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Bridewell v. Eberle

July 22, 2010

SARA BRIDEWELL, RANDY MANUEL, AND LISA RHODES, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
KEVIN EBERLE, BRIAN FORBERG AND CITY OF CHICAGO, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Harry D. Leinenweber

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

The Defendants in this case have moved to dismiss Count 4 of Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The Defendants initially moved to dismiss Count 5 as well, but withdrew the motion as to that count in their reply brief. The Motion to Dismiss Count 4 is granted.

I. BACKGROUND

This is the second motion to dismiss filed in this case, as the Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint after the ruling on the previous Motion to Dismiss. The previous ruling provides a full factual background of the case. See Bridewell v. Eberle, 08 C 4947, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 32159 (N.D.Ill. Apr. 16, 2009). Therefore, only a brief background will be given here along with the new factual developments which are relevant to the present Motion to Dismiss.

Plaintiffs Sara Bride well ("Bridewell"), Randy Manuel ("Manuel"), and Lisa Rhodes ("Rhodes") (collectively, the "Plaintiffs") confronted Walter Chandler ("Chandler") in his car shortly after he struck Rhodes' parked car. Plaintiffs allege that they fled from his car when they saw that Chandler was holding a gun. After fleeing, they heard a single gunshot come from Chandler's car. Chandler died of a gunshot wound to the head. Plaintiffs claim that the evidence suggests that Chandler shot himself with his own gun.

The police took the three Plaintiffs into custody following this incident as well as the non-party witness Anthony Watkins ("Watkins"), and interrogated all four. Rhodes and Watkins eventually gave statements to the police which incriminated Bridewell in Chandler's death. Plaintiffs allege that such statements were the product of intense and prolonged coercion. As a result of these statements, Bridewell was indicted on murder charges and remained incarcerated awaiting trial from the date of Chandler's death, September 3, 2006, until the murder charges were dropped via nolle prosequi on July 22, 2009.

Count 4 of the Amended Complaint claims that Defendants concealed exculpatory evidence, prosecuted Bridewell knowing there was no evidence to support the charge, and supplied perjured testimony to the grand jury. Bridewell claims these actions violated her Fourteenth Amendment right to due process. Defendants move to dismiss this claim on the grounds that these actions, even if proven, do not amount to a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment because Bridewell's pretrial rights in this case do not flow from the Fourteenth Amendment.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

A Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss should be granted if the Complaint fails to satisfy Rule 8's pleading requirement of "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." For a Motion to Dismiss, the Court accepts as true all factual allegations in a complaint. Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986). "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).

III. ANALYSIS

Plaintiff Bridewell listed three wrongs committed by the Defendant officers which she claims violated her right to due process: (1) they concealed exculpatory evidence, (2) they commenced and continued Bridewell's prosecution for murder knowing there was no supporting evidence, and (3) they supplied perjured testimony to the grand jury which indicted Bridewell.

A. Concealed Exculpatory Evidence

"Under Brady, the government must disclose evidence favorable to the defense where the evidence is material to either the guilt or punishment of the defendant." United States v. Tadros, 310 F.3d 999, 1005 (7th Cir. 2002). The Brady rule is a trial right, as a violation "occurs only when the government withholds evidence which, had it been disclosed, creates a reasonable probability that the result of the trial would have been different." Id. In the present case, there was no trial because the prosecutor dropped the charges, so no Brady violation occurred.

The Seventh Circuit has acknowledged that the Brady rule may extend to pretrial legal proceedings. McCann v. Mangialardi, 337 F.3d 782, 787-88 (7th Cir. 2003). However, this potential extension appears to be strictly limited to situations in which a defendant enters a guilty plea while the government withholds exculpatory information. Id. Bridewell did not enter a guilty plea, or otherwise take any affirmative legal action in her defense, while the Defendant officers withheld information. ...


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