Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.


August 5, 2004.

Aaron Patterson, Plaintiff,
Former Chicago Police Lt. Jon Burge #338; former CPD Sgt. John Byrne #1453; former CPD Detectives James Pienta #10063; William Marley #9886; Raymond Madigan #1471; William Pedersen #8553; Daniel McWeeny #14367; and Joseph Danzyl #12568; Assistant Cook County State's Attorney Peter Troy, former Assistant Cook County State's Attorney William Lacy; Cook County State's Attorney Richard Devine; Chicago Police Superintendent Terry Hillard; former Chicago Police Superintendent Leroy Martin; former OPS Director Gayle Shines; former counsel to the Superintendent Thomas Needham; the City of Chicago; Cook County, Illinois and its Cook County State's Attorneys' Office, Defendants.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOAN GOTTSCHALL, District Judge


After being convicted for the 1986 murders of Rafaela and Vincent Sanchez and spending 13 years on death row, plaintiff Aaron Patterson was pardoned by Illinois Governor George Ryan on January 10, 2003. Patterson filed this civil action in June of 2003, asserting that defendants, individually and in conspiracy, violated his rights under the United States Constitution and Illinois state law when they knowingly filed false charges and framed him for the Sanchez murders, tortured and beat him at Chicago Police Department's Area 2 headquarters, fabricated his "confession" and falsified inculpatory evidence, coerced witnesses to testify against him, gave perjured testimony, published defamatory statements regarding his guilt, and obstructed justice and suppressed exculpatory evidence throughout his suppression hearing, trial, and post-conviction proceedings. Now before the court are defendants' motions to dismiss Patterson's complaint and all of the fourteen claims contained therein.


  The following facts are taken from Patterson's first amended complaint and are regarded as true for the purposes of this motion. See Thompson v. Illinois Dep't of Prof'l Regulation, 300 F.3d 750, 753 (7th Cir. 2002).

  On April 19, 1986, Chicago Police Department officers discovered the dead bodies of Rafaela and Vincent Sanchez in their apartment at 8849 South Burley. Officers and defendants Lt. Jon Burge, Sgt. John Byrne, Detectives James Pienta, William Marley, Daniel McWeeny, Joseph Danzl (collectively, "Area 2 defendants"), and other Area 2 detectives were assigned to investigate the Sanchez murders. On April 21, Danzl allegedly coerced and intimidated 16 year-old Marva Hall, whose uncle was a suspect in the murders, into falsely implicating Patterson. On April 22, Burge and another Area 2 detective took a different suspect, Michael Arbuckle, into custody at Area 2 headquarters. Burge allegedly told Arbuckle that they "really wanted to get Aaron Patterson" and wanted Arbuckle to say that Patterson was involved in the murders. When Arbuckle refused to implicate Patterson and asked for his lawyer, Burge threatened him with electrocution and lethal injection and told him that they would get Arbuckle to "cooperate one way or another." Still, Arbuckle denied his and Patterson's involvement.

  On or about April 23, McWeeny, Byrne and other Area 2 detectives on the case were informed by several persons that Willie Washington and his brother killed Rafael and Vincent Sanchez. Nevertheless, for the next week, Byrne, McWeeny, and other Area 2 detectives searched unsuccessfully for Patterson. On April 30, Patterson was arrested on an outstanding warrant by Chicago Police Department officers from the Fourth District. Defendants Pienta, Marley, and Pedersen were called to transport Patterson from the Fourth District police station to Area 2. During the ride, Pienta allegedly told Patterson that if he had arrested him, he would have killed him.

  At Area 2 Patterson was placed in an interview room, handcuffed to the wall, and questioned by Area 2 detectives about the Sanchez murders for about an hour. Patterson denied any involvement. He was then taken to 11th and State before being returned to the interview room at Area 2. After brief questioning, Pienta told Patterson that he was "tired of this bullshit," left the room, and came back with a grey typewriter cover. When Patterson refused to implicate himself in the murders, the Area 2 defendants, including Pienta, Marley, and Pedersen, handcuffed him behind his back, turned out the lights, and repeatedly beat him in the chest and suffocated him by holding the typewriter cover over his face and ears for at least a minute. Pienta continued to urge Patterson to "cooperate," and when he refused, the Area 2 defendants again turned out the lights and suffocated Patterson with the plastic cover. The second time, the "bagging" and beating lasted for over two minutes. Patterson found the abuse unbearable and told the detectives he would "say anything you say" if they would stop the suffocation and beating.

