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Jackson v. City of Peoria

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Rock Island Division

March 31, 2017

CITY OF PEORIA, SHAWN CURRY, KEITH MCDANIEL, and ROGER MARTIN, and other as-yet unidentified officers, Defendants.



         Before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 18. Plaintiff Jackson filed several counts under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Illinois state law relating to the five-year term of imprisonment he served in the wake of his ultimately overturned 2011 murder conviction. Defendants move to dismiss all of them.[1] For the following reasons, the Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.


         On the evening of August 29, 2009, a shooting in Peoria, Illinois claimed the life of Clifford Harvey, Jr. Just before the shooting, Harvey set out to obtain drugs with Easton Eibeck, who was already high at the time. As the two men were walking, they passed a group of four men walking in the opposite direction. Eibeck's version of events is as follows: he and Harvey exchanged words with the men, who then surrounded Harvey. One of the men reached for his waistband, and Harvey began to run. Eibeck started running as well, and heard a shot fired behind him, but did not stop.

         Peoria police officers responded to a 911 call reporting gunfire and arrived at 10:37pm. A dozen officers canvassed the scene, and located a screwdriver, a lighter, a cellphone near Harvey's body, and a bullet fragment in his clothing. No murder weapon, shell casings, or other physical evidence was recovered. Defendant Shawn Curry arrived on the scene at approximately 10:45pm. A bystander took him to the home of Kevin Eggers and Angela Espedal, where Harvey had been staying. Curry interviewed Eggers and Espedal, both of whom told Curry that Eibeck informed them that Harvey had been shot but that he could not identify the shooter. Curry interviewed Eibeck on August 30, 2009, and Eibeck confirmed that he could only give a general description and was not able to positively identify the shooter or anyone in the group. Eibeck relayed to Curry that he was a heroin addict in need of treatment.

         Defendants' Investigation

         In February 2010, Eibeck was arrested on an unrelated charge and taken to Peoria County Jail. Curry arranged to have him questioned at the Peoria Police Department the next day. Defendants Curry and Roger Martin tried to get Eibeck to point to Plaintiff Jackson as the shooter. Defendants conducted a photo line-up that attempted to manipulate Eibeck into identifying Jackson as Harvey's shooter. Eibeck stated that the officers seemed “hellbent on [Jackson]” and that the photo of Jackson was “pushed down [his] throat.” Eibeck eventually selected the photo of Jackson, despite cautioning police that he was not 100% sure of the identification. He noted that at the time of the shooting it was dark, he was high, and the events happened quickly. Curry produced a police report containing false information about the circumstances of the interview and regarding the strength of Eibeck's identification.

         Defendants' Interrogation of Jackson

         Curry issued a “49 memo” asserting that probable cause existed to arrest Jackson, and other Peoria Police officers then arrested Jackson without a warrant. Jackson was arrested on March 2, 2010. He was interrogated by Curry and Defendant Keith McDaniel for approximately two hours, in a session that was recorded on videotape. Jackson had consumed alcohol and drugs prior to his arrest and felt woozy during the interrogation. He repeatedly denied being present at the shooting. The officers denied his requests to phone his mother and grandmother.

         Curry initially instructed Jackson that he could invoke his Miranda rights by remaining silent, and Jackson did so for approximately thirty minutes. Curry and McDaniel continued to speak to Jackson. McDaniel told Jackson that if he remained silent, he would still be charged with the murder, and that a jury would be biased against him because he was a young black man. Curry and McDaniel lied repeatedly to Jackson about the evidence, minimized the seriousness of the shooting, and fed Jackson details of the crime. They suggested to Jackson that Harvey threatened him with the screwdriver and that Jackson shot in self-defense.

         During the interrogation, Jackson's speech was slurred and he appeared uncoordinated. Two hours and fifteen minutes into the interrogation, Jackson collapsed onto the floor and the officers were unable to revive him. An ambulance was dispatched to the scene, and Jackson told paramedics that he was dizzy and that his head had been hurting for a couple of hours. Jackson was transported to a hospital for treatment.

         Jackson's Conviction

         Jackson was charged with first degree murder. The State introduced as evidence Eibeck's identification and excerpts from the videotaped interrogation. Jackson was convicted and sentenced to sixty five years in prison. Jackson maintained his innocence and sought appeal. The Illinois Appellate Court reversed the conviction, finding that there had been no probable cause to arrest Jackson. On June 28, 2015, the Peoria County State's Attorney dismissed all charges against Jackson.

