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Beaman v. Freesmeyer

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fourth District

August 4, 2017

ALAN BEAMAN, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
TIM FREESMEYER, Former Normal Police Detective; DAVE WARNER, Former Normal Police Detective; FRANK ZAYAS, Former Normal Police Lieutenant; and THE TOWN OF NORMAL, ILLINOIS, Defendants-Appellees.

         Appeal from Circuit Court of McLean County No. 14L51 Honorable Richard L. Broch, Judge Presiding.

          JUSTICE KNECHT delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Harris and Steigmann concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          KNECHT JUSTICE.

         ¶ 1 In 2008, the Illinois Supreme Court overturned plaintiff's conviction for the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Jennifer Lockmiller, upon concluding the State violated his right to due process when it failed to disclose material and exculpatory information about an alternative suspect. People v. Beaman, 229 Ill.2d 56, 890 N.E.2d 500 (2008). In April 2014, plaintiff initiated this action, alleging defendants, Tim Freesmeyer, Dave Warner, and Frank Zayas, former officers with the Normal police department, acted maliciously in investigating him and aiding in his prosecution. Against these individual defendants, plaintiff asserted claims of malicious prosecution, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and conspiracy. Plaintiff requested damages from defendant, the Town of Normal, on theories of respondeat superior and indemnification.

         ¶ 2 In June 2016, the trial court, finding no genuine issue of material fact as to plaintiff's claims of malicious prosecution, granted defendants' motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff appeals, arguing, in part, a reasonable jury could find in his favor on each of the elements of his malicious-prosecution claim. We affirm.

         ¶ 3 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 4 A. Lockmiller's Murder and the Investigation

         ¶ 5 On August 28, 1993, the body of Jennifer Lockmiller, a 21-year-old student at Illinois State University, was found in her Normal, Illinois, apartment. Lockmiller's shirt was pulled up, exposing her breasts. Her shorts and underwear were down around one of her legs. The electrical cord of an alarm clock was around Lockmiller's throat. A pair of scissors protruded from her chest. A box fan had been placed over Lockmiller's face. Lockmiller died from ligature strangulation with the cord of the alarm clock. The investigators found no one who had seen Lockmiller alive after her class ended at 11:50 a.m. on August 25, 1993.

         ¶ 6 A number of police officers from the Normal police department were involved in the investigation. These officers included defendants Tim Freesmeyer, a detective; Dave Warner, a detective; and Frank Zayas, a lieutenant. Early in the investigation, starting in October or November 1993, Freesmeyer served as the principal detective on the investigation. Warner's role included serving as an evidence custodian and investigating one of the suspects, Stacey Gates. Zayas supervised the detectives who worked on the investigation until he retired in November 1994. Other individuals involved in the investigation included Charles Reynard, the McLean County State's Attorney, and James Souk, assistant State's Attorney (ASA). Souk acted as the lead prosecutor in plaintiff's criminal case.

         ¶ 7 As Lockmiller's apartment showed no sign of forced entry, the police focused the investigation on individuals Lockmiller knew. The police questioned Lockmiller's then-current boyfriend, Michael Swaine, as well as former boyfriends, including plaintiff, Stacey Gates, and Larbi John Murray. Swaine, who was once plaintiff's roommate, had an alibi. On August 25, 1993, the date Lockmiller was murdered, Swaine was working at a bookstore in Elmhurst, Illinois. Gates, who had moved to Peoria to be closer to Lockmiller, also had an alibi. Records from a Peoria school showed Gates was at work on August 25.

         ¶ 8 Through their investigation, police learned Murray was Lockmiller's drug dealer. The two had also been lovers. Murray was twice interviewed by police. Initially, Murray reported leaving town on August 24, 1993. Murray's girlfriend, Debbie Mackoway, however, told police they did not leave town until the afternoon of August 25. Murray then amended his story, and his version was consistent with Mackoway's report. Murray informed officers he was alone at home before 2 p.m. on August 25. Murray resided 1.5 miles from Lockmiller. Murray had a criminal history. He faced charges of drug possession with intent to deliver and of domestic violence for the abuse of Mackoway. According to Mackoway, Murray also began using steroids, which caused him to behave erratically. Both cocaine and steroids had been found in Murray's apartment. Murray agreed to submit a polygraph examination. At the start of the examination, Murray failed to follow instructions. The examiner terminated the examination.

