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Gonzalez v. City of Waukegan

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

December 6, 2016

CITY OF WAUKEGAN, ADRENE YANCEY, the administrator of the estate of ARTIS YANCEY, deceased, Special Representatives of LUIS MARQUEZ and JOHN MORAN, deceased, and former Waukegan Police Department officer EDWARD DENNIS, Defendants.


          Milton I. Shadur Senior United States District Judge

         Angel Gonzalez ("Gonzalez") was exonerated by DNA evidence in 2015 after spending 20 years in prison for aggravated sexual assault and aggravated kidnapping. Gonzalez now brings this action against (1) arresting officers John Moran ("Moran") and Edward Dennis ("Dennis"), (2) interrogating detectives Artis Yancey ("Yancey") and Luis Marquez ("Marquez") and (3) the City of Waukegan (the "City"), which employed all of those individual defendants. Gonzalez asserts federal claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983") for violations of his constitutional rights (a) under the Fourteenth Amendment through unduly suggestive identification techniques, fabrication of evidence, withholding of material exculpatory and impeachment evidence and fabricated confessions, (b) under the Fourteenth and Fifth Amendments for coerced confession and (c) under the Fourteenth and Fourth Amendments for malicious prosecution. Gonzalez also advances state law claims for malicious prosecution, intentional infliction of emotional distress and civil conspiracy.

         Now before this Court is defendants' motion to dismiss the First Amended Complaint ("AC") under Rule 12(b)(6) (the "Motion") for failure to state a cognizable claim on the grounds that those claims are (1) inadequately pleaded and (2) are barred by the applicable statutes of limitations. With the Motion now fully briefed, it is ripe for decision.

         Legal Standards

         Under Rule 12(b)(6) a party may move for dismissal for the "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Familiar Rule 12(b)(6) principles require the district court to accept as true all of Gonzalez's well-pleaded factual allegations and to view those allegations in the light most reasonably favorable to him as the nonmovant (Lavalais v. Vill. of Melrose Park, 734 F.3d 629, 632 (7th Cir. 2013)). But "legal conclusions or conclusory allegations that merely recite a claim's elements" are not entitled to any presumption of truth (Munson v. Gaetz, 673 F.3d 630, 632 (7th Cir. 2012)).

         In the past decade the Supreme Court made an important change in the evaluation of Rule 12(b)(6) motions via what this Court regularly refers to as the "Twombly-Iqbal canon, " a usage drawn from Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), as more finely tuned in Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89 (2007) (per curiam) and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009)). That canon has introduced the concept of "plausibility" into the analysis, and in that respect our Court of Appeals has "interpreted Twombly and Iqbal to require the plaintiff to provid[e] some specific facts to support the legal claims asserted in the complaint" (McCauley v. City of Chicago, 671 F.3d 611, 616 (7th Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks omitted)). As McCauley, id. went on to reconfirm, claimants "must give enough details about the subject-matter of the case to present a story that holds together."

         Because the focus of Rule 12(b)(6) motions is on the pleadings, they "can be based only on the complaint itself, documents attached to the complaint, documents that are critical to the complaint and referred to in it, and information that is subject to proper judicial notice" (Geinosky v. City of Chicago, 675 F.3d 743, 745 n.1 (7th Cir. 2012)). But a nonmovant has more flexibility, for it "may elaborate on [its] factual allegations so long as the new elaborations are consistent with the pleadings" (id.).

         Factual Background [2]

         Gonzalez was convicted of aggravated sexual assault and aggravated kidnapping back in 1995 (AC ¶ 2). Gonzalez then spent 20 years in prison on those convictions until his innocence was conclusively demonstrated by DNA evidence in 2015 (AC ¶¶ 5, 6). Consequently Gonzalez filed for and received a Certificate of Innocence in June 2015 (AC ¶ 7).

         On June 10, 1994 Jane Doe[3] was taken from her apartment building by two assailants, driven a short distance away and raped (AC ¶ 22). Dazed and disoriented, she then wandered the streets until she reached a 7-11 convenience store and used the phone there to call the police (AC ¶ 22).

         Officer Moran and another officer arrived at the 7-11 a short time later to interview Jane Doe (AC ¶ 24). She gave the officers a description of her attackers that did not match Gonzalez in many respects (AC ¶ 25). Moran and the other officer then drove Jane Doe to her apartment, where Lieutenant Dennis and Jane Doe's boyfriend were waiting (AC ¶ 24). As the boyfriend was being notified of the crime by the officers, he noticed a black sedan pulling out of the parking lot and brought it to the attention of the officers, noting that he did not recognize it (AC ¶ 26).

