United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MATTHEW F. KENNELLY United States District Judge.
Fields sued Chicago police detectives David O'Callaghan
and Joseph Murphy and the City of Chicago under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 and state law for claims arising from his
prosecution for the 1984 murders of Talman Hickman and Jerome
Smith. Fields was convicted and sentenced to death in 1986.
His convictions were affirmed on appeal but were overturned
on post-conviction review in 1998. Fields was acquitted on
retrial in 2009. He filed this lawsuit in 2010.
first trial in this case, held in March 2014, resulted in a
mistrial after seven days of trial when defendants introduced
prejudicial testimony that the Court had excluded in a
pretrial in limine ruling. See Fields v. City of
Chicago, No. 10 C 1168, 2015 WL 12806567 (N.D. Ill. Nov.
6, 2015) (imposing a sanction on defendants'
counsel). The second trial, held in April 2014,
ended in a finding for Fields on one of his claims against
O'Callaghan and for the defendants on the other claims.
The jury awarded Fields $80, 000. The Court later ordered a
new trial. The Court's ruling was based on
newly-discovered evidence concerning a key defense witness,
who had been released on parole shortly after the trial even
though he has been expected to remain in prison for 13 more
years, as well as the Court's conclusion that it had
erroneously limited discovery on Fields's Monell
claim against the City and had given the jury an erroneous
instruction on the Monell claim. Fields v. City
of Chicago, No. 10 C 1168, 2015 WL 13578989 (N.D. Ill.
Apr. 7, 2015).
then retained new, additional counsel to represent him.
O'Callaghan also retained new counsel. The case was
retried in November-December 2016. The jury found for Fields
against O'Callaghan and Murphy on one of his claims
against them under section 1983; for Fields against the City
on his Monell claim under section 1983; for Fields
against O'Callaghan only on a state-law claim for
intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED); and for
the defendants on the remaining section 1983 and state law
claims. The jury awarded Fields compensatory damages of $22
million, as well as punitive damages of $30, 000 against
O'Callaghan and $10, 000 against Murphy.
have moved under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(a) for
entry of judgment as a matter of law and under Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 59(a) for a new trial.
Motion for entry of judgment
may enter judgment as a matter of law in a party's favor
only if "the evidence presented, combined with all
reasonable inferences permissibly drawn therefrom, is [not]
sufficient to support the verdict when viewed in the light
most favorable to the party against whom the motion is
directed." Clarett v. Roberts, 657 F.3d 664,
674 (7th Cir. 2011). A jury's verdict may be overturned
"only if no reasonable juror could have found in the
[prevailing party's] favor." Id. The court
"must construe the facts strictly in favor of the party
that prevailed at trial." Schandelmeier-Bartels v.
Chicago Park Dist., 634 F.3d 372, 376 (7th Cir. 2011).
In addressing defendants' motion, the Court assumes
general familiarity with the case.
Claims against individual defendants
evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to Fields, amply
supported the jury's verdicts on the claims on which it
found in his favor against O'Callaghan (due process and
IIED) and Murphy (due process). First of all, the Court
rejects defendants' attempt to divide Fields's due
process claim into two separate claims, one involving his
prosecution through the 1986 criminal trial and one involving
his continued prosecution through the retrial in 2009. Fields
asserted a single due process claim; the jury was instructed
accordingly; and defendants interposed no objection to that
contended, and the evidence supported, that O'Callaghan
and Murphy falsified incriminating evidence and concealed
favorable evidence, and that he was deprived of his liberty
as a result. This includes evidence from which the jury
reasonably could infer, among other things, that Murphy
pulled a group of suspects, including Fields, more or less
out of the air and turned them over to O'Callaghan;
O'Callaghan in turn fabricated identifications by
witnesses who had no real opportunity to see the
perpetrators; Murphy caused the fabrication of a purported
admission by Fields to Anthony Sumner; O'Callaghan had
responsibility-perhaps along with others- to review a police
investigative "street file" and provide it to Cook
County prosecutors; Murphy, too, had information placed in
the street file (a request for photographs used to
purportedly identify the perpetrators); and the street file,
which was never turned over, contained information that a
reasonably competent defense attorney could have used to show
the existence of reasonable doubt. This, along with other
evidence introduced by Fields, plainly supported due process
claims against O'Callaghan and Murphy. See, e.g.,
Avery v. City of Milwaukee, 847 F.3d 433, 439-40 (7th
contend that the bribery of Judge Maloney in connection with
the 1986 criminal trial eliminates any possibility that
defendants' misconduct caused Fields's injury. The
1986 trial may have been corrupted by bribery, but that does
not wipe out defendants' liability for the foreseeable
results of their conduct-specifically, Fields's
conviction for murder. As the court of appeals stated in an
earlier appeal in this case, "[h]e who creates the
defect is responsible for the injury that the defect
foreseeably causes later." Fields v. Wharrie,
740 F.3d 1107, 1111-12 (7th Cir. 2014). In any event, direct
evidence of Judge Maloney's specific motivation
was not introduced. What was introduced is evidence that he
was bribed; returned the bribe and convicted the defendants;
and that the corruption undermined confidence in the outcome,
requiring the vacating of the convictions. The jury
reasonably could find that absent the defendants'
misconduct, there would have been no evidence at all to
support a conviction. The evidence against Fields consisted
of eyewitness identifications, which the jury reasonably
could find had been fabricated by O'Callaghan, and the
testimony of Sumner, which the jury reasonably could find had
been fabricated by Murphy. The jury reasonably could conclude that
without this evidence, the charge against Fields would have
been dismissed or Maloney would have felt compelled to acquit
him irrespective of the bribery scheme, and that this same
evidence was what enabled him to convict Fields.
