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Bolden v. City of Chicago

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

December 12, 2017

Eddie L. Bolden, Plaintiff,
City of Chicago, Michael Baker, Joseph Barnes, Edward Hicks, Michael Kill, James Oliver, Angelo Pesavento, Michael Rowan, Edward Siwek, and Barbara Temple, Defendants.



         Plaintiff Eddie L. Bolden had served 22 years of a life sentence when his murder conviction was reversed, charges against him were dismissed, and he received a certificate of innocence. Bolden now brings claims against several Chicago police officers and the City of Chicago. The defendant officers[1] and city move to dismiss the complaint in part. For the following reasons, the officers’ motion is granted in part and denied in part. The city’s motion is denied.

         I. Legal Standards

         To survive a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain factual allegations that plausibly suggest a right to relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677–78 (2009). The court must construe all factual allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor, but the court need not accept legal conclusions or conclusory allegations. Id. at 678–79.

         II. Background

         Bolden spent 22 years in prison for crimes he did not commit-the murders of Derrick Frazier and Ledell Clayton, and the attempted murder of Clifford Frazier. [40] ¶¶ 1, 9.[2] In January of 1994, the Fraziers and Ledell Clayton attempted to sell multi-kilograms of cocaine. Id. ¶ 12. Clifford Frazier kept lookout while the other two entered a nearby J&J Fish Restaurant. Id. ¶ 13. All three men were heavily armed. Id. ¶ 12. When the prospective drug purchaser arrived, he, Derrick Frazier, and Clayton, drove off in Derrick Frazier’s car. Id. ¶ 13. While in the backseat, the buyer shot and killed both Derrick Frazier and Clayton. Id. ¶ 15. He then returned to the original scene and exchanged gunfire with Clifford Frazier, shooting Frazier in the back. Id. At all relevant times, Bolden was inside J&J Fish playing a video game. Id. ¶ 16. He was there when Clifford Frazier ran into the restaurant for help, and Bolden called 911 from the phone inside the restaurant to report Frazier’s injuries. Id. ¶ 16.

         When the defendant officers arrived, they interviewed several witnesses, including Bolden. Id. ¶ 17.[3] None of the witnesses identified Bolden, or anyone matching Bolden’s description, as the man who shot Frazier. Id. ¶ 17. Tenesha Gatson, who worked at J&J Fish, told the defendant officers that Bolden had remained at the restaurant throughout the evening and was there when Frazier entered after being shot. Id. ¶ 18. The officers failed to investigate Gatson’s statements or conduct follow-up interviews with any of the witnesses who could have corroborated Bolden’s alibi. Id. ¶ 41. Officers also interviewed Vondell Goins, who had been inside J&J Fish at the time of the shooting, but did not ask her about Bolden. Id. ¶ 42. Had she been asked, Goins would have explained that she was speaking with Bolden inside the restaurant both when she heard the shooting outside and when Frazier entered the restaurant. Id. Officers took down the name of Todd Henderson, who witnessed the fight between Frazier and his attacker and who, at the time, could have described the attacker. Id. ¶ 44. The officers never questioned or followed up with him. Id. The defendant officers also interviewed, but never attempted to contact, at least one other witness and failed to interview another owner of J&J Fish who could have corroborated Bolden’s story. Id. ¶¶ 43, 45.

         Clifford Frazier told defendant officers that he had gotten a good look at the shooter, who he described as between 5 foot 10 inches and 6 feet tall, clean-shaven, with a light complexion, low-cut hair, and a medium build. Id. ¶ 19. Bolden was 6 feet 2 inches tall, very thin, and bald, with a dark complexion and a moustache. Id. Frazier met with a sketch artist, and the resulting picture looked nothing like Bolden. Id. ¶ 20. The defendant officers showed Frazier a photo array, which included a photo of Bolden, and Frazier did not recognize anyone in any of the photos. Id. ¶ 24. Around the same time of the photo array, defendants Higgins and Rowan signed a police report indicating that they learned from Derrick Frazier that a man named Anthony Williams had been involved in the murders and that “Lanier” (Lynier is Bolden’s middle name) was with Williams prior to the incident. Id. ¶ 23. Derrick Frazier, of course, was dead at this time; this evidence was fabricated to frame Bolden. Id.

