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Maxson v. Dwyer

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

April 26, 2017

MARK MAXSON, Plaintiff,


          Robert W. Gettleman United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Mark Maxson has brought a nine count complaint against Chicago Police Department Officers James Dwyer, John Duffy, William Marley, and Angelo Pesavento (the “individual defendants”), and their employer, the City of Chicago, claiming that he spent 24 years in prison as a result of a wrongful conviction based on a coerced confession. Count I, brought against the individual defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleges deprivation of plaintiff's right to a fair trial, and wrongful conviction; Count II, again brought against the individual defendants, alleges a claim for coercive interrogation; Count III, brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1985 and § 1986, asserts a claim against the individual defendants for conspiring amongst themselves and other unnamed and unsued police personnel, state's attorneys, and mayors, to violate plaintiff's rights to equal protection under the laws; Count IV is a claim against the City brought pursuant to Monell v. Department of Social Services for City of New York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978); Count V is a state law claim for malicious prosecution; Count VI is a state law claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED); Count VII is a claim for civil conspiracy under state law; and Counts VIII and IX are brought against the City for respondeat superior liability and indemnification under 745 ILCS 10/9-102.

         Defendants have moved under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) to dismiss Counts I (wrongful conviction), III (federal conspiracy), VI (state civil conspiracy), and VII (IIED) for failure to state a claim. For the reasons described below, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.


         In August 1992 six year-old Lindsey Murdock was murdered, sexually assaulted, and left in an abandoned garage at 10730 S. State Street in Chicago. The body was discovered on August 30, 1992. Later that evening, defendant Pesavento learned that plaintiff was being interviewed by local televison and stating that he had seen the young boy earlier in the day. Pesavento asked plaintiff if he had any information about the boy and whether plaintiff would be willing to help the police. Plaintiff was eager and willing to help and was brought to the Area 2 police station. Plaintiff willingly gave blood and hair samples.

         At the station, Pesavento and Marley interrogated plaintiff numerous times, leaving him in a locked room. Defendants Duffy and Dwyer interviewed plaintiff four or five times. Duffy threatened that he would “kick your ass” if plaintiff did not cooperate. Duffy and Dwyer ignored plaintiff's request for an attorney and proceeded with their coercive interrogation. Dwyer repeatedly threatened plaintiff, slapped him, kicked the wind out of him, and ultimately coerced plaintiff into confessing to the crime by pointing his handgun at plaintiff. All of the other individual defendants were in close proximity to plaintiff during the interrogations, but did nothing to prevent the abuse.

         Prior to trial, plaintiff moved to suppress his confession. He testified about the abusive interrogation that led to his confession. He also testified that he spent three days locked in an interview room with only a steel bench and was told by both Duffy and Dwyer that he could not leave. Duffy falsely testified that plaintiff was never threatened with physical beatings, and that plaintiff had never been kicked, slapped, or threatened with a handgun. Pesavento also testified that plaintiff was never threatened or struck before implicating himself in the murder. Dwyer testified similarly, and also falsely stated that plaintiff never requested to leave the station. Duffy stated that plaintiff willingly spent three nights in the interview room. None of the individual defendants told the assistant state's attorneys for the Felony Review Unit of the abuse they inflicted on plaintiff. The motion to dismiss was denied.

         At trial, the only evidence linking plaintiff to the murder was his coerced confession. The serologist witness testified that none of the blood evidence found at the scene, including blood that did not belong to the victim, matched plaintiff's blood. Similarly, the state criminologist witness testified that head and pubic hair samples taken from the victim's clothing did not match either the victim or plaintiff. Nonetheless, plaintiff was convicted and spent 24 years in prison.

         Recent DNA testing has revealed that the DNA of convicted murderer Osborne Wade matched the DNA found on the victim's shirt. On September 27, 2016, the Cook County State's Attorney's Office moved to vacate plaintiff's conviction and plaintiff was released. Wade has been indicted for and confessed to murdering Lindsey Murdock.

         Plaintiff's complaint alleges that his case in not an isolated occurrence, but rather that his interrogation and torture was a part of a long-standing pattern and practice of racially motivated torture at Area 2 Headquarters in Chicago, including the use of electric shock, baggings, mock executions, Russian roulette and beatings, dating back to the early 1980s when Jon Burge was the commanding officer at Area 2 and began what plaintiff calls the “Burge Reign of Terror.” According to the complaint, Burge engaged in a pattern and practice of torture and brutality himself and also supervised, encouraged, sanctioned, condoned, and ratified brutality by other detectives and supervisors in Area 2, including the individual defendants. In 2010 Burge was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice for falsely denying that he participated in and was aware of and supervised police torture.

         Plaintiff's complaint contains very detailed allegations about how several high ranking personnel in the Chicago Police Department, including successive Superintendents, and at least one former mayor and Cook County State's Attorney, concealed their knowledge of the ongoing systemic torture at Area 2.


         Defendants have moved to dismiss Counts I, III, VI and VII, for failure to state a claim. A motion under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of the complaint, not its merits. Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). The court accepts as true all well-pleaded factual allegations and draws all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Roberts v. City of Chicago, 817 F.3d 561, 564 (7th Cir. 2016). The complaint must allege sufficient facts that, if true, would raise a right to relief above the speculative level, showing that the claim is plausible on its face. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 549, 555 (2007). To be plausible on its face the complaint must plead facts sufficient for the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the alleged misconduct. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         Coun ...

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