         Gonzalez, who was driving his girlfriend home after they had spent the evening with her sister (a resident in Jane Doe's apartment building), was the person driving the sedan (AC ¶¶ 26, 28). When the other officer at the scene noted Gonzalez's license plate, he relayed it to Dennis (AC ¶ 29), who left the apartment building to patrol for the black sedan (AC ¶ 30).

         Gonzalez dropped his girlfriend off at her home and was driving to his own home when Dennis saw his car and stopped him, coincidentally outside the Lake County Jail (AC ¶ 30). Dennis radioed Moran, who was still with Jane Doe, and asked him to bring Jane Doe to the scene to identify Gonzalez as her attacker (AC ¶¶ 32, 33). Instead of performing a lineup procedure at the jail, Dennis performed a "showup identification" on the street (AC ¶ 33).

         Moran told Jane Doe that they had found a person who matched her description of her attacker and his car (AC ¶ 34). Moran drove her to the street location where Dennis had apprehended Gonzalez, telling her that the police had located a vehicle and driver who matched her description (AC ¶ 34). Dennis placed Gonzalez in handcuffs and brought him to the front of Moran's car, where he was illuminated by the headlights (AC ¶ 35). Jane Doe, who was in the back of Moran's car and out of sight of Gonzalez, told the officers that Gonzalez was one of her attackers (AC ¶ 36).

         Dennis then took Gonzalez to the Waukegan Police Department and booked him (AC ¶ 38). Gonzalez was kept in a holding cell with no bed, food or water. Gonzalez spoke almost no English at the time and did not understand the events unfolding or the reasons behind them (AC ¶¶ 27, 38, 39) -- in particular, he did not understand why he had been arrested (AC ¶ 39). He was not allowed to make any phone calls at any time (id.).

         After a sleepless night for Gonzalez, Detective Yancey took him to an interview room at the police department and began a seven-hour interrogation (AC ¶¶ 39, 41). When the interrogation began, Yancey and Detective Marquez knew that Gonzalez did not match the initial description of the attacker and that the only evidence against Gonzalez was the showup identification (AC ¶ 43). Although Gonzalez did not understand or speak English, Yancey explained his Miranda rights in English (!) and had Gonzalez sign an English waiver (!) of those rights (AC ¶ 42). Yancey then proceeded to interrogate Gonzalez in English (!) (AC ¶¶ 41, 42). Gonzalez later asked for an attorney multiple times, but the detectives ignored his requests (AC ¶ 47). Marquez then took over the interrogation, speaking in Spanish (AC ¶ 44).

         Gonzalez insisted that he had no knowledge of the crime and that he had been with his girlfriend and her sister when the crime occurred (AC ¶¶ 45, 50). Yancey and Marquez refused to accept that story, pressing Gonzalez to write out a confession (AC ¶ 51). They told Gonzalez that if his story was true, the judge would let him go in spite of a confession (AC ¶ 51).

         During the interrogation Yancey and Marquez told Gonzalez details about the crime gleaned from police reports and continued to press him for a confession (AC ¶ 52). They told him the interrogation would continue until he confessed (AC ¶ 54). Hungry, thirsty and tired, Gonzalez eventually agreed to write a confession (AC ¶ 54). Not satisfied with the low level of detail in that confession, Yancey and Marquez tore it up and had Gonzalez write a more detailed statement (AC ¶¶ 55, 56). When that statement again proved to have no significant details matching Jane Doe's description of the crime (AC ¶ 57), Yancey and Marquez typed out a confession in English (!) for Gonzalez to sign (AC ¶ 58), even though he was unable to read it (AC ¶ 59). That statement written by Marquez and Yancey contained many details about the crime that the police had learned from Jane Doe and from investigations of the scene (AC ¶ 58). Yancey and Marquez then turned on the interview room's cameras for the first time, and they read the statement aloud rather than letting Gonzalez use his own words (AC ¶¶ 64, 65).

         Yancey, Marquez, and Dennis all represented to the prosecution that the evidence they had obtained was free of coercion and undue suggestion (AC ¶ 68). As there was no physical evidence linking Gonzalez to the crime (AC ¶ 3), Jane Doe's identification of Gonzalez and Gonzalez's confession were the only pieces of evidence used in Gonzalez's trial (AC ¶ 74).

         As stated at the outset, Yancey, Marquez, Dennis and Moran were employees of the City at all relevant times (AC ¶¶ 16, 18, 19, 20). It was the City's de facto policy, pattern and practice to countenance its police's fabrication of evidence, coercion of suspects' statements and suppression of exculpatory evidence (AC ¶ 85). All four individual defendants -- Yancey, Marquez, Dennis and Moran -- acted pursuant to those de facto policies, patterns and practices when they investigated Gonzalez (AC ¶ 84).

         Gonzalez's Claims for Relief

         Federal Claims

          Count I: Unduly Suggestive ...

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