The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joe Billy Mcdade United States Senior District Judge
Thursday, 03 March, 2011 09:13:25 AM
Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD
Before the Court are the Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendants, James Souk, Charles Reynard, John Brown, and McLean County (Doc. 19), the Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendant, Tim Freesmeyer, Rob Hospelhorn, Dave Warner, Frank Zayas, and Town of Normal (Doc. 25), the Report and Recommendation issued by Magistrate Judge Cudmore (Doc. 35), the Objection filed by Defendants Souk, Reynard, Brown, and McLean County (Docs. 39 and 42), the Objection filed by Defendants Freesmeyer, Hospelhorn, Warner, Zayas, and Town of Normal (Doc. 40), and the Response to Objections filed by Plaintiff, Alan Beaman (Docs. 44 and 45).
For the reasons set forth below, the Report and Recommendation (Doc. 35) is ACCEPTED IN PART AND REJECTED IN PART and the Motions to Dismiss (Docs. 19 and 25) are GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.
In 1995, Plaintiff, Alan Beaman, was convicted and sentenced to 50
years of incarceration for first degree murder in the 1993 death of
Jennifer Lockmiller. The case was investigated by Timothy Freesmeyer,
Rob Hospelhorn, and Dave Warner, detectives in the City of Normal
Police Department, Frank Zayas, a lieutenant in the Normal Police
Department, and John Brown, a McLean County Deputy Sheriff.*fn2
Plaintiff was prosecuted by Charles Reynard, the McLean
County State's Attorney, and James Souk, an Assistant State's
Attorney. Plaintiff's conviction was overturned by the Illinois
Supreme Court on May 22, 2008. People v. Beaman, 890 N.E.2d 500 (Ill.
2008). Plaintiff now has filed an eight count Complaint in this Court
alleging violations of his Due Process Rights in addition to various
state law claims of malicious prosecution and intentional infliction
of emotional distress.
The evidence against Plaintiff was circumstantial, there being no witness or direct evidence to the crime. Lockmiller was killed in her apartment located in Normal, Illinois. Her body was not discovered immediately and it was not possible to pinpoint the exact time of death; however, investigators determined that she was murdered around 12:00 p.m. on August 25, 1993. She had been both stabbed with scissors and strangled with the cord from a clock radio (strangulation was the cause of death). There was no evidence of a struggle or forced entry into the apartment. Defendant Freesmeyer was the lead detective on the case. Plaintiff further alleges that the Defendant attorneys, Reynard and Souk, were "intimately involved throughout the course of the investigation." Plaintiff allegedly became a suspect because he was an ex-boyfriend, having broken up with Lockmiller a month prior to her death, and because there were no other viable suspects. At the time of the death, Plaintiff lived in Rockford, Illinois, 140 miles from Normal. Investigators theorized that Plaintiff drove to Normal on August 25, 1993 after visiting a bank in Rockford at 10:11 a.m., killed Lockmiller at 12:00 p.m., and then drove back to Rockford where he was observed by his mother (with whom he was living at the time) in his room at 2:16 p.m.
Plaintiff's alibi consisted of two phone calls that he made at 10:37 a.m. and 10:39 a.m. from his home in Rockford to a church - the timing of the calls would have made it "practically impossible" for Plaintiff to have driven to Normal in order to kill Lockmiller at 12:00 p.m. Freesmeyer debunked this alibi by testifying at trial that it would have been impossible for Plaintiff to have driven from the bank to his home in time to make the phone calls (that is, somebody else must have made the calls). Freesmeyer's testimony was based on timed driving runs that he did from the bank to Plaintiff's home via a "direct route"; Plaintiff alleges that both Souk and Reynard were involved in or participated in these trial runs. Freesmeyer and Souk also affirmatively represented to the grand jury and in pretrial proceedings that no other persons were implicated in the murder.
Plaintiff believes that his Due Process Rights were violated when Defendants, individually, jointly, and/or in furtherance of a conspiracy, withheld "material exculpatory evidence" from Plaintiff and his counsel during his criminal trial. This evidence includes reports documenting a second timed driving run (hereinafter "bypass route") conducted by police, of an alternate route from the bank to Plaintiff's home which showed that Plaintiff could have made it home in time to make the phone calls to the church. Plaintiff also alleges that Defendants withheld evidence of another person, John Doe, who also could have committed the murder. According to Plaintiff, Defendants knew that Doe was also an ex-boyfriend of Lockmiller, that he sold drugs to Lockmiller in the past, that she owed him money for the drugs, that he was evasive and nervous during interviews with police, that he had no alibi during the time of the murder, that he failed to complete a polygraph examination, that he had been arrested for domestic battery of his current girlfriend, that he expected to rekindle his relationship with Lockmiller, and that he was taking steroids which made him erratic. Plaintiff states that he did not become aware of this evidence until post-conviction proceedings. Plaintiff further alleges that Defendants violated his Due Process Rights by failing to intervene to prevent constitutional violations. In his allegations, Plaintiff groups Defendants together by alleging that they acted "individually, jointly, and in conspiracy."
