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EVANS v. CITY OF CHICAGO

August 29, 2005.

MICHAEL EVANS Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, Present and Former Chicago Police Officers ANTHONY KATALINIC, FRED HILL, WILLIAM MOSHER, JOHN McCABE, THOMAS McKENNA, DENNIS BANAHAN, JOSEPH DiLEONARDI, JOHN GRIFFITH, RICHARD O'CONNELL, PAUL NEALIS, PETER DIGNAN, THOMAS FERRY, PATRICK McGROARTY, JOSEPH DiGIACOMO, ROY MARTIN, EDWARD LERACZ, DANIEL SWICK, and JOHN RYAN Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: DAVID COAR, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Michael Evans ("Evans") filed this fourteen-count amended complaint alleging various federal and state law claims against the City of Chicago and eighteen current and former members of the Chicago Police Department (collectively, "Defendants"). Presently before this Court are Defendants' motions to dismiss. For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motions are granted in part and denied in part. I. BACKGROUND

At this stage of the proceedings, all well-pled facts are taken as true. On January 14, 1976, a nine-year-old girl named Lisa Cabassa disappeared while walking in her neighborhood on Chicago's southeast side. Her body was found later that night in an alley several miles away from where she had been last seen. She had been raped and murdered.

  At the time, Plaintiff Michael Evans was a seventeen-year-old high school student at Bowen High School in Chicago, with no criminal record or any prior involvement with the criminal justice system. He lived with his parents and siblings and spent his free time playing the clarinet. He also played baseball and basketball.

  The Chicago Police Department ("CPD") investigation of the Cabassa murder was led by Defendant DiLeonardi, a Chicago Police Commander, and Defendant Griffith, a Chicago Police Lieutenant and the commanding officer of the Chicago Police Area 2 Homicide/Sex Unit ("Area 2"). Defendants O'Connell, Ferry, and McGroarty were Chicago Police Sergeants assigned to Area 2, under the direct supervision and command of Defendants DiLeonardi and Griffith. Defendants Katalanic, Hill, McCabe, Mosher, McKenna, Dignan, DiGiacomo, Banahan, Nealis, Leracz, Martin, Swick, and Ryan were duly appointed Chicago Police Detectives assigned to Area 2, under the the direct supervision of the Defendant Chicago Police Sergeants.

  According to Evans' amended complaint, rather than conduct the necessary police work to solve the Cabassa murder, Defendants conspired among themselves and with others to make it appear that Evans and another man, Paul Terry, were guilty of the crime. To this end, Evans contends that Defendants stretched and manipulated facts and evidence to fit the "false hypothesis" that Evans and Terry committed the murder. Defendants manufactured "evidence" and unlawfully manipulated and coerced witnesses to falsely implicate Evans. Specifically, the unlawful witness manipulation included coercing false, incriminating statements from Sam Parker, Keith Jones, Columbus Thomas, and Judith Januszewski through threats of physical violence, actual physical violence, improper psychological intimidation and pressure, and unduly oppressive confinement conditions. The resulting statements were neither true nor the product of the witnesses' free will. Defendants coerced a false and incriminating statement from Evans through these same means. In addition, Defendants denied Evans access to his mother and to an attorney during his interrogation even though Evans was a juvenile at the time.

  Defendants detained witness Januszewski in the police station until late in the night against her will. They did not release her until her husband arrived at the station and demanded her release. Defendants repeatedly visited Januszewski and pressured her to change material details from her initial description of the night of the murder, including the time she allegedly left her workplace, so as to implicate Evans falsely. Januszewski changed her statement and implicated Evans, whom she had known for over a year, after more than forty days of persistent and improper pressure by Defendants.

  In addition, Evans alleges that Defendant Officers disregarded or destroyed exculpatory evidence including police reports, notes, and statements that should have been preserved with CPD files, but were not. Evans contends that Defendant Officers deliberately failed to investigate and follow up on information that would have established the guilt of other individuals. In so doing, Defendants unlawfully suppressed information that would have implicated other individuals and exonerated Evans. Moreover, Defendants created sworn police reports that contained materially false "evidence," including statements attributed to witnesses who in fact never made those statements, and used these reports to unlawfully detain and prosecute Evans. The Defendant Police Officers withheld exculpatory and material evidence from Evans and in some instances, from the prosecutors as well. Specifically, Defendants withheld information about the existence of exculpatory information concerning Januszewski and other witnesses that would have tended to exonerate Plaintiff.

  According to Evans, the Chicago Police Department maintained a policy and practice of systematically suppressing exculpatory information and material evidence by intentionally secreting discoverable information in so-called "street files." These files were routinely withheld from the State's Attorney's Office and from criminal defendants, and were subsequently destroyed. Consistent with this policy and practice, Evans contends that Defendants concealed exculpatory evidence within the street files which was never disclosed to his defense attorneys and since have destroyed the files. This evidence would have exonerated Evans. Moreoever, Evans contends that this policy and practice was "consciously approved at the highest policy-making level for decisions involving the police department." (Pl.'s Am. Compl. ¶ 46).

  According to the complaint, Defendants manipulated a line-up identification of Mr. Terry in order to imply that he was Plaintiff's co-conspirator in the Cabassa murder. Defendants then withheld information about the manipulated line-up identification from Plaintiff's defense counsel.