  After Patterson agreed to cooperate, the Area 2 defendants left the room to get a state's attorney from the felony review division to take his statement. While alone in the room, Patterson used a paper clip to scratch into the interview room bench that he was "suffocated with plastic" and that his statement to the police was false. Defendant Burge returned with an Assistant State's Attorney ("ASA") who said that Burge told him Patterson wanted to make a statement. After Burge left the room at Patterson's request, Patterson told the ASA that he had nothing to say. The ASA left and told Burge that Patterson refused to confess. Burge then returned to the room, told Patterson "you're fucking up," placed his handgun on the table in front of Patterson, and said "we told you if you don't do what we tell you to, you're going to get something worse than before — it will have been a snap compared to what you will get." He also told Patterson that if he revealed the torture, "it's your word against ours and who are they going to believe, you or us." Burge then told Patterson that they could do anything they wanted to him.

  Next, defendant Peter Troy, an ASA with the State's Attorney's Office ("SAO"), entered the interview room with Area 2 defendant Madigan. Initially, Patterson agreed to make a statement in exchange for phone privileges, but he refused to sign the statement Troy had written out after the Area 2 defendants terminated his calls. In an attempt to make Patterson sign the statement, Troy and Madigan physically attacked Patterson. McWeeny entered the room at this time, professing not to be involved in the prior beatings and suffocation, and urged Patterson to cooperate because the other defendants "could do something serious to him if he didn't." As a result of this coercion and under threat of continued torture, Patterson said he would agree with whatever the Area 2 defendants and Troy said had happened.

  Around the same time, defendant Pienta arrested Eric Caine, Patterson's co-defendant in the Sanchez murder prosecution. Caine was interrogated and beaten and told that if he did not make a statement he would get the same treatment as Patterson. Caine initially gave a statement, but when he tried to repudiate it Madigan hit Caine with his open hand over his ear and cheekbone, causing a loud pop and rupturing his ear drum. Caine screamed in pain; he later gave and signed a court-reported statement prepared by the Area 2 defendants which falsely implicated Patterson in the murders.

  The Area 2 defendants, together with SAO defendants Troy and William Lacy, allegedly fabricated oral admissions and reduced these "admissions" to false reports implicating Patterson and Caine in the Sanchez murders. Defendants communicated these false reports to the prosecuting attorneys, who used them at Patterson's suppression hearing and at trial. Defendants also testified falsely about the fabricated admissions and the torture and abuse which produced them throughout Patterson's prosecution. No physical evidence linking Patterson to the murders was ever discovered, though a bloody fingerprint that was not Patterson's was found at the scene and not introduced at trial. Patterson was convicted for the Sanchez murders on the basis of his false confession and the testimony of Marva Hall and defendants. Patterson was sentenced to death, and after his conviction was affirmed on appeal, spent over 13 years incarcerated on death row until his pardon in January of 2003.

  After his conviction but before Patterson filed his motion for a new trial, the Chicago Police Department's Office of Professional Standards ("OPS") completed an investigation into allegations that suspects held in custody at Area 2 had been tortured by the Area 2 defendants and others. In November of 1990 the OPS issued a secret report which was forwarded to then superintendent of the Chicago Police Department Leroy Martin. In the report OPS found that from 1973 to 1985 there was a practice of systematic abuse of suspects at Area 2 and that certain Area 2 command personnel, including defendants Burge and Martin, were aware of such abuse and encouraged it, either by actively participating in it or by failing to take action to stop it. The report named both Burge and Byrne as major "players" in the pattern and practice of torture and recommended that Burge be fired for his participation in Andrew Wilson's torture.