Plaintiff also has alleged state law claims of malicious prosecution, that Defendants engaged in a conspiracy "to accomplish an unlawful purpose by unlawful means," and, intentional infliction of emotional distress. Finally, Plaintiff asserts that McLean County is liable, under a theory of respondeat superior, for the torts committed by its employees and that the Town of Normal and McLean County must indemnify the individual Defendants.
In summary, Plaintiff alleges that all Defendants violated Due Process by withholding exculpatory evidence with respect to John Doe and the bypass route (Count 1), that they engaged in a conspiracy to deprive Plaintiff of this exculpatory evidence in violation of Due Process (Count II), that these Defendants failed to intervene to prevent constitutional violations in violation of the Fourth Amendment (Count III), that they maliciously prosecuted Plaintiff in violation of state law (Count IV), that they engaged in a civil conspiracy in violation of state law (Count V), that they intentionally inflicted emotional distress (Count VI), and claims for respondeat superior (Count VII -- against McLean County and Town of Normal), and indemnification (Count VIII).
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
Each of Defendants filed Motions to Dismiss (Docs. 19 and 25). Defendants McLean County, Reynard, Souk, and Brown argued that Plaintiff fails to state a § 1983 claim and that Defendants Reynard and Souk are entitled to absolute or qualified immunity. They further argued that once the § 1983 claims are dismissed, the state law claims should also be dismissed, that the Plaintiff otherwise fails to state a claim, and that the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim is time-barred. Finally, these Defendants assert that once the individual Defendants are dismissed, McLean County should also be dismissed. Defendants Town of Normal, Freesmeyer, Hospelhorn, Warner, and Zayas make similar arguments with respect to the claims against them.
In considering these arguments, Magistrate Judge Cudmore found that Plaintiff failed to state a due process claim with respect to the bypass route. Judge Cudmore took judicial notice of state court orders that recounted that Plaintiff himself presented evidence at his trial of the bypass route. Judge Cudmore concluded that the failure of the prosecution to disclose such information did not make out a Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), claim.
Judge Cudmore went on to find, however, that Plaintiff did make out a claim with respect to the information withheld concerning an alternate suspect, John Doe. Judge Cudmore further considered Defendants' arguments that Plaintiff failed to state a claim against each individual Defendant. In particular Judge Cudmore found that an inference arises that Defendant Brown was personally involved in the constitutional deprivation because of allegations that he supervised and ratified the decisions of the inferior officers. With respect to the other police officers, Judge Cudmore found that the Complaint could be read to claim that the officers failed to turn over Brady material even though there is also an allegation that all Defendants acted in concert -- allegations sufficient to make out a conspiracy claim. The failure to intervene claims further were found to be sufficient even though they are based on alternative, and mutually exclusive, assertions for relief. See FED.R.CIV.P 8(d)(3) (allowing for inconsistent claims).
With respect to Reynard's and Souk's claim of immunity, Judge Cudmore noted that absolute immunity does not protect prosecutors acting in an investigatory capacity -- an allegation made in the Complaint. Moreover, Judge Cudmore found that a more developed factual record should be developed in order to assess the applicability of qualified immunity.
The state law claims similarly withstood dismissal. Judge Cudmore found that the factual record would need to be developed in order to determine whether there was probable cause to arrest Plaintiff (which would negate a malicious prosecution claim) and whether the Defendant police officers were involved in the criminal proceedings. Furthermore, Plaintiff's intentional infliction of emotional distress ("IIED") claim, which is premised on the malicious prosecution, accrued when the criminal proceedings resolved in Plaintiff's favor (and thus are not time-barred).
Finally, Judge Cudmore found that McLean County cannot be liable under a theory of respondeat superior for the actions of Reynard and Souk because they are state, not county, employees. However, Plaintiff's indemnification claims against McLean County, and the City of Normal, would prevent dismissal of these local governments.
In conclusion, Judge Cudmore recommended that all state and federal claims with respect to the bypass route be dismissed and that the respondeat superior claims against McLean County be dismissed. In all other respects, he recommended that the Motions to Dismiss be denied. None of the parties challenge Judge Cudmore's conclusion with respect to the bypass route claim and the dismissal of the respondeat superior claims against McLean County. Therefore, those rulings are ACCEPTED.