         In this civil suit, Jackson brings the following claims against the City of Peoria and the involved officers: Count I: 42 U.S.C. § 1983 - Due Process; Count II: 42 U.S.C. § 1983 - Coerced and False Confession (Fifth Amendment); Count III: 42 U.S.C. § 1983 - Coerced and False Confession (Fourteenth Amendment); Count IV: 42 U.S.C. § 1983 - Federal Malicious Prosecution; Count V: 42 U.S.C. § 1983 - Conspiracy to Deprive Constitutional Rights; Count VI: 42 U.S.C. § 1983 - Failure to Intervene; Count VII: State Law Malicious Prosecution; Count VIII: State Law Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress; Count IX: State Law - Willful and Wanton Conduct; Count X - State Law Civil Conspiracy; Count XI: State Law Respondeat Superior; and Count XII: State Law Indemnification. See Compl.


         I. Legal Standard on a Motion to Dismiss

         In ruling on a defendant's motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must “accept all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff.” Forseth v. Village of Sussex, 199 F.3d 363, 368 (7th Cir. 2000). In doing so, the facts set forth in the complaint are viewed “in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” GATX Leasing Corp. v. Nat'l Union Fire Ins. Co., 64 F.3d 1112, 1114 (7th Cir. 1995).

         To survive a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a complaint “must actually suggest that the plaintiff has a right to relief.” Arnett, 658 F.3d at 752 (quoting Windy City Metal Fabricators & Supply, Inc. v. CIT Tech. Fin. Servs., 536 F.3d 663, 668 (7th Cir. 2008)). In evaluating a complaint, a court first determines which allegations, if any, are “not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 680 (2009). “Bare assertions” that “amount to nothing more than a ‘formulaic recitation of the elements'” of a claim are “conclusory and not entitled to be assumed to be true.” Id. at 681 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). The court then considers the claims remaining and determines whether these “plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 681. To do so, they must plead “factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Arnett, 658 F.3d at 752 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). In other words, the plaintiff's allegations must demonstrate that the claim “is plausible, rather than merely speculative.” Tomayo, 526 F.3d at 1083. The court may take judicial notice of matters of public record for purposes of deciding a motion to dismiss without converting the motion into a motion for summary judgment. See Palay v. United States, 349 F.3d 418, 425, n. 5 (7th Cir.2003).

         For a § 1983 claim to survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff's allegation must allege plausibly, under the pleading standards of Iqbal, a defendant's direct personal responsibility for the claimed deprivation of a constitutional right. Duncan v. Duckworth, 644 F.2d 653, 655 (7th Cir. 1981). For conspiracy liability, a plaintiff must show agreement amongst defendants to deprive plaintiff of his rights, and that he was actually deprived of those rights by overt acts taken in furtherance of the conspiracy. Scherer v. Balkema, 840 F.2d 437, 442 (7th Cir. 1988).

         II. Coerced Confession Under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments[3]

         Defendants argue that qualified immunity protects the Defendant Officers from suit against Jackson's claims of coerced confession under both the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Def.'s Mem.Supp. Mot. Dismiss (“Def.'s Mem”) 5-12, ECF No. 19.

         i. Qualified Immunity

         “Qualified immunity is an entitlement to avoid trial.” Jones v. Clark, 630 F.3d 677, 679 (7th Cir. 2011). It shields officials, including police officers, from harassment, distraction, and liability when they perform their duties reasonably, while ensuring that public officials are held accountable when they exercise power irresponsibly. Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231 (2009). An “official's right to immunity turns on two questions: first, whether the facts presented, taken in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, describe a violation of a constitutional right, and second, whether the federal right at issue was clearly established at the time that the alleged violation occurred.” Jones, 630 F.3d at 680 (citing Pearson, 555 U.S. at 129). If the plaintiff cannot establish that the facts, “taken in the light most favorable to [him], show that the defendant violated a constitutional right, ” summary judgment for the defendant is appropriate. Jewett v. Anders, 521 F.3d 818, 822-223 (7th Cir. 2008). District courts may exercise their discretion in determining which prong of the qualified immunity analysis to decide first. Pearson, 555 U.S. at 236.

         The plaintiff can meet his burden of showing that a right is clearly established by showing “that there is ‘a clearly analogous case establishing a right to be free from the specific conduct at issue' or that ‘the conduct is so egregious that no reasonable person could have believed that it would not violate clearly established rights.'” Chelios v. Heavener, 520 F.3d 678, 691 (7th Cir. 2008) (quoting Smith v. City of Chicago, 242 F.3d 737, 742 (7th Cir. 2001), and Saffell v. Crews, 183 F.3d 655, 658 (7th Cir. 1999)). “Although it is not necessary that a prior case address the precise factual situation confronting the officer, the unlawfulness of the officer's ...

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