it was necessary for Fields to demonstrate that the
fabricated and withheld evidence was material to his
reprosecution after the reversal of his 1986 conviction, the
evidence supported that. Cook County prosecutor Brian Sexton
testified otherwise, but the jury was entitled to find that
he was biased and, that aside, was not required to accept his
testimony. The question-as the Court's instructions told
the jury, without objection by defendants-was what would
influence a reasonable prosecutor, not what Sexton said
influenced him. There was evidence that the primary evidence
used against Fields to continue the prosecution after the
reversal included significant fabricated identifications and
also that Sexton would have turned over the "street
file"-which a jury reasonably could find contained
material exculpatory evidence that a competent defense
attorney could have used to show reasonable doubt-had he
known about it. The jury was entitled to infer from this that
the fabricated and withheld evidence was material
irrespective of Sexton's denial.
defendants' contention that Fields's acquittal bars
his claim lacks merit. Unlike a defendant who is released
after his arrest and is later acquitted, Fields was
deprived of his liberty; he was held in custody from 1984
through 2003. This is more than sufficient to support his due
process claim. See, e.g., Cairel v. Alderden, 821
F.3d 823, 833 (7th Cir. 2016). The key to a due process claim
is not a conviction but rather a deprivation of liberty.
See Id. at 833; Armstrong v. Daily, 786
F.3d 529, 553-55 (7th Cir. 2015) (affirming denial of
dismissal where destruction of exculpatory evidence caused
accused to spend three more years in prison pending retrial
until charges against him were dismissed). The Court also
notes that defendants interposed, and still interpose, no
objection to the instructions to the jury on the due process
claim, which did not suggest that the 2009 acquittal
undermined Fields's claim or any part of it.
regard to the claim of intentional infliction of emotional
distress, the same points discussed above likewise support
the jury's verdict against O'Callaghan. In addition,
defendants argue that O'Callaghan could not possibly have
had the intent to inflict emotional distress upon Fields
because he did not know Fields before 1985. This misses the
point. The jury reasonably could find that O'Callaghan
essentially pinned the case on Fields because he was a member
of the El Rukn gang, in willful disregard of whether he was
an actual perpetrator. Finally, even if O'Callaghan did
not participate in making the decisions to charge or retry
Fields, a tortfeasor is liable for the natural and probable
consequences of his wrongdoing.
Claim against City
City also challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to
support the jury's finding of liability on the
City contends there was no evidence that any other
street file containing material exculpatory or impeachment
evidence was withheld. It is true that to prove an official
policy, custom, or practice under Monell, a
plaintiff "must show more than the deficiencies specific
to his own experience." Daniel v. Cook Cty.,
833 F.3d 728, 734 (7th Cir. 2016). But the plaintiff
"need not present evidence that these systemic failings
affected other specific [persons]." Id. at 735.
Fields's evidence, including evidence of systematic
underproduction of police reports,  was sufficient to show a
systemic failing that went beyond his own case. The City and
police department were on notice, via the
Jones/Palmer litigation and the department's own
subsequent internal inquiry, of deficiencies in its
recordkeeping and record-production practices that, at least
in some situations, led to harm. And Fields offered evidence
that permitted a reasonable jury to find that the policies
instituted to deal with these problems were insufficient to
correct them. Under Daniel, policymakers'
knowledge of deficiencies and failure to correct them
suffices; "[a]n unconstitutional policy can include both
implicit policies as well as a gap in expressed
policies." Daniel, 833 F.3d at 734, 735. The
gaps here include, but are not limited to, insufficient or
unnecessarily subjective instructions regarding what
materials had to be maintained, insufficient instructions on
producing materials to prosecutors, and the absence of any
supervision or after-the-fact auditing.
verdict on the Monell claim is also sustainable on
other bases, as Fields argues, see Pl.'s Resp.
at 14-25, but the Court need not deal with those points
expressly, as the verdict need only be sustained on a single
Motion for new trial
seeking a new trial, defendants do not challenge any of the
instructions that the Court gave to the jury. Rather, they
argue that the jury's verdict was against the manifest
weight of the evidence, and they assert a lengthy laundry
list of purportedly erroneous rulings by the Court before and
during trial, mostly concerning the admissibility of evidence
or the propriety of counsel's arguments. A new trial is
appropriate under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59 only
"if the jury's verdict is against the manifest
weight of the evidence or if the trial was in some way unfair
to the moving party." Venson v. Altamirano, 749
F.3d 641, 656 (7th Cir. 2014).