A district court reviews de novo any portion of a Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation to which "specific written objection has been made." FED.R.CIV.PRO. 72(b). "The district judge may accept, reject, or modify the recommended decision, receive further evidence, or recommit the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions." Id. However, the Court emphasizes that Rule 72(b) contemplates "specific, written objections to the proposed findings and recommendations [of the magistrate judge]." Id. (emphasis added).
In considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the Court must view a complaint in a light most favorable to the plaintiff. Williams v. Ramos, 71 F.3d 1246, 1250 (7th Cir. 1995). The Court must accept all well-pleaded factual allegations and draw all reasonable inferences from those facts in favor of the plaintiff. Richards v. Kiernan, 461 F.3d 880, 882 (7th Cir. 2006). A plaintiff is not required to plead extensive facts, legal theories, or to anticipate defenses. Massey v. Merrill Lynch and Co., Inc., 464 F.3d 642, 650 (7th Cir. 2006). However, a plaintiff must "provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief" that are "more than labels and conclusion  [or] a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-1965 (2007) (citations and editing marks omitted). In particular, "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id. at 1965. In clarifying, the Supreme Court has held that "a claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allow the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). Both Twombly and Iqbal are a significant departure from prior case authority that would allow a federal complaint to proceed on the barest of allegations. This Supreme Court precedent "is designed to spare defendant the expense of responding to bulky, burdensome discovery unless the complaint provides enough information to enable an inference that the suit has sufficient merit to warrant putting the defendant to the burden of responding to at least a limited discovery demand." In re Text Messaging Antitrust Litigation, 630 F.3d 622, 625-626 (7th Cir. 2010).
Plaintiff has chosen to comply with the pleading requirements of Rule 8(a) by pleading his various claims against the individual Defendants as a group rather than on an individual basis. This type of group pleading is not sanctioned by Rule 8(a) and should be discouraged: these claims should be summarily dismissed. However, considering the scant case law explaining the new pleading requirements ushered in by Twombly and its progeny, the Court eschews summary dismissal by attempting to elucidate the application of this latest understanding of Rule 8(a) to this case. With this in mind, the Court emphasizes that claims against each, individual, Defendant must be plausible on its face and not merely conceivable. In assessing such claims, the Court must first determine whether Plaintiff has complied with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) by providing a short and plaint statement that he is entitled to relief. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. The Court must next determine whether, assuming the veracity of factual allegations, "whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Id. at 1950.
In this Count, Plaintiff generally alleges that "the individual Defendants, while acting individually, jointly, and in conspiracy, as well as under color of law and within the scope of their employment, deprived Plaintiff of his constitutional right to a fair trial as guaranteed by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments . . . ." (Comp. ¶ 60). In light of the dismissal of the bypass route claims, the only supporting facts related to this Count are those related to John Doe. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants "caused material exculpatory evidence to be withheld from Plaintiff and his defense counsel." (Comp. ¶ 61). Plaintiff then outlines the type of material that was allegedly withheld.
It has long been held that:
[T]he suppression by the prosecution of evidence favorable to an accused upon request violates due process where the evidence is material either to guilt or to punishment, irrespective of the good faith or bad faith of the prosecution. Brady, 373 U.S. at 87.*fn3
This rule of law is tied to concepts of fairness: prosecutors are required to "disclose evidence favorable to the accused that, if suppressed, would deprive the defendant of a fair trial." United States v. Bagley, 473 U.S. 667, 675-676 (1985); See also Youngblood v. West Virginia, 547 U.S. 867, 869-870 (2006). Thus, the government violates a defendant's right to a fair trial by knowingly introducing perjured testimony, failing to turn over requested exculpatory evidence, or failing to "volunteer exculpatory evidence [of sufficient significance] never requested, or requested only in a general way." Kyles v. Whitley, 514 U.S. 419, 433 (1995). This obligation extends to the police who should ensure that Brady material is conveyed to the prosecutor. Id. at 438; See also U.S. ex rel. Smith v. Fairman, 769 F.2d 386, 391 (7th Cir. 1985); Barbee v. Warden, Md. Penitentiary, 331 F.2d 842, 846 (2nd Cir. 1964) ("If the police allow the State's Attorney to produce evidence pointing to guilt without informing him of other evidence in their possession which contradicts this inference, state officers are practicing deception not only on the State's Attorney but on the court and the defendant."). At this stage of the proceedings, there ...