         Upon learning he was wanted for questioning, Bolden hired an attorney to represent him during his encounter with the police. Id. ¶ 26. The lawyer accompanied Bolden to the Area 2 Violent Crimes Unit, where the defendant officers instructed them to wait in the waiting room. Id. ¶¶ 26–27. While there, defendant Oliver walked Frazier directly past Bolden and his lawyer so Frazier could see Bolden. Id. ¶ 27. The defendant officers then asked Bolden to participate in a lineup, and he agreed on the condition that his lawyer could be present. Id. ¶ 28. Defendant officers said they would allow the attorney to be present, but when he attempted to enter the viewing room alongside Bolden, defendant Pesavento physically blocked his path. Id. ¶¶ 28, 30. Twice during the lineup, officer Karl asked Bolden, “you, Eddie Bolden, right?” Id. ¶ 31. Defendants Barnes, Pesavento, and at least one other defendant officer witnessed Karl’s actions and allowed the lineup to proceed. Id. ¶ 31. Frazier identified Bolden, who was subsequently arrested and charged. Id. ¶ 32.

         While Bolden was held in a room prior to be being sent to the lockup, defendant Kill entered, looked at Bolden, and laughed, noting that Bolden was bald-presumably because Frazier had previously described the shooter as having hair. Id. ¶ 33. Around the same time, Bolden asked Karl to bring defendant Oliver into the room because Oliver had seen Bolden inside J&J Fish after the shootings and could corroborate his alibi. Id. ¶ 34. Karl responded, “he doesn’t remember” and kicked the door to the room shut. Id.

         Officers recovered two firearms during the investigation, Clifford Frazier’s .40 caliber pistol recovered from inside the J&J Fish and a nine millimeter pistol from Frazier’s Cadillac nearby. Id. ¶ 35. The state’s ballistic expert concluded that the recovered firearms did not fire the deadly shots. [81] at 16 n. 9.[4] After Bolden’s attorney requested production of these weapons, the defendant officers destroyed them. [40] ¶ 36. The .40 caliber pistol recovered from J&J Fish was the firearm Frazier had with him while he was chased by the true perpetrator. [81] at 17 n. 10. At trial, Frazier testified that the perpetrator grabbed the firearm from him and hit him over the head with it, meaning the firearm could have contained the perpetrator’s fingerprints. Id.

         The defendant officers destroyed[5] defendant Temple’s notes from interviews she conducted inside J&J Fish on the night of the murders, including interviews with Bolden and with Frazier before he went to the hospital. [40] ¶ 37. And although Bolden’s attorney informed the defendant officers that Bolden had made a 911 call on the night of the murders, and that there would be a recording of that call, the defendants intentionally failed to act on that information. Id. ¶ 38. The recording was destroyed pursuant to the City of Chicago’s policy at the time, which called for destruction of 911 recordings after 30 days absent a request for preservation. Id.

         In October of 1996, Bolden was tried before a jury. Id. ¶ 46. The only evidence directly implicating him was fabricated by the defendant officers, including Clifford Frazier’s false identification in a tainted lineup-no physical or forensic evidence linked Bolden to the crimes. Id. ¶ 2. Despite Clifford Frazier’s confession to his involvement in a large drug deal, and to being part of a larger drug conspiracy, he was never charged with any crime. Id. ¶ 47. Instead, the defendant officers overlooked Frazier’s illegal conduct in exchange for his false testimony against Bolden. Id. The defendant officers intentionally withheld information about this benefit and other benefits-such as the personal protection Frazier received-from Bolden. Id. The defendant officers also offered perjured testimony about the propriety of the lineup. Id. ¶ 46.

         Bolden was found guilty, and in December 1996, was sentenced to a natural life term for the murders, to run consecutively to a thirty-year sentence for the attempted murder. Id. ¶ 48. The convictions remained in place, and Bolden was in custody until the charges were dismissed in April 2016. Id. ¶ 51.

         III. Analysis

         A. Due Process (Count I)

         Bolden alleges that the defendant officers destroyed exculpatory evidence in bad faith, fabricated a false identification through a faulty lineup, and failed to ...

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