  In 1991 the Illinois Supreme Court denied Patterson's motion for a new trial, which argued for his release based on his having been tortured and framed for the Sanchez murders. While Patterson's post-conviction appeals were pending before the Illinois appellate courts, superintendent Martin and the Area 2 defendants delayed, obstructed, and otherwise undermined the OPS investigation and report by withholding evidence that there was systematic abuse of suspects at Area 2. In particular, Martin allegedly knew of and suppressed evidence of torture implicating the Area 2 defendants from the inception of the OPS investigation until the report and its related findings were ordered produced by court order in February of 1992. Further, Martin and then OPS director Gail Shines refused to investigate numerous other allegations of torture and abuse at Area 2, including those made by Patterson, Stanley Howard, and Melvin Jones.

  From 1988 to 1996 the City of Chicago hired defendant Richard Devine, then a private attorney, and his law firm to represent Burge, Byrne, and other Area 2 defendants against charges brought in federal court and Police Board Proceedings that they tortured Andrew Wilson and other criminal suspects. During his representation of Burge, Byrne, and other Area 2 defendants Devine was allegedly informed of a wealth of compelling evidence that his clients were centrally involved in a pattern and practice of torturing suspects, including Patterson, and made numerous litigation decisions designed to protect his clients from criminal, civil, and administrative liability in the face of that evidence. In 1994 Patterson filed a post-conviction petition which alleged that he was entitled to a new motion to suppress hearing and a new trial on the basis of newly discovered torture evidence that previously had been suppressed. In 1997 Devine became the State's Attorney of Cook County and acting in this capacity oversaw the post-conviction proceedings of numerous persons who allegedly had been tortured and abused by Area 2 defendants, some of whom were Devine's former clients.

  In 1998, Thomas Needham, then counsel and administrative assistant to Chicago Police Department Superintendent Terry Hillard, conspired with Hillard to suppress evidence of the Area 2 defendants' participation in torture at Area 2. Specifically, Hillard and Needham allegedly obstructed OPS investigations and overturned findings of OPS reports concluding that the torture had occurred and that the Area 2 defendants were largely responsible. Moreover, Shines, Hillard, and Needham withheld the torture evidence and OPS files from criminal defendants, including Patterson, who had allegedly been abused at Area 2.

  In a televised interview in December of 1999 defendant Byrne made defamatory statements concerning Patterson's protestations of his innocence and claims of torture at Area 2, including that Patterson was "without a doubt" "guilty of the [Sanchez] murders" and that "the detectives who worked with him would not" and did not torture suspects. On January 10, 2003, then Governor of Illinois George Ryan granted Patterson and three other death row victims allegedly tortured by Burge and other Area 2 detectives pardons on the basis of innocence. In granting the pardons Governor Ryan announced that "the category of horrors was hard to believe," and the evidence showed that the four men — Patterson, Madison Hobley, Leroy Orange, and Stanley Howard — had been "beaten and tortured and convicted on the basis of confessions they allegedly provided." In response, State's Attorney Devine publicly condemned the pardons of the four men, whom he referred to as "evil" and "convicted murderers," as "outrageous" and "unconscionable." Devine also threatened to challenge the validity of the pardons in court. Further, ASA Troy made defamatory statements about Patterson, including that he saw no evidence of torture at Area 2 and that Patterson was guilty of the murders. As a result of the misconduct of Area 2 defendants Burge, Byrne, Pienta, Marley, Pedersen, McWeeny, Madigan, and Danzl, SAO defendants Devine, Troy, and Lacy, and defendants Hillard, Shines, Martin, and Needham, individually and in conspiracy, Patterson claims that he was wrongfully tortured, charged, and convicted for the Sanchez murders in violation of his federal constitutional rights, and that he suffered compensable injuries under Illinois state law. Patterson's complaint enumerates 14 separate charges against various defendants, namely: Count I, § 1983 claim for deprivation of his right to fair trial and wrongful conviction in violation of due process; Count II, § 1983 claim for false imprisonment; Count III, § 1983 claim for coercive investigation; Count IIIA, § 1983 claim for torture and abuse; Count IV, § 1983 claim for deprivation of access to courts; Count V, § 1983 Monell claim against the City of Chicago; Count VI, § 1983 Monell claim against Cook County and the Cook County State's Attorney's Office; Count VII, state law claim for false imprisonment; Count VIII, state law claim for malicious prosecution; Count IX, state law claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress ("IIED"); Count X, state law claim for defamation; Count XI, state law conspiracy claim; Count XII, state law respondeat superior claim; and Count XIII, state law claim for indemnification under 745 ILCS 10/9-102.


