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. In his conversation with Richter, Benjamin reiterated that he, Williams, and Hamilton had committed the homicide.
On February 24, 1986, the State of Illinois asked a grand jury to indict Eugene Williams, Derrick Hamilton, and Anthony Benjamin for the murder of Warren Guardipee. To support its request for these indictments, the State presented only one witness: Detective Richter. He testified about Ross' identification of Hamilton and Benjamin. Richter also told the grand jury that he had spoken with Anthony Benjamin, and that during this conversation, Benjamin had implicated himself, Williams, and Hamilton in the Guardipee homicide. Based on Richter's testimony, the grand jury returned indictments against Williams, Hamilton, and Benjamin.
As a result of his indictment, Williams remained incarcerated in Cook County Jail for 21 months. On October 19, 1987, the State's Attorney dropped the murder charges against Williams. Consequently, Williams was released from custody. He then filed suit against Detectives Thezan and Fitzsimmons pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Williams alleges that Thezan and Fitzsimmons coerced Benjamin to implicate Williams in the homicide. Williams contends that without Benjamin's allegedly coerced statement, the State could not have obtained the indictment that provided the basis for Williams' lengthy incarceration. Proceeding on this theory, Williams claims that defendants' coercive tactics caused his unjust imprisonment, thereby violating his rights under the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments.
A plaintiff cannot recover damages in a constitutional tort case where his injury would have occurred even if the defendant had not engaged in the alleged unconstitutional conduct. See Mt. Healthy City School District Board of Education v. Doyle, 429 U.S. 274, 50 L. Ed. 2d 471, 97 S. Ct. 568 (1977). Thus, to prevail on his § 1983 claim, Williams must demonstrate that the State could not have procured an indictment against him without proffering the allegedly coerced Benjamin statement to the grand jury. The record in this case, however, indicates that the State could have obtained an indictment against Williams by presenting evidence unrelated to Benjamin's statement. After all, in order to indict Williams, the grand jury merely needed to find probable cause to believe that Williams had committed the homicide. See Phillips v. Graham, 86 Ill. 2d 274, 284, 427 N.E.2d 550, 554, 56 Ill. Dec. 355 (1981); Ill. Rev. Stat. ch. 38, para. 112-4(d) (1987). Even if Benjamin had never implicated Williams in the murder, the State possessed ample evidence to support a showing of probable cause at the time of Williams' indictment.
For instance, before police took Williams into custody, Jerry Graham's statement had established probable cause to justify Williams' arrest and eventual indictment. Williams claims that the police should have known not to believe Graham. As evidence of Graham's lack of credibility, Williams submits a psychological evaluation form indicating that Graham is a paranoid schizophrenic. This document, however, is unsubstantiated by any sworn affidavit. Moreover, even assuming that Graham has severe psychological problems, Williams offers no evidence that the police knew about these problems or had any other reason to doubt Graham's veracity. In fact, the police had a number of reasons to believe that Graham was telling the truth. For one thing, Graham consistently repeated his statement several times without altering any significant facts. In addition, before they arrested Williams, the police noted that several facts tended to corroborate Graham's story. Graham had said that he saw Williams with a.38 caliber gun on the morning of the shooting; and a.38 caliber bullet killed Guardipee. Graham had also stated that a knock on the back door of Ruffetti's apartment on January 30, 1986 broke a pane of glass in the door. When police arrived at Ruffetti's apartment on February 1, 1986, one of the officers observed a broken pane of glass in the apartment's back door. Finally, consistent with Graham's statement, police found Williams in Ruffetti's apartment, dressed in the clothing previously described by Graham. Taking all of these corroborating factors into account, the police acted reasonably when they arrested Williams in reliance on Graham's representations. Under the circumstances, Graham's statement would have led "a reasonably prudent person to believe that [Williams] had committed . . . a criminal act." United States v. Cipriano, 765 F.2d 610, 612 (7th Cir. 1985). Therefore, based on Graham's statement, the police had probable cause to arrest Williams.
Following the arrest, the State's case against Williams grew even stronger. While in custody, Williams offered conflicting alibis, further arousing suspicion that he had committed the crime. Meanwhile, subsequent developments lent added credence to Graham's statement. Police arrested Derrick Hamilton at the location where Graham had said Hamilton could be found. In addition, Ruffetti confirmed that Graham had opened the back door of her apartment to admit Williams and Hamilton in the early morning hours of January 30, 1986. Finally, and most importantly, Simmerling positively identified Williams as one of the men whom he had seen running from the scene of the shooting.
Thus, six days before Thezan and Fitzsimmons allegedly coerced Benjamin to implicate Williams in the murder, the State had gathered sufficient evidence to justify Williams' indictment. Admittedly, in presenting the case against Williams to the grand jury, the State elected to rely solely on Benjamin's statement. Nonetheless, if the State's Attorney had discovered that the Benjamin statement was coerced, he could have presented alternative evidence that would have persuaded the grand jury to reach the same conclusion. For example, the State could easily have obtained an indictment against Williams by informing the grand jury about Simmerling's identification of the suspect. In light of this additional evidence, the State would have procured an indictment against Williams with or without the Benjamin statement. Because the grand jury would have indicted Williams anyway, Williams cannot possibly show that defendants' alleged misconduct directly resulted in his indictment and incarceration. Due to Williams' inability to establish a causal connection between defendants' actions and his injury, his § 1983 claim cannot survive.
For the foregoing reasons, this court grants defendants' motion for summary judgment.
IT IS SO ORDERED.