Weight of the evidence
may set aside a verdict as against the manifest weight of the
evidence "only if no rational jury could have rendered
the verdict. The . . . court must view the evidence in the
light most favorable to the prevailing party, leaving issues
of credibility and weight of the evidence to the jury."
Lewis v. City of Chicago Police Dep't, 590 F.3d
427, 444-45 (7th Cir. 2009). The verdict must be upheld so
long as there is a "reasonable basis in the record"
to support it. Flournoy v. City of Chicago, 829 F.3d
869, 874 (7th Cir. 2016) (internal quotation marks omitted).
Court overrules defendants' challenge regarding the
weight of the evidence for the same reasons it overruled
their motion for judgment as a matter of law. As the Court
has discussed, there was a more-than-reasonable basis in the
record to support the jury's liability findings.
Claimed errors on evidentiary and other pretrial and trial
remaining grounds for seeking a new trial largely involve
challenges to rulings by the Court admitting or excluding
evidence. A new trial is warranted on such grounds only if
the Court's ruling on the particular point was erroneous
and the error had "a substantial or injurious effect or
influence on the determination of a jury and the result is
inconsistent with substantial justice." Lewis,
590 F.3d at 440; see also Doornbos v. City of
Chicago, ___ F.3d ___, 2017 WL 3574812, at *4 (7th Cir.
Aug. 18, 2017).
indicated earlier, defendants cite a laundry list of alleged
errors by the Court. The Court will address them in the
sequence in which defendants argue them in their opening
memorandum, with some exceptions.
Court permitted Fields to introduce, via retired Chicago
police lieutenant James Hickey, the following points that
related directly or indirectly to the case of People v.
Jones and the case of Palmer v. City of Chicago
In or about 1982, in Jones, a homicide detective
disclosed the existence of undisclosed police investigative
This put the City on notice that there was a problem that
needed to be addressed, sometimes involving pertinent
information not being recorded in official police reports
and not being turned over to the criminal justice system.
Hickey was tasked with attempting to identify current
practice and report to the superintendent of police.
The superintendent issued a directive in 1982 to preserve
all investigative files.
Hickey drafted a proposed policy change that was adopted in
1983, requiring recordation and preservation of any
relevant information obtained by a detective during the
course of a violent crime field investigation. This
included a specific format, called a "general progress
report, " for recording a detective's notes. These
were to be maintained in an investigative file and turned
over to the criminal justice system in connection with an
ensuing court case.
Court permitted Fields to introduce, via its police practices
expert Michael Brasfield, the following points related to
Jones and Palmer (in summary):
In 1982, George Jones was prosecuted for a murder. A
detective obtained information exculpatory of Jones, wrote
it up, and put it into an investigative file. The
information was not disclosed to Jones's attorney. When
the detective learned that the case was proceeding, he went
to the defense attorney and shared the exculpatory
There was litigation in 1982-1983, the Palmer
case, in which the plaintiffs alleged that the Chicago
police had a practice of suppressing investigative
information similar to what had occurred in the
Jones case. In 1982, a federal judge entered an
order requiring all investigative documents to be retained.
The City's policymakers were called upon to testify and
were put on notice of the lawsuit. In response to the
litigation, the City instituted policies requiring
preservation, retention, and non-disposal of investigative
files and making them available in criminal matters.
The problem persisted after this, and the City did not do
an adequate job of remedying the problem. It left too much
leeway to detectives to determine what was relevant, and it
did not establish guidelines regarding how materials were
to be produced or for after-the-fact auditing. There was
also inadequate training. This was a problem given the
department's practice of creating parallel files that
had become ingrained.
indicated, this testimony included limited and circumscribed
evidence regarding the Jones and Palmer
cases, all of it predating the relevant events in this case.
This was admitted, in a series of rulings the Court made
after extensive argument, for the purpose of showing that the
City had notice of claimed deficiencies in the police
department's prior practices. See dkt. no. 1076
at 8. The Court excluded, on defendants' objections, a
significant amount of additional evidence that Fields wanted
to introduce regarding the Jones and Palmer
Court excluded, over defendants' objection, a ruling made
by the Seventh Circuit in the Palmer case in 1986,
after the events relevant to the creation of the
policy challenged in Fields's case and after the
creation of the street file in Fields's case.
v. City of Chicago, 806 F.2d 1316 (7th Cir. 1986). The
ruling was made on an appeal from an attorney's fee
award. The City wanted to introduce the court of appeals'
statement that the plaintiffs in the Palmer case had
not uncovered any situation in which a class member had been
convicted in violation of the constitution or in which there
was exculpatory material in street files. Contrary to
defendants' argument, the Court properly excluded this.
It had no bearing on the question of notice at the relevant
time. And the exclusion did not leave the jury with an
unfairly erroneous understanding of the relevant points
concerning Palmer. The Court did not admit any
finding from Palmer that was contrary to the points
defendants cite from the court of appeals' ruling.
Rather, plaintiffs' evidence regarding actual
exculpatory material in street files concerned
Jones-which was summarized in an accurate and
even-handed way-Fields's own case, another particular
case offered by Fields, and analysis by Fields's expert
of discrepancies between police files and materials obtained
by criminal defense ...