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Wilson v. O'Brien

December 13, 2007

ROBERT WILSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JAMES O'BRIEN, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charles P. Kocoras, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter comes before the court on the motion of Defendant William Healy to dismiss the complaint of Plaintiff Robert Wilson as it pertains to him. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted.

BACKGROUND

According to the allegations of the complaint, which we must accept as true for the purposes of the instant motion, Wilson was arrested in March 1997 for an attack that took place the day before, in which a woman had been badly cut while waiting at a bus stop in Chicago. Defendants James O'Brien, Gerald Carroll, and John Halloran were the arresting officers; they are members of the Chicago Police Department. Defendant Healy was an Assistant Cook County State's Attorney ("ASA") assigned to the case at the time of the interrogation.

After his arrest, Wilson was held in police custody for approximately 30 hours. He alleges that during that time, O'Brien, Healy, and others unnamed physically abused him; denied him adequate sleep, food, and necessary medication; intimidated him; and promised him leniency if he confessed and violence if he did not. The interrogation period ceased when Wilson gave an oral statement stating that he had committed the attack for which he had been arrested, though the account he gave conflicted with that given by the victim with respect to a number of details. Healy prepared a written, paraphrased form of Wilson's statement, which was thereafter signed by Wilson, Healy, and O'Brien.

The complaint goes on to contend that the arresting officers as well as other members of the Chicago Police Department manipulated the victim of the attack into identifying Wilson as her assailant and then withheld from Wilson and his counsel that she had initially expressed doubt in her identification of him. Other similar crimes had been committed during the same time period in the same area, and another person had been arrested for their commission. During the trial, Wilson's attorney attempted to introduce evidence regarding this second offender but was barred from doing so by the trial judge. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury found Wilson guilty of attempted murder. The complaint does not state whether Healy presented the State's case against Wilson at trial. However, he testified at the trial to authenticate the handwritten version of Wilson's statement. His conviction was upheld by the state courts throughout direct appeal and post-conviction proceedings.

In January 2006, Wilson filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254; the judge considering the petition issued the writ after concluding that Wilson's Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial was violated by the trial judge's refusal to permit him to introduce evidence that another party committed the crime. The State was directed to retry Wilson within 90 days or release him from custody. Thereafter, the victim was given details of the second offender's conduct and recanted her identification of Wilson as her attacker. The State chose not to retry Wilson, and he was released.

Thereafter, Wilson brought this eight-count civil action against 11 Chicago police officers, ASA Healy, the City of Chicago, and Cook County. Counts I, II, and III allege violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 based on due process, conspiracy, and failure to intervene, respectively. The next three counts set out state-law causes of action against the individual defendants: Count IV alleges a claim for malicious prosecution; Count V, a claim of civil conspiracy in violation of state law; and Count VI, a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. The remaining two counts contain allegations against the City and Cook County for respondeat superior and indemnification for any liability found on Counts IV-VI.

Healy now moves to dismiss the complaint as to him for failure to state a claim or for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The County also moves for dismissal of the portions of Counts VII and VIII that pertain to it in the event that we dismiss Healy from this action.

LEGAL STANDARD

A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss is used to test the legal sufficiency of a complaint. Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). In ruling on a motion to dismiss, a court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff, construe allegations of a complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and accept as true all well-pleaded facts and allegations in the complaint. Bontkowski v. First Nat'l Bank of Cicero, 998 F.2d 459, 461 (7th Cir. 1993); Perkins v. Silverstein, 939 F.2d 463, 466 (7th Cir. 1991). To be cognizable, the factual allegations contained within a complaint must raise a claim for relief "above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, - U.S. -, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965 (2007). However, a pleading need only convey enough information to allow the defendant to understand the gravamen of the complaint. Payton v. Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Med. Ctr., 184 F.3d 623, 627 (7th Cir. 1999).

A complaint's legal sufficiency is not compromised simply because it does not anticipate or otherwise preemptively address potential defenses. Xechem, Inc. v. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., 372 F.3d 899, 901 (7th Cir. 2004). If the complaint so unmistakably establishes the presence of a defense that the suit is rendered frivolous, the affected allegations can be dismissed before a responsive pleading is filed. Walker v. Thompson, 288 F.3d 1005, 1009-10 (7th Cir. 2002). Moreover, if a plaintiff alleges facts within a complaint that defeat an essential element of a claim, the complaint can be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6). See Edwards v. Snyder, 478 F.3d 827, 830 (7th Cir. 2007).

With these principles in mind, we consider the ...


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