         ¶ 9 The police focused their investigation on plaintiff. Plaintiff and Lockmiller began dating in July 1992. Their relationship was tumultuous. According to letters found in Lockmiller's apartment, plaintiff wanted their relationship to be monogamous, but he suspected Lockmiller saw other men. The two ended and rekindled their relationship multiple times over the following year. In that time, Lockmiller also became involved with Swaine, plaintiff's roommate.

         ¶ 10 At the time of Lockmiller's murder, plaintiff was residing with his parents in Rockford, Illinois. Rockford is approximately two hours from Normal by car. The State's theory of the case was that on August 25, plaintiff, after visiting a Rockford bank at 10:11 a.m., drove to Normal, killed Lockmiller at noon, and returned to Rockford, where his mother saw him in his room at 2:15 p.m. Freesmeyer, by performing a time trial, was able to establish plaintiff could have made the trip in the time allotted by driving over the speed limit the entire way. Freesmeyer, in another time trial, found it impossible for plaintiff to have made a 10:37 a.m. call from the residence he shared with his parents after having been at the bank at 10:11 a.m. In this time trial, however, Freesmeyer took the slower route and obeyed speed limits.

         ¶ 11 The investigation recovered seven fingerprints from the alarm clock. Two belonged to plaintiff, four to Swaine, and one remained unidentified.

         ¶ 12 During the investigation, investigators interviewed David Singley, Lockmiller's neighbor. Singley informed investigators he arrived home from class at 2 p.m. on August 25 and heard someone slam the door to Lockmiller's apartment. Singley stated he heard the stereo, the door open and close a second time, and footsteps. Singley also reported noticing, around 4:30 p.m., the stereo was off and the television had been turned on.

         ¶ 13 On May 16, 1994, a meeting was held to determine whether to arrest plaintiff for Lockmiller's murder. Those in attendance included State's Attorney Reynard, ASA Souk, Freesmeyer, Zayas, Normal police chief James Taylor, and Detective Tony Daniels. During the meeting, Reynard decided to charge plaintiff. Souk agreed. At his deposition, Daniels testified he suggested a list of investigative avenues to pursue before arresting plaintiff. Souk responded, "I think we've got our guy" and stated, "we went as far as we can with this case." Souk stated they were going to go ahead and issue a warrant for plaintiff's arrest.

         ¶ 14 As of August 29, 1993, Souk had concluded plaintiff was the only suspect. He did not believe Murray had a motive to kill Lockmiller. While prosecuting plaintiff, Souk knew Murray provided Lockmiller with narcotics and marijuana and conflicting statements had been made about whether Lockmiller owed Murray money. Souk also knew Murray made a mistake regarding his alibi and corrected that mistake in a second interview. Souk did not find the mistake suspicious. At the time of the trial, Souk knew Murray began taking steroids in January 1994 and he had begun acting erratically. Before that time, Murray had not been physically violent toward Mackoway.

         ¶ 15 Before trial, the State filed a motion in limine to exclude evidence of Lockmiller's relationships with men other than plaintiff and Swaine. The trial court reserved ruling on the motion. Later, the State and plaintiff's defense counsel discussed Lockmiller's relationship with an individual identified as "John Doe, " who was Murray. Souk told the court Doe had "nothing to do with the case." Souk had not disclosed to plaintiff's trial counsel Murray's criminal records, which exposed his drug and steroid use as well as the incidents of domestic violence, or the incomplete polygraph examination. Plaintiff's trial counsel had no specific evidence pointing to another individual who could have committed the offense. The trial court granted the motion in limine.

         ¶ 16 B. Plaintiff's Trial and Conviction

         ¶ 17 At trial, evidence established plaintiff, then a student at Illinois Wesleyan University, used Lockmiller's alarm clock to wake up for class. During the course of their relationship, plaintiff stayed the night at Lockmiller's up to four or five times a week.

         ¶ 18 Lockmiller's neighbor, Mike Singley, testified at trial. During the 1993 spring semester, Singley on multiple occasions heard plaintiff pounding on Lockmiller's door late at night. He also reported hearing plaintiff and Lockmiller yelling at each other.

