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Miguel Maldonado v. P.O. Vincent Stinar

June 20, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Marvin E. Aspen


MARVIN E. ASPEN, District Judge:

Presently before us are two post-trial motions filed by Plaintiff Miguel Maldonado.*fn1

Plaintiff first asks us to alter or amend our February 1, 2010 order granting partial summary judgment for the Defendants in this case. Plaintiff also seeks relief from the jury's November 19, 2010 verdict in favor of the Defendants and requests that we vacate the final judgment and grant him a new trial. For the reasons stated below, we deny both motions.


Plaintiff brought a three-count second amended complaint against Defendants Vincent Stinar, Michael Glines, Lenny Pierri, and the City of Chicago. (Dkt. No. 52.) The individual Defendants are members of the Chicago Police Department.*fn2 The second amended complaint alleged that the Defendants falsely arrested Plaintiff in violation of the Fourth Amendment (Count I) and Illinois law (Count III), and that the Defendants' unreasonably searched Plaintiff and his vehicle (Count II). (Id. at 3--5.) Plaintiff seeks relief from our grant of summary judgment on Counts I and III (Dkt. No. 167) and the jury's verdict in favor of the Defendants on Count II (Dkt. No. 169). In support of his motion to reconsider our summary judgment order, Plaintiff points to alleged inconsistencies in the Defendants' deposition and trial testimony. (Dkt. No. 167 at 2--4.) In support of his motion for a new trial, Plaintiff points to Defense counsel's alleged misconduct in relying upon a photograph of the arrest scene not admitted in to evidence in her closing argument. (Dkt. No. 169 at 4--8.) We briefly set out the facts pertinent to each motion.

A. Defendants' Testimony

Prior to trial, Plaintiff deposed Officer Stinar regarding his arrest and search of Plaintiff and his vehicle. (Stinar Dep.) At his deposition, Officer Stinar testified that the arrest stemmed in part from an anonymous tip regarding a gun in a vehicle with the same license plate as Plaintiff's. (Stinar Dep. at 35--36.) Officer Stinar further stated that when Plaintiff exited his vehicle, Stinar recognized him as a gang affiliate whom he had previously observed at the scene of a gang-related shooting. (Id. at 25--30.) He described, inter alia, how he approached Plaintiff, (Id. at 40--47), arrested him, (Id. at 51--54), and searched his vehicle. (Id. at 51--62.) Officer Stinar also stated that, during the search, he noticed that Plaintiff clearly had children based on the fact that the car had toys and car seats in it. (Id.)

On February 1, 2010, we granted the Defendants' motion for summary judgment on Plaintiff's federal and state false arrest claims (Counts I and III). (Dkt. No. 92 at 16.) In finding that the officers had sufficient probable cause to arrest Plaintiff, we relied on three factors: 1) the anonymous tip identifying Plaintiff as a Hispanic male, physically describing his vehicle and license plate number, and stating that he had a gun; 2) the location of Plaintiff's vehicle in a neighborhood known to be heavily gang-infested; and 3) Officer Stinar's apparent recognition of Plaintiff as a gang affiliate. (Id. at 8--12.) On August 3, 2010, we denied Plaintiff's request to revisit our summary judgment order. (Dkt. No. 143.)

On November 18, 2010, a jury trial commenced on the remaining count of unreasonable search of Plaintiff's vehicle (Count II). (Dkt. No. 155.) During trial, Officer Stinar again testified about the search, stating that Plaintiff gave him permission to search his vehicle, (11/18/10 Trial Tr. at 59--60), that his belief that there was a weapon in the car rapidly diminished, (Id. at 59, 75, 78--79), that the vehicle was a family van, (Id. at 60), and that he had a friendly conversation with Plaintiff after the search. (Id. at 70--71.)

B. Photograph of the Scene

Shortly before trial, Defense counsel obtained a photograph of the building and surrounding area where the arrest and search had occurred. (Resp., Ex. A ¶¶ 12--14.) Although the parties dispute whether Defense counsel disclosed the actual intended use for the photograph (Id. at ¶ 19; Aff. of Julie Owen at ¶ 5), they agree that Defense counsel showed the photograph to Plaintiff's counsel before using it as a demonstrative exhibit at trial. (Resp., Ex. A ¶ 13; Aff. of Julie Owen at ¶ 3.) The photograph was not admitted as evidence, but the parties concur that Plaintiff's counsel did not object to Defense counsel's use of the photograph during her closing argument and that Plaintiff's counsel in fact referred to the photograph in her rebuttal. (11/18/10 Trial Tr. at 42--44; 11/19/10 10 a.m. Trial Tr. at 7--9; 11/19/10 12 p.m. Trial Tr. at 3.)

During their deliberations, the jury requested to see the photograph. (11/19/10 12 p.m. Trial Tr. at 2.) In denying that request, the Court instructed the jury as follows: "[Y]ou request a picture of the building. That picture is not in evidence. Although it was used for demonstrative purposes, it is not in evidence and I cannot give it to you." (Id. at 5.) Later that same day, the jury found the Defendants not liable on the remaining count of ...

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