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Hill v. Coppleson

November 22, 2010


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 1:06-cv-06772-Amy St. Eve, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Williams, Circuit Judge.


Before RIPPLE, WILLIAMSand TINDER,Circuit Judges.

Over a decade after being convicted of sexual assault and homicide, Harold Hill was exonerated by DNA evidence. Hill filed suit against the City of Chicago, a number of its police officers, and Michael Rogers, an assistant state's attorney, alleging various constitutional violations, including a claim that several detectives and Rogers had coerced him to falsely confess to the crimes in violation of the Fifth Amendment.

Rogers filed a motion for summary judgment asserting that he was immune from suit because of his prosecutorial status. The district court rejected this argument, and Rogers appeals. Because we cannot resolve the immunity issue without resolving disputed questions of fact regarding Rogers's role in this case, we dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.


On October 14, 1990, Kathy Morgan was sexually assaulted, murdered, and left in an abandoned building in Chicago. The building and Morgan's body were then set on fire in an apparent attempt to hide the crimes. Homicide detectives from the Chicago Police Department's Area 3 Violent Crimes Division investigated Morgan's murder but were unable to find the assailants.

On March 20, 1992, Harold Hill (who was 18 years old at the time) was arrested on unrelated charges. During the follow-up investigation on the unrelated charges, Hill was taken to Area 3, where he met with Detectives Kenneth Boudreau and John Halloran. Boudreau and Halloran took Hill to an interrogation room, where he was handcuffed to a ring on the wall. They began questioning Hill about whether he knew of any other crimes in the area. The discussion eventually turned to the Morgan homicide, and Hill denied any involvement. According to Hill, the detectives became very aggressive and repeatedly accused him of committing the crime, even going so far as to scream loudly directly into his ear that "you know you did it." Hill contends that when Halloran and Boudreau became frustrated with his denials, they resorted to physical attacks, including grabbing his shoulders and violently shaking him, slapping him across the face, and punching him in his chest and ribs.

Hill contends that, after hours of questioning and physical attacks, he became desperate to appease the detectives and decided to make up a story about how he had heard that two men named "Pete" and "Junior" were responsible for the crimes. Hill states that after several more hours of questioning, the detectives presented him with two photographs depicting two men whom Hill did not recognize: Dan Young and Peter Williams. Hill maintains that, out of fear of further abuse, he told the detectives that he believed that the men in the pictures were Morgan's assailants.

At some point, the detectives called Assistant State's Attorney ("ASA") Michael Rogers to the police station to take Hill's confession, although the parties dispute the timing of Rogers's arrival. Rogers claims that he went to the station after Hill had already implicated himself in the crimes by confessing to the detectives. Hill maintains that he did not confess before Rogers arrived at the station; to the contrary, he only told the detectives that he was prepared to confess, but did not confess until his meeting with Rogers. According to Hill, when Rogers entered the interrogation room, Hill changed his mind about confessing and instead reasserted his innocence, telling Rogers that he had not been involved in Morgan's sexual assault or murder and that he had no knowledge of the crimes. Hill states that Rogers ignored his pleas of innocence and began pressuring him to admit some involvement in the crimes by repeatedly asking Hill if he was "ready to confess." Apparently frustrated by Hill's refusal to confess, Rogers then left the room, at which point Boudreau reentered and again verbally and physically attacked Hill. Shortly thereafter, Hill agreed to confess for the second time, and Rogers returned to the interrogation room.

Hill states that Rogers, Boudreau, and Halloran together concocted a story that Hill, Young, and Williams had conspired to sexually assault and kill Morgan after meeting her at a party. According to Hill, Rogers fed him several details about Morgan's murder to assist in his written confession, which was prepared by Rogers and initialed by Hill. At 12:20 a.m. on March 22, 1992-twenty-six hours after his arrest-Hill agreed to give a court-reported statement. Hill contends that Rogers coached him during his statement by asking him leading questions, whispering the answers to other questions under his breath when Hill "didn't know certain answers", and mouthing to Hill details of the crime such as the color and type of clothing Morgan was wearing the night she was murdered. Rogers vehemently denies Hill's claims and states that he only interacted with Hill briefly and for the limited purpose of approving the criminal charges and questioning him while the court reporter recorded his confession. Hill was ultimately charged with Morgan's sexual assault and murder.

Over the next two days, detectives arrested Young and Williams. Both men denied knowing each other or Hill, and both initially denied any knowledge of or involvement in the Morgan crimes. According to the testimony of Young and Williams, their protestations of innocence also subjected them to physical abuse at the hands of the detectives (including Halloran and Boudreau, who arrested and questioned Williams). Eventually, the detectives were able to secure written confessions from Young-who was mentally retarded and incapable of reading or writing anything other than his own name-and Williams-who had been incarcerated on the day of Morgan's murder. Young was charged with Morgan's sexual assault and murder on the basis of his confession. Charges were never brought against Williams because the detectives discovered (after securing a detailed confession from him) that he had actually been in jail when the crimes were committed and therefore could not have been involved.

In September 1994, Hill went to trial on the sexual assault and murder charges. The government introduced Hill's confession during its case-in-chief, but Hill maintained his innocence and testified that his confession had been coerced. The jury convicted Hill on both counts, and he was sentenced to life in prison. Over a decade later, Hill and his remaining co-defendant Young (who had been convicted in a separate trial) were exonerated after DNA testing revealed that neither had contributed DNA to any piece of evidence recovered from the crime scene. Hill and Young moved for a new trial, after which their convictions were vacated by agreement with the state's attorney's office.

Hill brought this suit against the City of Chicago, present and former Chicago homicide detectives including Halloran and ...

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