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Donald Williams v. City of Chicago

March 14, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Robert M. Dow, Jr.


This matter is before the Court on Defendants' joint motion to dismiss [21] Plaintiff's amended complaint [24, Ex. A].*fn1 For the reasons stated below, the Court grants in part and denies in part Defendants' motion [21].

I. Background*fn2

On November 8, 2006, the Chicago Police Department took Plaintiff Donald Williams ("Plaintiff") into custody as a suspect in a homicide that had taken place in Chicago ten days earlier. Defendant Chicago Police Officers J. Murray, W. Brogan, T. Vovos, T. Carr, and S. Czablewski (collectively, "the Defendant Officers"), who were conducting the investigation into the homicide, held and interrogated Plaintiff for more than twenty-four hours. According to Plaintiff, during the interrogation, the Defendant Officers informed Plaintiff of the homicide and concocted and coerced a false confession that implicated Plaintiff in the homicide. Plaintiff alleges that the Defendant Officers put Plaintiff "in fear for his life by d complaint. The Court grants Plaintiff's motion leading him to believe that if he did not do what they told him to do then he would be sent to prison for the next thirty years." [24, Ex. A. at ¶¶ 15-16].

Plaintiff alleges that the Defendant Officers interrogated him despite being aware of evidence indicating that another individual was responsible for the homicide. Defendants had questioned an eyewitness to the homicide who provided a description of the offender. The eyewitness did not implicate Plaintiff, although the eyewitness knew Plaintiff by name. The Defendant Officers also knew the identity of a man who recently had been involved in a feud with the homicide victim over the purchase of a car. The Defendant Officers were aware that the man involved in the car transaction had accused the victim of selling him a defective car, and had, with another man, made an armed threat to the victim a few days before the homicide. The Defendant Officers knew that in the course of the homicide, the offender said to the victim, "you tried to rob us." [24, Ex. A, at ¶ 12.]

Plaintiff further alleges that the Defendant Officers coerced a false confession from Plaintiff despite their awareness of evidence that pointed to a man other than Plaintiff. Plaintiff then was charged with homicide. The coerced confession was used to bring and continue criminal proceedings against Plaintiff in the Circuit Court of Cook County. Plaintiff moved to suppress his confession on August 20, 2008. Plaintiff's suppression motion and the coerced confession that the motion concerned were considered in court proceedings on August 20, 2008, March 18, 2009, May 21, 2009, and May 29, 2009. During those proceedings, the court heard witness testimony and evidence relating to the confession, and viewed a video of Plaintiff's interrogation and confession. The judge granted Plaintiff's motion to suppress the confession on June 15, 2009. The charges against Plaintiff were subsequently dismissed, and Plaintiff was released from custody.

On April 20, 2010, Plaintiff filed a complaint against the Defendant Officers and Defendant City of Chicago. The initial complaint set forth four counts: (1) a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim confession in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments (Count I); (2) a § 1983 claim asserting that Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment right to due process was violated when the Defendant Officers withheld material exculpatory evidence from Plaintiff during the criminal prosecution (Count II); (3) a § 1983 claim asserting that the Defendant Officers failed to intervene to prevent violations of Plaintiff's constitutional rights (Count III); and (4) a state law malicious prosecution claim (Count IV). Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages, punitive damages, and litigation costs and attorneys' fees. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss [21] Plaintiff's complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).

sufficiency of the complaint, n ot the merits of the case. See Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the complaint must provide "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). "[O]nce a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 563 (2007). The factual allegations in the complaint must be sufficient to raise the possibility of relief above the "speculative level," assuming that all of the allegations in the complaint are true. E.E.O.C. v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 569 n.14). In other words, the pleading must allege facts that plausibly suggest the claim asserted. Twombly, 550 570. "A pleading that offers 'labels and conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). However, "[s]pecific facts are not necessary; the statement need only give the defendant fair notice of what the * * * claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007)(citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555) (omission in original). The Court accepts as true all of the well-pleaded facts alleged by the plaintiff and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom. See Barnes v. Briley, 420 F.3d 673, 677 (7th Cir. 2005).

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the

II. Legal Standard

III. Analysis

Defendants contend that Counts I, II, and III of Plaintiff's complaint should be dismissed as time-barred. Defendants state that the limitations period for these counts is two years. Plaintiff filed his initial complaint on April 20, 2010. Defendants argue that the coerced confession that forms the basis of Counts I, II, and III was first used in the criminal proceedings against Plaintiff more than two years before that date. Defendants attached to their motion to dismiss a docket sheet from Plaintiff's criminal case in support of their argument.

Defendants also contend that Count II is deficient as a matter of law and was insufficiently pleaded, and that Count III should be dismissed because Plaintiff fails to establish an underlying constitutional violation. Finally, Defendants contend that the Court should decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Count IV and dismiss that count as well because all three federal law claims should be dismissed.

As an initial matter, Plaintiff argues that the Court may not consider the criminal docket sheet at this stage of the case, arguing that "evidence beyond the pleadings should not be considered for the purposes of Rule 12(b)(6)." [24, at 2]. Defendants respond that "courts can consider items subject to judicial ...

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