  By their individual and combined motions, defendants seek to dismiss every one of Patterson's 14 claims against them. In considering the motions the court accepts as true all well-pleaded facts and draws all reasonable inferences from those allegations in Patterson's favor. Hernandez v. City of Goshen, 324 F.3d 535, 537 (7th Cir. 2003). The federal notice pleading standard requires only that "a complaint state the plaintiff's legal claim, . . . together with some indication . . . of time and place." Thomson v. Washington, 329 F.3d 969, 970-71 (7th Cir. 2004). So long as Patterson's complaint contains "enough to allow the court and the defendant[s] to understand the gravamen of [his] complaint," and the facts as alleged show a legitimate entitlement to relief, his claims will not be dismissed. McCormick v. City of Chicago, 230 F.3d 319, 323-24 (7th Cir. 2000) (internal quotations omitted). See also Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506 (2002).

  It cannot seriously be disputed in this case that Patterson's complaint contains "enough" to inform the court and defendants of his grievance. Patterson minces no words in accusing defendants of framing, torturing, maliciously prosecuting, wrongfully convicting, and falsely imprisoning him on death row for murders he did not commit. Taking these allegations as true, as the court must at this time, it is clear that Patterson has suffered violations of his rights that are actionable under federal and state law. What is less clear, however, is which rights were violated under which laws by which defendants. The answer to this question matters profoundly, but it need not be pleaded with as much detail as defendants' arguments imply.

  Defendants seek to dismiss all of Patterson's claims as untimely, collaterally estopped, or not actionable. Ordinarily the first two of these are impermissible grounds for dismissing a complaint, as statutes of limitations and issue preclusion are affirmative defenses. United States Gypsum Co. v. Indiana Gas Co., 350 F.3d 623, 626 (7th Cir. 2003); Leavell v. Kieffer, 189 F.3d 492 (7th Cir. 1999). Complaints need not plead specific facts or defeat affirmative defenses to survive a motion to dismiss, Gomez v. Toledo, 446 U.S. 635 (1980), though a plaintiff "may plead himself out of court by alleging (and thus admitting) the ingredients of a defense," Gypsum, 350 F.3d at 626. See also Walker v. Thompson, 288 F.3d 1005 (7th Cir. 2002).