         ¶ 19 Plaintiff testified, on an unspecified night that same spring, Lockmiller called him to end their relationship. Plaintiff went to Lockmiller's residence to retrieve his compact disc player. Upon arriving at the apartment, plaintiff observed "John Doe's" car in the parking lot. Plaintiff pounded on Lockmiller's apartment door. Lockmiller refused to let him enter her apartment. Plaintiff continued pounding on the door and began kicking it, causing the door to break. Plaintiff discovered Doe and Lockmiller inside the apartment. Plaintiff grabbed his compact disc player and left. He yelled while inside the apartment but made no physical contact with Doe or Lockmiller.

         ¶ 20 Evidence established another incident during which plaintiff forcefully broke Lockmiller's apartment door. In the summer of 1993, Lockmiller was in a relationship with Michael Swaine, plaintiff's roommate. One night in July 1993, plaintiff suspected Swaine was at Lockmiller's apartment. He broke the apartment door by pounding and kicking it. Upon entering the apartment, plaintiff did not see Swaine. Plaintiff verbally confronted Lockmiller but made no physical contact. Plaintiff remained at the apartment for 30 to 45 minutes.

         ¶ 21 Plaintiff testified his night shift at his uncle's grocery store ended at 9 a.m. on August 25. Plaintiff drove home to retrieve some cash and a check. He drove to the bank to make a deposit. Plaintiff's trip to the bank was confirmed by a bank security videotape that showed him leaving the bank at 10:11 a.m. Plaintiff returned home and slept until 5 p.m.

         ¶ 22 Telephone records demonstrated two calls were made from the Beaman residence at 10:37 and 10:39 a.m. on August 25. The first call was to the Beaman's church, the second to the church's director of music and youth ministries. Only two people could have made those calls: plaintiff or his mother, Carol Beaman. Plaintiff did not recall placing those calls but stated he could have done so. Carol denied making the calls. She testified she left the Beaman residence around 7 a.m. and drove to her mother's assisted-living facility. Carol took her mother to the clinic and returned to the facility around 10 a.m. Carol testified she spent 15 to 20 minutes with her mother inside the facility before driving to the Walmart store across the street. A receipt shows Carol checked out at Walmart at 11:10 a.m. after having purchased copy paper, poster frames, blue jeans, and magazine holders. Before returning home, Carol drove to other stores. Her last stop was a grocery store, where she purchased perishable items. She checked out at 2:03 p.m. and headed home. Carol testified she was home by 2:16 p.m., but she had previously told officers she arrived home around 3 p.m. When Carol arrived home, she noticed plaintiff's car in the driveway. Carol awoke plaintiff for dinner at approximately 6 p.m.

         ¶ 23 Freesmeyer testified regarding road tests he performed to test plaintiff's opportunity to murder Lockmiller. According to Freesmeyer, the distance between plaintiff's bank and Lockmiller's apartment was 126.7 miles. Freesmeyer's test indicated plaintiff, having left his bank at 10:11 a.m., could have arrived at Lockmiller's apartment before noon if plaintiff drove 10 miles per hour over the speed limit. Freesmeyer further testified 139.7 miles separated the Beaman residence and Lockmiller's apartment. He averred plaintiff could have made that trip in just under two hours if he drove at a speed 10 miles per hour over the posted limit.

         ¶ 24 Freesmeyer performed a road test from plaintiff's bank to the Beaman residence to see if it was possible to make the phone call from the Beaman residence at 10:37 a.m. He testified he drove through downtown Rockford, the "most direct route, " obeyed all speed limits, and concluded it took 31 minutes to make the trip. Freesmeyer concluded plaintiff would have arrived at 10:42 a.m. Freesmeyer testified it took him 15 minutes to drive from the Beaman residence to the Walmart Carol shopped at on August 25. On cross-examination, Freesmeyer acknowledged plaintiff did not state he drove through downtown Rockford on August 25. Freesmeyer also agreed the route he took was through downtown Rockford and not on "the high speed bypass" around the city.

         ¶ 25 In rebuttal argument, the State argued all of the other possible suspects were excluded due to alibis: "Did we look at Mr. Swaine? You bet we did. Did we look at [Gates]? You bet we did. Did we look at a lot of people and interview a lot of witnesses? You bet we did. And guess who sits in the ...


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