform. Shortly thereafter, Chicago police launched an investigation into the Guardipee homicide. The investigation produced no solid leads until the evening of January 31, 1986, when Officers John Francis and Tyrone Roberts arrested Jerry Graham on an unrelated matter. Because Graham claimed to know certain information about the Granville el homicide, Officers Francis and Roberts took Graham's statement on the subject.

 In his statement to police, Graham said that he was in Vickie Ruffetti's apartment during the early morning hours of January 30, 1986. At about 3:30 a.m. that morning, Graham heard a loud knock at the back door of the apartment. The impact of the knock broke a pane of glass in the door. When Graham opened the door, he saw Derrick Hamilton (a/k/a "Skeets") and plaintiff Eugene Williams (a/k/a "Blue"). According to Graham, Williams, who was carrying a.38 caliber gun, declared that he and Hamilton had just shot a man at the Granville el station.

 After relating his account of the previous day's events, Graham told Officers Francis and Roberts that he knew where Williams and Hamilton could be found that night. Graham stated that Williams was staying at Ruffetti's apartment. In addition, Graham described the clothes Williams was wearing that evening.

 Shortly after Graham gave his statement to Officers Francis and Roberts, two other pairs of police officers took turns questioning Graham about the Granville el homicide. Without altering any significant facts, Graham twice repeated his previous statement - first to Officers John McKeone and Terrance Lindahl, then to Sergeant James Brown and Officer Robert Baade. At approximately 2:00 a.m. on February 1, 1986, Officers Francis, Roberts, McKeone, and Lindahl drove with Graham to Ruffetti's apartment. While Roberts stayed in the car with Graham, Francis proceeded to the back door of the apartment, where he noticed a broken window pane in the storm door. Meanwhile, McKeone and Lindahl knocked on the front door of the apartment. Ruffetti answered the door, the officers identified themselves, and she admitted them. In the apartment, the officers saw a man wearing the sort of clothing that Graham had said Williams would be wearing. When the man identified himself as Eugene Williams, the officers immediately arrested him. As the officers left the apartment building with Williams and Ruffetti, Graham identified Williams to Officer Roberts.

 One hour after Williams' arrest, police found and arrested Derrick Hamilton at the location where Graham had said Hamilton would be. At approximately 3:20 a.m. on February 1, 1986, police asked Gary Simmerling to view a lineup that included Hamilton, Williams, Graham, and three other persons. Earlier, Simmerling had told police that shortly after he heard a gunshot at about 2:00 a.m. on January 30, 1986, he saw four men running from the Granville el station. Upon viewing the lineup, Simmerling identified Hamilton and Williams as two of the four men whom he had seen running from the el station. Enoch Ross, who was at the el station when the shooting occurred, also viewed the lineup. Ross identified Hamilton as one of the men whom he had seen fleeing from the el platform shortly after hearing a gunshot.

 As part of the ongoing investigation into the Guardipee homicide, Detective Bernard Richter conducted a series of interviews following Williams' arrest. First, Richter spoke with Graham, who reiterated the statement that he had previously given to Officers Francis and Roberts. Then Richter talked to Ruffetti. She stated that she was awakened on the morning of January 30, 1986 by a loud knocking on her back door. According to Ruffetti, her boyfriend, Jerry Graham, opened the back door to admit Hamilton and Williams, at which point Ruffetti went back to sleep. Finally, Richter interviewed Williams and Hamilton. Both men denied involvement in the murder. Williams claimed that at the time of the shooting, he was at his uncle's home in Chicago. This statement conflicted with Williams' previous claim that he was in St. Louis for a funeral when the shooting took place.

 When Detective Richter had finished interviewing the suspects, he presented the case to an Assistant State's Attorney, who approved murder charges against Hamilton and Williams on the evening of February 1, 1986. Later that night, Hamilton and Williams appeared in court for their probable cause and bond hearings. The presiding judge found probable cause to arrest the two men. He then set a bond that neither Williams nor Hamilton could post. At that point, officials from the Cook County Sheriff's office took Williams and Hamilton to Cook County Jail.

 In the days that followed, the police continued their investigation into the Guardipee homicide. They sought two brothers, Anthony and William Benjamin, for questioning in connection with the murder. Knowing that the police were looking for them, the Benjamin brothers voluntarily came to the police station in the early evening hours of February 7, 1986. At approximately 7:00 p.m. that evening, defendants Lawrence Thezan and John Fitzsimmons, two Chicago police detectives, conducted a lineup that included the Benjamin brothers and four other persons. *fn1" Enoch Ross, who viewed the lineup, had previously told police that he was at the Granville el station at the time of the shooting when a man approached him and threatened to steal his gym shoes. According to Ross, the man who had accosted him then went up onto the el platform and came running down shortly after the shooting. After viewing the lineup, Ross identified Anthony Benjamin as the man who had threatened to steal his shoes at the Granville el station on January 30, 1986. Detectives Thezan and Fitzsimmons then arrested Anthony Benjamin and released his brother William.

 Following the arrest of Anthony Benjamin, Thezan and Fitzsimmons attempted to interview Benjamin, but the suspect refused to talk to the detectives. According to Williams' complaint, Thezan and Fitzsimmons then proceeded to beat Benjamin in an effort to coerce him to implicate Williams in the murder. (Thezan and Fitzsimmons have repeatedly denied that they ever assaulted or otherwise coerced Benjamin.)

 Once the two detectives had completed their interview with Benjamin, Assistant State's Attorney Richard Mottweiler questioned the suspect outside the presence of Thezan and Fitzsimmons. During his interview with Mottweiler, Benjamin dictated and signed a statement implicating himself, Williams, and Hamilton in the Guardipee shooting. Mottweiler then approved murder charges against Anthony Benjamin. Sometime later, Detective Richter spoke with Benjamin. ...


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