  There is a real difference between admitting a defense, e.g., stating that an injury occurred on a certain date which is beyond the limitations period, and failing to overcome a defense, e.g., omitting facts that would preclude application of collateral estoppel. Here, Patterson has alleged some facts relating to the accrual of his injuries that make defendants' statute of limitations defenses ripe for review. In contrast, the court cannot rule on defendants' collateral estoppel arguments without considering facts and evidence outside the pleadings. Because Patterson's accusations span the nearly 17 years of this case's long procedural history and implicate a pattern and practice of wrongdoing by defendants in this and other cases currently being litigated, the court declines at this time to dismiss any of Patterson's claims against any of the defendants*fn1 as collaterally estopped.*fn2 Defendants advance two additional arguments that merit the court's attention before turning to Patterson's individual claims. First, SAO defendants Troy, Lacy, and Devine contend that this court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the state law claims against them. Specifically, they argue that at all times relevant to this action they were state officials acting within the scope of their employment, and Illinois law mandates that actions against state employees be brought in the Court of Claims. See Senn Park Nursing Cntr. v. Miller, 470 N.E.2d 1029, 1039 (Ill. 1984). But the Court of Claims' jurisdiction is not exclusive "when it is alleged that the State's agent acted in violation of statutory or constitutional law, or in excess of his authority." Healy v. Vaupel, 549 N.E.2d 1240, 1247 (Ill. 1990). That is exactly the case here: in his claims for false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation, and conspiracy, Patterson accuses the SAO defendants of acting intentionally and maliciously in violation of Illinois state law. The court is satisfied that these allegations, if proven, would establish that the SAO defendants acted outside the scope of their authority as state's attorneys, meaning that the state law charges do not belong in the Court of Claims. See Welch v. Illinois Supreme Ct., 751 N.E.2d 1187, 1195 (Ill.App. Ct. 2001) ("Malice, if well pleaded, is outside the scope of a State employee's authority and must be brought in the circuit court and not the Court of Claims."); Nelson v. Murphy, 44 F.3d 504, 505 (7th Cir. 1995). Second, defendants Byrne, Martin, Shines, Hillard, and Needham argue that the claims against them ought to be dismissed because Patterson "utterly failed to allege that Byrne [or Martin, Shines, Hillard, or Needham] did anything that would support those claims." This contention is utterly without merit. Patterson specifically names and accuses each of these defendants of committing numerous violations of federal and state law and of conspiring with the other individual defendants to deprive Patterson of his rights and cause him grievous injuries. Federal notice pleading rules do not require Patterson to provide detailed explanations of how each particular defendant caused each of his injuries. The court believes the allegations in Patterson's complaint are more than adequate to put this court and defendants Byrne, Martin, Shines, Hillard, and Needham on notice of the claims against them.

  A. Count I — § 1983 Claim for Deprivation of Right to Fair Trial

  The first of Patterson's thirteen claims asserts a violation of his right under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments not to be deprived of liberty without due process of law. Patterson claims that all of the individual defendants caused his wrongful charging, prosecution, and conviction "by fabricating and coercing the false admissions which formed the basis for Plaintiffs charging, prosecution and conviction," "by withholding from prosecutors, judges, and defense attorneys involved in Plaintiff's prosecution the fact that these admissions were false, fabricated, and coerced," "by suppressing additional exculpatory torture findings and evidence, as well as other exculpatory evidence," "by giving a false and incomplete version of events to prosecutors," "by writing false reports and giving false testimony," and "by improperly influencing the judges hearing Plaintiff's case." Defendants voice several objections to this claim: first, that no material evidence was suppressed, as is required under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), to establish a deprivation of the right to a fair trial; second, that Patterson's "due process" claim is really one for malicious prosecution, which Newsome v. McCabe, 256 F.3d 747, 751 (7th Cir. 2001) ("Newsome I"), held is not actionable under § 1983; third, that defendants are absolutely immune from liability for their allegedly perjured testimony, see Briscoe v. LaHue, 460 U.S. 325, 335-36 (1983); fourth, that SAO defendants Troy and Lacy are immune from liability for all charges of wrongdoing against them in their capacity as prosecutors; and fifth, that SAO defendant Devine cannot be held individually liable because he too is shielded by prosecutorial immunity and was not personally involved in Patterson's prosecution.

  1. Suppression of evidence

  The court turns first to defendants' contention that evidence of Patterson's coerced and falsified confession cannot support a due process claim because neither the confession nor the context in which it was obtained was ever "suppressed." Defendants' argument takes too narrow a view of both Patterson's allegations and the guarantee of due process promised by the United States Constitution. The due process clause safeguards the liberty of citizens against deprivation through official actions, particularly in cases where the state "has contrived a conviction through the pretense of a trial which in truth is but used as a means of depriving a defendant of liberty through a deliberate deception of court and jury by the presentation of testimony known to be perjured." Mooney v. Holohan, 294 U.S. 340, 342 (1935). "Equally offensive to the Constitutional guarantees of liberty" and therefore also a violation of due process "are confessions wrung from an accused by overpowering his will, whether through physical violence or the more subtle forms of coercion commonly known as `the third degree'." Hysler v. Florida, 315 U.S. 411, 413 (1942) (citing Brown v. Mississippi, 297 U.S. 278, 286-87 ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.