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Edwards v. Joliff-Blake

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

March 27, 2017




         Plaintiffs Nelson Edwards, Sherri Edwards, Shawna Walker, and Shawna Edwards have brought this lawsuit against defendants, Officer Michael Joliff-Blake, numerous other Chicago police officers, and the City of Chicago, for violating their civil rights by procuring and executing a warrant to search their home without probable cause. The parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, defendants' motion is granted, and plaintiffs' motion is denied.


         Plaintiff Nelson Edwards, a retiree, owns a house at 827 South Keeler Avenue in Chicago, where he lives with plaintiffs Sherri Edwards, Shawna Edwards, and Shawna Walker, his daughters and granddaughter. On June 20, 2012, a number of Chicago police officers entered and searched the home for drugs pursuant to a search warrant. The warrant was based on information received from a confidential informant, who had reported purchasing drugs in that house from a man known to him as Fred, later further identified as Freddy Sutton. The officers searched the house for an hour and a half or more, detaining Shawna Edwards and Shawna Walker in the living room and preventing Nelson Edwards and Sherri Edwards from entering the house while they searched, even physically restraining Nelson Edwards when he tried to rush past them into the house. The officers found no illicit drugs, nor did they find Freddy Sutton; the plaintiffs informed the officers that he had never resided there, and they claimed not to know him. According to the declaration he submitted in this case, Freddy Sutton lived at 3938 West Lexington Street, nearly half a mile from 827 South Keeler, and he had known Nelson Edwards's son when they were children, but he was otherwise unacquainted with the Edwards family. (Decl. Frederick Sutton, Pls.' 56.1(a)(3) Stmt., Ex. 8, ECF No. 259-8.)

         Defendant Officer Michael Joliff-Blake obtained the warrant to search the premises at 827 South Keeler after meeting with the confidential informant, whom he referred to as “J. Doe, ” at the police station on June 16, 2012. J. Doe told Officer Joliff-Blake that he had purchased heroin from Fred in the house at 827 South Keeler that morning. Officer Joliff-Blake prepared a “Complaint for Search Warrant” in which he related J. Doe's account of the transaction as follows:

J. Doe stated that for approximately the past two months, J. Doe has on numerous times, obtained heroin from a male known to J. Doe as Fred (n.k.a. [sic] Freddy Sutton)-described by J. Doe as a male, black, 6'02”, 215 lbs., black hair, brown eyes, who resides at 827 S. Keeler, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. J. Doe stated that Fred conducts his narcotics operations from the basement of the residence located at 827 S. Keeler.
J. Doe walked into the yard of the residence to the back door. J. Doe knocked on the back door and Fred opened the door and invited J. Doe into the residence, into the basement. J. Doe then asked Fred for 3 bags of ‘blow.' (Blow being street terminology for a small quantity of heroin). While continuing to wait, Fred relocated to the upstairs of the residence and return [sic] with a large plastic bag containing over 100 ziplock baggies containing white powder-heroin. Fred reached in the large plastic bag and removed 3 ziplock baggies and gave them to J. Doe and in return tendered $30.00usc [sic] ($10.00 per ziplock baggies) [sic]. J. Doe inspected the 3 small baggies and found them to be packaged in the same manner as prior purchases and contained the same amount of heroin inside. J. Doe then exited the residence and on the way out Fred called out “Anytime you need anything, bro, come by, I got what you need night and day.” J. Doe then left the residence and after finding a safe place to hide, ingested the above mentioned heroin using intravenous method. J. Doe then related the euphoric experience was similar to past experience and that the quality of the heroin was exceptional. J. Doe further related that he/she has been using heroin for over 2 years. J. Doe further related that the amount and quality of the heroin is exceptional for the price.

(Compl. for Search Warrant, Parties' Stmt. Undisputed Material Facts, Joint Exs., Ex. B, ECF No. 257-2.) According to the Complaint for Search Warrant, Officer Joliff-Blake showed J. Doe a photo of the residence at 827 South Keeler, which he found on the Cook County Assessor's Office website, and J. Doe identified the residence in the photo as the residence where he purchased the heroin from Fred. (Id.) Additionally, Officer Joliff-Blake stated that he and J. Doe had “relocated” to 827 South Keeler, and J. Doe pointed at the residence at that address to identify it as the building in which he had purchased heroin from Fred. (Id.) Officer Joliff-Blake also stated in the Complaint for Search Warrant that he had used a Chicago Police Department database to obtain a photograph of a man named Freddy Sutton, and J. Doe identified the man as the same Fred who had sold him the heroin that morning. (Id.)

         At his deposition in this case, years after the search of the Edwards residence, Officer Joliff-Blake elaborated on some of the details of the investigation described in the Complaint for Search Warrant. He explained that J. Doe told him that he purchased heroin from Fred at a two-story residence near the corner of Arthington and Keeler. (Id., Ex. G-1, at 117:23-18:4, ECF No. 257-7.) Based on J. Doe's description, Officer Joliff-Blake pulled from the Cook County Assessor's website the picture of the house at 827 South Keeler, which lies on the northeast corner of Arthington and Keeler (id., Ex. G-1, at 161:17-62:16), and J. Doe identified the house in the picture as the one where he had purchased heroin from Fred. Later that day, Officer Joliff-Blake drove J. Doe past the house twice, going in a different direction each time, and both times J. Doe pointed at 827 South Keeler and identified it as the house where he had purchased heroin from Fred. (Id., Ex. G-1, at 206:7-07:25.)

