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Jimenez v. City of Chicago

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

October 7, 2013

Thaddeus JIMENEZ, Plaintiff-Appellee,
CITY OF CHICAGO, et al., Defendants-Appellants.

Argued June 5, 2013.

Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc Denied Nov. 20, 2013.[*]

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Jon C. Loevy, Attorney, Loevy & Loevy, Chicago, IL, Locke E. Bowman, III, Attorney, Chicago, IL, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Jonathon D. Byrer, Attorney, Benna Ruth Solomon, Attorney, City of Chicago Law Department, Chicago, IL, for Defendants-Appellants.

Before BAUER, EASTERBROOK, and HAMILTON, Circuit Judges.

HAMILTON, Circuit Judge.

When he was fifteen years old, plaintiff Thaddeus Jimenez was convicted of a murder he did not commit. He spent sixteen years in prison before he was exonerated. Jimenez then filed this lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law against the City of Chicago and a former Chicago police detective, Jerome Bogucki, for violating his constitutional right to due process of law and for malicious prosecution. In January 2012, a jury found for Jimenez and awarded him $25 million in compensatory damages. The district court denied the defendants' motions for a new trial and for judgment as a matter of law. Jimenez v. City of Chicago, 877 F.Supp.2d 649, 653-54 (N.D.Ill.2012). Defendants now appeal. We affirm the judgment in favor of Jimenez.

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I. Factual and Procedural Background

The following facts reflect the evidence in the light most favorable to Jimenez, the non-moving party who won the jury verdict. Further factual details are set forth in the district court's order denying the defendants' post-trial motions.

In February 1993, Victor Romo and another boy encountered Eric Morro on a street in Chicago. The boy with Romo shot and killed Morro. Romo always identified the shooter as Juan Carlos Torres. Larry Tueffel, a friend of Morro's, was present at the shooting, and Tina Elder and Phil Torres were close by.

Detective Bogucki investigated the murder. Bogucki used coercive tactics to convince Tueffel and Phil Torres to falsely identify Jimenez as the shooter. Bogucki also tainted the testimony of other witnesses. For example, he arranged for Elder to see a picture of Morro's corpse next to a picture of Jimenez before she was shown a line-up and identified Jimenez as the shooter. Bogucki also knew that Jimenez owned a blue and white Duke University jacket, so he planted with the witnesses the idea that the shooter was wearing that color and style of jacket.

Jimenez was fifteen years old in October 1994 when he was tried as an adult for the murder of Morro. Tueffel, Elder, and Torres all testified that Jimenez was the shooter. Romo, who had been with the shooter, testified that Juan Carlos Torres was the shooter. Jimenez was convicted and sentenced to fifty years in prison. For reasons unrelated to this appeal, his conviction was overturned and he was retried in 1997. The same witnesses testified at his second trial and gave essentially the same testimony. Jimenez was again convicted and sentenced, this time for forty-five years.

Years passed, and Tueffel was in a mental health facility after being diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. In 2006, he was contacted by an investigator working for the Northwestern University Center on Wrongful Convictions. Tueffel volunteered that Jimenez was innocent. Using Tueffel's statements, investigators then confronted Elder about her identification of Jimenez. She disclosed that her identification of Jimenez in the lineup had been tainted because she had been shown his picture just before she identified him. In 2008, the investigators convinced the Cook County State's Attorney to reopen the case. State investigators discovered more evidence indicating Jimenez's innocence. Then, in May 2009, the State's Attorney and Jimenez's lawyers sought to vacate his conviction. A judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County did so, and Jimenez was later granted a certificate of innocence.

Jimenez filed a complaint against the City of Chicago and Detective Bogucki. The case went to trial against Bogucki on two counts alleging federal claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for deprivation of due process and conspiracy to do so and a state law claim for malicious prosecution, and against the City of Chicago for direct liability or indemnification for any judgment against Bogucki. The jury found for Jimenez on all claims. The defendants moved for a new trial under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59 and judgment as a matter of law under Rule 50. The district court denied both motions.

The defendants have appealed, arguing that the district court erred in denying their post-trial motions and raising an evidentiary issue. They argue that the district court erred during jury selection by granting Jimenez's Batson challenge to a peremptory strike and by failing to give a jury instruction limiting the due process violations the jury could consider. Defendants also argue they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law under Rule 50 because Jimenez failed to prove his due

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process claim with sufficient evidence by not entering into evidence the complete transcripts of each of his state criminal trials. Finally defendants argue that admitting one expert's testimony on reasonable police practices in murder investigations was a reversible error that warrants a new trial. We reject all of these challenges to the verdict.[1]

II. The Batson Issue

During jury selection, the defendants used two of their three peremptory strikes against the only two African-American jurors in the venire. Jimenez challenged the strikes of both under Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 106 S.Ct. 1712, 90 L.Ed.2d 69 (1986), which held unconstitutional the use of peremptory challenges based on race. The district judge sustained Jimenez's objection to one juror, concluding that defense counsel's stated reasons for striking juror S.M. were not credible. See United States v. Rutledge, 648 F.3d 555, 556-57 (7th Cir.2011)( Batson " requires the district court to make a finding of fact regarding the prosecutor's credibility after the prosecutor has offered a race-neutral reason for the strike" ). The judge explained that the defense had failed to strike a similarly situated white juror, which undermined the credibility of counsel's stated reasons for the strike of S.M. The defendants had not tried to challenge S.M. for cause.

The defendants argue that the district court erred and that the error was compounded when the court did not give them another chance to exercise an additional peremptory strike to replace the one they lost. Defendants face a steep climb on the merits of this argument. See Rice v. Collins, 546 U.S. 333, 338, 126 S.Ct. 969, 163 L.Ed.2d 824 (2006) (" On direct appeal in federal court, the credibility findings a trial court makes in a Batson inquiry are reviewed for clear error." ). We do not reach the merits of the argument, however. There was no reversible error because the defendants have not shown that a biased juror sat on the jury. Even if the district court might have erred in sustaining Jimenez's Batson challenge, which we do not decide, any error would have been harmless.

This question is governed by two decisions of the Supreme Court, United States v. Martinez-Salazar, 528 U.S. 304, 120 S.Ct. 774, 145 L.Ed.2d 792 (2000), and Rivera v. Illinois, 556 U.S. 148, 129 S.Ct. 1446, 173 L.Ed.2d 320 (2009). In Martinez-Salazar, a criminal defendant was forced to use one of his peremptory challenges to cure the trial court's erroneous denial of a challenge for cause. He was entitled to exercise peremptory challenges pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 24(b), but the Court held that the loss of one of his peremptories did not impair his rights under that rule. " [A] principal reason for peremptories," the Court explained, is " to help secure the constitutional guarantee of trial by an impartial jury" Martinez-Salazar, 528 U.S. at 316, 120 S.Ct. 774. Having " received precisely what ...

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