  In May and June of 1976, Evans was put on trial for the kidnapping, rape, and murder of Lisa Cabassa. He was convicted. Shortly therafter, the Illinois trial court learned that the State improperly had failed to disclose to Evans' defense team that financial assistance had been provided to Januszewski, the key prosecution witness; the trial court accordingly granted Evans' motion for a new trial. In April 1977, therefore, Evans was retried for the Cabassa crime along with his new co-defendant, Paul Terry, whom Defendants had wrongfully implicated as Evans' co-conspirator. Evans and Terry were found guilty at this second trial. The trial court sentenced them to terms of 200 to 400 years' imprisonment. As a result of Defendant Police Officers' unlawful conduct, Evans alleges that he suffered emotional pain and suffering. He was placed in the Illinois prison system where he faced the stigma of having been convicted for raping and murdering a child. He was shunned, and worse, by the inmate population. Consequently, Evans asserts that he has suffered "almost unfathomable damages." (Pl.'s Am. Compl. ¶ 42).

  Plaintiff's Exoneration

  Shortly after Lisa Cabassa's body was discovered, swabs were used to take DNA samples from her vagina and rectum. The rectal swab revealed the presence of semen but DNA testing technology was not sufficiently developed to enable investigators to identify the person or persons responsible for its presence in the victim. The swabs, however, were preserved. Over two decades later, when more sophisticated DNA testing technology became available, Evans petitioned under Illinois law to conduct DNA testing at his own expense. In July 2002, the Illinois courts approved his petition. Orchid Cellmark laboratory, formerly known as Cellmark Diagnostics, tested the DNA samples and established conclusively that neither Evans nor Terry were the source of the semen found in the victim's body. This result was later confirmed by a second lab, Bode Technology Group. The DNA testing results directly contradicted the theory under which Evans and Terry had been convicted.

  Based on the DNA testing results, Evans and Terry filed petitions for relief from their convictions. The State did not oppose their petitions. On May 23, 2003, Judge Dennis J. Porter vacated Evans' conviction and released him and Terry immediately. The Cook County State's Attorney, Richard A. Devine, proceeded to dismiss all charges against Evans on August 22, 2003. Devine explained his decision in a letter to the Chicago Tribune, stating that Evans and Terry had been "wrongly incarcerated for 27 years." (Pl.'s Am. Compl. ¶ 34).

  Chicago Police Department Practices and Procedures

  According to the complaint, a group of Chicago Police Officers in Area 2, including some or all of Defendant Police Officers, "engaged in a systematic pattern of coercion, fabrication of evidence, withholding of exculpatory information, and other illegal tactics, the sum total of which completely corrupted the investigative process." (Pl.'s Am. Compl. ¶ 48). Specifically, there was an institutional desire to "solve" crimes expediently, without regard to actual guilt or innocence, in order to enhance individual officers' personal standing in the Department. This desire was known to command personnel, including supervisory Defendants in this case, who also participated in the practice. Evans further contends that municipal policymakers exhibited deliberate indifference to this departmental policy and practice. As a result of the Area 2 abuses, at least thirteen criminal defendants were wrongfully sentenced to death. Evans avers that these widespread abuses occurred because the City failed to implement sufficient training of its police officers and declined to implement a legitimate oversight or disciplinary mechanism. Instead, according to Evans, the Department's investigative and disciplinary system was, and is, for all practical purposes, nonexistent. (Pl.'s Am. Compl. ¶ 515-2). Evans alleges that as a result of the investigative abuses and improper coercion, manipulation, and physical abuse by the Defendant Police Officers, he suffered mental anguish and emotional distress. Instant Claims

  Evans brought this fourteen-count amended complaint against the City of Chicago and the following present and former Chicago Police Officers in their individual capacities: Commander Joseph DiLeonardi; Lieutenant John Griffith; Sergeant Thomas Ferry; Sergeant Richard O'Connell; Sergeant Patrick McGroaty; Detective Anthony Katalanic; Detective Fred Hill; Detective John McCabe; Detective William Mosher; Detective Thomas McKenna; Detective Peter Dignan; Detective Joseph DiGiacomo; Detective Dennis Banahan; Detective Paul Nealis; Detective Edward Leracz; Detective Roy Martin; Detective Daniel Swick; and Detective John Ryan. Counts I-V and VII-IX are brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Count I alleges Defendants withheld exculpatory evidence, fabricated inculpatory evidence, and misdirected and misled the criminal prosecutors, resulting in Plaintiff's unjust criminal conviction. Evans alleges that the Defendant Police Officers' misconduct denied him his constitutional right to a fair trial and a fair appeal, in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. In addition, Evans contends that this misconduct was intentionally undertaken pursuant to the policy and practice of the Chicago Police Department with willful indifference to his constitutional rights, and was objectively unreasonable. In Count II, Evans asserts that all of the Defendants, while acting individually, jointly, and in conspiracy, under color of law and within the scope of their employment, caused Plaintiff to be falsely imprisoned in violation of his constitutional rights. Count III alleges that one or more of the Defendants used unjustified violence against Evans to coerce him to confess to a crime he did not commit. In Count IV, Evans avers that Defendants denied him his right to counsel in violation of the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Count V alleges that Defendants denied Evans equal protection of the law in violation of his constitutional rights. Specifically, Defendants actively participated in or personally caused misconduct in terms of abusing minority criminal suspects to coerce confessions and obtain unjust convictions. Evans contends that this misconduct was "motivated by racial animus and constituted purposeful discrimination." In addition, it affected minorities in a "grossly disproportionate manner vis-a-vis similarly-situated Caucasian individuals." (Pl.'s Am. Compl. ¶ 78). In Count VII, Evans asserts that Defendants agreed among themselves to frame him for the Cabassa murder, thereby depriving him of his constitutional rights. Specifically, before and after Evans' convictions, each of the Defendants further conspired to deprive Plaintiff of exculpatory materials to which he was lawfully entitled and which would have led to his more timely exoneration. As a result, Evans' rights were violated and he suffered financial damages and severe ...


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