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Douglas Martin v. Officer Luckett

March 30, 2011

DOUGLAS MARTIN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
OFFICER LUCKETT, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge James B. Zagel

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff, Douglas Martin ("Martin"), alleges various claims of excessive force stemming from his arrest following a multi-jurisdictional car chase. Defendants now move for summary judgment. For the following reasons, Defendants' motions for summary judgment are granted in part and denied in part.

I. PRELIMINARY ISSUES

A. Motion To Strike Plaintiff's Statement of Additional Facts.

Defendants moved to strike Plaintiff's statement of additional facts because of Plaintiff's failure to file various exhibits. For the reasons stated in open court, I granted Plaintiff leave to file these missing exhibits, and also granted Defendants an opportunity to respond to these exhibits. Accordingly, Defendants' motion to strike is denied.

B. Motion To Strike Expert Report of Michael Roach.

Defendants also move to strike the report of Plaintiff's canine expert, Michael Roach ("Roach"). First, Defendants state that the report is inadmissible because it is not accompanied by a supporting affidavit verifying its authenticity. I decline to strike the report on these grounds alone.

Next, Defendants move to strike Roach's opinion that the use of the canine Django in effecting Plaintiff's arrest was excessive. In his report, Roach concludes that Officer Luckett's ("Luckett") use of Django was unwarranted and excessive. Though testimony from a police practices expert can be admissible in a Section 1983 use of force action, the Seventh Circuit prohibits an expert from testifying as to the ultimate issue of whether an officer had used excessive force. See Thompson v. City of Chicago, 472 F.3d 444, 457-58 (7 th Cir. 2006). Accordingly, this conclucion is stricken.

Defendants also argue that Roach's conclusion that enough officers were present at the scene and that a canine was not needed should be stricken because he fails to explain how he reached his conclusion. See Zenith Elects. Corp. v. WH-TV Broad. Corp., 395 F.3d 416, 419-20 (7th Cir. 2005). I agree and strike this conclusion from Roach's report.

Roach further opines that Luckett is a "Macho canine handler" who intentionally deployed his canine to attack Plaintiff without justification. The standard for an excessive force claim, however, is objective reasonableness, and an officer's subjective intent is irrelevant. Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 397 (1989). Moreover, Roach's opinion relies solely on Luckett's comments heard on the video right after the incident and does not explain his methodology for his opinion. Accordingly, I strike this opinion from the report.

Another opinion expressed in Roach's report is that Django and Luckett were deficiently trained. Roach, however, did not review Luckett or Django's basic training records from Vohne Liche Kennels or the deposition testimony of the Vohne Liche trainer, Kenneth Licklider. Indeed, Plaintiff admits that Luckett and Django successfully completed a five-week, 200-hour training program at Vohne Liche Kennels and that they were certified for the dual purposes of apprehension and drug work. Though it is true that Roach might not have considered all available documents in rendering his opinion, such factors go to the weight to be afforded his opinion and not their admissibility. I decline to strike this opinion from Roach's report.

II. STATEMENT OF FACTS

On May 25, 2005, Plaintiff was intoxicated with alcohol and used his brother's pickup truck to obtain crack cocaine and sexual favors from a prostitute. Plaintiff had consumed crack cocaine when he saw police officers and panicked. Letting the woman out of his car, he was pulled over by Joliet officers. When the officers opened the passenger door, plaintiff drove-off, instigating an hour-long, multi-jurisdictional pursuit. Plaintiff drove on and off the interstate, drove through the streets of Romeoville, broke multiple traffic laws, caused criminal damage to property, drove over a median, across sidewalks, yards, and driveways to evade police. Plaintiff was driving while under the influence of alcohol and crack cocaine.

At one point during the chase, Martin stopped his vehicle in Romeoville. Officers exited their vehicles and approached Plaintiff's truck on foot. Officer Augustine ("Augustine") attempted to open Plaintiff's driver-side door, but it was locked. Augustine then broke the window with the butt of his gun and reached to unlock the door. Martin then sped away in his vehicle nearly striking three officers, including Officer Brian Truhlar ("Truhlar") who had approached the passenger door of Martin's truck, and had to jump out of the way to avoid being hit by Plaintiff as he fled.

Minutes after the first stop, Plaintiff crashed his truck into a residential fence. Seconds later, Plaintiff was removed from his vehicle. One disputed fact is whether Luckett used Django to extract Plaintiff from his vehicle. A chaotic scene followed, all of which was captured on video.*fn1 Numerous officers surrounded Plaintiff, and he was thrown on top of a vehicle. The officers were attempting to handcuff Plaintiff. Whether Plaintiff was kicking and attempting to resist arrest is a disputed fact. It is undisputed that officers yelled "stop resisting!" Defendants Truhlar and Officer Allen Downen ("Downen") struck Plaintiff in the thigh or calf when attempting to effect his arrest. Officer Thomas Budde ("Budde") struck Plaintiff with his ASP baton, though it is disputed whether Plaintiff was struck on the head or arm. It is also disputed that once Plaintiff was handcuffed, he was dropped to the curb and onto the car bumper.

After being handcuffed, Django was attached to Plaintiff's left leg. Django released his hold on Plaintiff after several commands from Luckett. Martin was then walked to Truhlar's squad car by Truhlar, Dowen and Augustine. The officers proceeded to pat Plaintiff down. There is a factual dispute regarding whether Plaintiff resisted ...


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