         Additionally, Officer Joliff-Blake explained at his deposition that J. Doe had not known Fred's last name. (Id., Ex. G-1, at 117:5-22.) To determine exactly who “Fred” was, Officer Joliff-Blake used police databases to search for people named Fred who had been arrested by officers working beat number 1132, the beat covering the area of Arthington and Keeler, or who were known to live in that area. (Id., Ex. G-1, at 142:3-44:25.) The query returned approximately ten Freds. (Id., Ex. G-1, at 145:1-9.) Officer Joliff-Blake narrowed them down by checking them against the description J. Doe had provided and assembled a photo array of about six photos, including the photo of Freddy Sutton. (Id., Ex. G-1, at 145:24-46:25.) He showed the photo array to J. Doe, who identified Freddy Sutton as the “Fred” who had sold him heroin. (Id., Ex. G-1, at 142:3-46:18-19.)

         After drafting the Complaint for Search Warrant based on the June 16, 2012 meeting with J. Doe, Officer Joliff-Blake sought approval of the Complaint for Search Warrant from a supervisor, Lieutenant Skipper, and an assistant state's attorney, both of whom signed off on the Complaint for Search Warrant by affixing their names and the date and time. The next day, Officer Joliff-Blake presented the Complaint for Search Warrant and a draft search warrant to Judge Gloria Chevere of the Circuit Court of Cook County. Officer Joliff-Blake also presented the J. Doe informant and a record of his criminal history (id., Ex. G-1, at 220:8-11; id., Ex. B, at 2), which included arrests for panhandling in a prohibited manner and identity theft for using his mother's debit card at ATMs without her permission (Pls.' LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 11, ECF No. 263). Judge Chevere swore in J. Doe and questioned him, although the record does not reveal what she asked him. (See Parties' Stmt. Undisputed Material Facts, Joint Exs., Ex. G-1, at 222:6-23:12, see also id., Ex. S-1, 39:1-2, ECF No. 268-1.)

         Plaintiffs subsequently brought this lawsuit against the City of Chicago and the police officers who were involved in procuring and executing the warrant, claiming that defendants violated their Fourth Amendment rights by procuring and executing a search warrant that was unsupported by probable cause. The complaint consists of ten counts[1]: Count I, procuring a warrant to search plaintiffs' home based on unreliable information and misrepresentation; Count II, entering plaintiffs' home without a valid warrant or probable cause; Count III, searching plaintiffs' home without a valid warrant or probable cause; Count IV, seizing and detaining plaintiffs without a valid warrant or probable cause; Count V, using excessive force to detain Nelson Edwards and Shawna Walker; Count VI, battery under Illinois law; Count VII, supervisory liability against Sergeant Sullins, the police officer in charge of the execution of the warrant at 827 South Keeler; Count VIII, supervisory liability against Lieutenant Skipper, the police officer who approved Officer Joliff-Blake's Complaint for Search Warrant before he presented it to Judge Chevere; Count IX, for violating plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment rights by failing to intervene to stop unconstitutional conduct; and Count X, against the City of Chicago for indemnification of the individual defendants. (3d Am. Compl., ECF No. 187.)


         The parties have each filed motions for summary judgment. Defendants seek judgment on all counts; plaintiffs contend that there are genuine, material factual disputes on Counts V, VI and X, so they seek judgment only on Counts I-IV, VII, VIII and IX, and only on liability. “The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In considering such a motion, the Court construes the evidence and all inferences that reasonably can be drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See Kvapil v. Chippewa Cty., Wis., 752 F.3d 708, 712 (7th Cir. 2014). “Summary judgment should be denied if the dispute is ‘genuine': ‘if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'” Talanda v. KFC Nat'l Mgmt. Co., 140 F.3d 1090, 1095 (7th Cir. 1998) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)); see Bunn v. Khoury Enters., Inc., 753 F.3d 676, 681-82 (7th Cir. 2014). The court will enter summary judgment against a party who does not “come forward with evidence that would reasonably permit the finder of fact to find in [its] favor on a material question.” Modrowski v. Pigatto, 712 F.3d 1166, 1167 (7th Cir. 2013).

         Plaintiffs bring this civil suit against defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which creates a cause of action against any person who, under color of state law, “subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States . . . to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws.” Id. Plaintiffs' claims are rooted in the Fourth Amendment, which guarantees that “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause.” U.S. Const. amend. IV.

         “Probable cause is established when, based on the totality of the circumstances, the affidavit sets forth sufficient evidence to induce a reasonably prudent person to believe that a search will uncover evidence of a crime.” United States v. Peck, 317 F.3d 754, 756 (7th Cir. 2003). A judge's decision to issue a warrant based on her determination that there is probable cause is entitled to “great deference.” United States v. Carson, 582 F.3d 827, 831 (7th Cir. 2009). “The task of the issuing magistrate is simply to make a practical, common-sense decision whether, given all the circumstances set forth in the affidavit before him, including the veracity and basis of knowledge of persons supplying hearsay information, there is a fair probability that contraband or evidence of a crime will be found in a particular place.” Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 238 (1983) (internal quotation marks omitted). When the information in the affidavit has been provided by an informant, whether the information is sufficiently reliable to support a determination of probable cause depends on factors such as whether the information is based on “[1] the personal observations of the confidential informant (“CI”), [2] the degree of detail given in the affidavit, [3] independent police corroboration of the information, [4] the interval of time between the events and application for a warrant, and [5] whether the informant testified at the probable cause hearing.” Peck, 317 F.3d at 756. None of these factors is determinative by itself; “a deficiency in one factor may be compensated for by a strong showing in another or by some other indication of reliability.” Id. (citing United States v. Brack, 188 F.3d 748, 756 (7th Cir. 1999).

         I. ...

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