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Richardson v. City of Chicago

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

May 29, 2018

CITY OF CHICAGO, et al., Defendants.

          Sheila Finnegan, Magistrate Judge


          Robert M. Dow, Jr. United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Harold Richardson (“Richardson”) brought this suit against the City of Chicago (“City”), the Chicago Police Department (“CPD”), several CPD Detectives (the “Officer Defendants”), Cook County Assistant State's Attorneys (“ASAs”) Fabio Valentini and Terrence Johnson (the “ASA Defendants”), and Cook County (“County”) (collectively, “Defendants”) for injuries arising out of his alleged wrongful conviction for a murder he did not commit. The City, CPD, and the Officer Defendants have entered into a settlement agreement with Richardson and been dismissed from the case. See [464]. Currently before the Court is the ASA Defendants' and Cook County's motion for summary judgment [446]. For the reasons explained below, the motion [446] is granted in part and denied in part. Summary judgment is entered in favor of ASA Valentini on Richardson's Section 1983 failure to intervene claim. Summary judgment is denied as to all other claims against the ASA Defendants and the County.

         I. Background

         The following facts are taken from the Parties' Local Rule 56.1 statements and are undisputed except where a dispute is noted. See [448] (ASA Defendants' Statement); [478] (Richardson's Response); [466] (Richardson's Additional Facts); [484] (ASA Defendants' Response to Richardson's Additional Facts).

         Richardson's lawsuit is brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 to redress alleged violations of his rights secured by the United States Constitution. The Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1367. Venue is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b), as the events giving rise to the claims asserted in Richardson's governing First Amended Complaint [340] occurred in this judicial district and the City is a municipal corporation located here.

         Richardson is one of four plaintiffs who originally filed lawsuits on November 15, 2012. Each alleged that he was wrongful convicted of the 1994 rape and murder of Nina Glover (“Glover”). The other plaintiffs are Michael Saunders (“Saunders”), Vincent Thames (“Thames”), and Terrill Swift (“Swift”). At the time relevant here (March 1995), Fabio Valentini (“Valentini”) and Terence Johnson (“Johnson”) were ASAs in the Felony Review unit of the Cook County State's Attorney's Office. The County is a governmental entity within the State of Illinois.

         Richardson was detained and arrested on March 9, 1995, while walking along the street near Thames' house in Chicago. Richardson testified at his deposition that three CPD officers, whose names he does not know, arrested him. Richardson testified that one of the officers told him, “we got you in front of a murder scene” and that he was placed in handcuffs, put in a police car, and transported to the police station at 51st and Wentworth. [448-5] at 130. According to Richardson, one of the officer's told him that they should take him “up under the viaduct *** and kill [him].” Id. at 164. Richardson testified that when they reached the police station, he was placed in a room that contained a gun in an open drawer and Richardson felt threatened. CPD officers then drove Richardson around for 15 to 20 minutes to look for Saunders, before returning to the police station.

         Richardson testified that, once they were back at the police station, CPD officers instructed him that if he told the state's attorney the following story, then he should be able to go: He had gotten Glover's attention, put his arm around her neck, and walked her to Thames' house. Once there, Richardson, Saunders, Thames and Swift all had sex with Glover. Saunders hit her on the head with a shovel, and Richardson strangled her. Thames got a sheet to wrap the body, while a fifth man, Jerry Fincher, acted as security. They moved the body to another location to hide it.

         Richardson testified that, after the CPD officers told him what to tell the state's attorney, his parents were called. They eventually arrived at the station. According to Richardson, Valentini then came and spoke with him. Richardson testified that he told Valentini the story that the police asked him to repeat. See [448-5] at 167-68. Richardson testified that Valentini was “writing stuff down” as he talked and “asked [Richardson] if [he] wanted to sign” the written statement. Id. at 168. Richardson testified that he “pushed it away from [him] and told the State's Attorney I'm not signing this; I only said what the police told me to say.” Id. Richardson repeated that he “told the state's attorney that” and “pushed [the statement] away from [him].” Id. at 169. According to Richardson, Valentini said “nothing” in response, but read Richardson his Miranda rights and then left the room. Id. Richardson testified that he only talked to one ASA while he was at the police station and that he never talked to Johnson or gave a confession to Johnson.

         Saunders and Thames signed written statements confessing to Glover's murder, and Swift signed a court-reported statement confessing to the murder. All three implicated Richardson as a participant in the crime. Like Richardson, Saunders, Thames, and Swift contend that CPD officers threatened them and told them what to say in their confessions. The details surrounding these other plaintiffs' confessions are not otherwise material to the present motion for summary judgment.

         Richardson's criminal attorney moved to suppress his confession. Johnson testified at the September 16, 1997 suppression hearing. Johnson testified that he had a fifteen-minute conversation with Richardson on March 9, 1995, at which Richardson confessed that he raped and choked Glover. Richardson was present at the hearing when Johnson gave this testimony. Richardson also testified at the hearing. Richardson testified that he had never seen Johnson before that day and that he did not give a statement to Johnson on March 9, 1995. At his deposition in this case, Richardson stated that he thought Johnson had been “lying” when he testified at the suppression hearing. [448-5] at 167. Richardson also testified that, to his knowledge, Johnson had nothing to do with the confession that he gave regarding Glover.

         Richardson stood trial for the rape and murder of Nina Glover in November 1997. Valentini testified at the trial that on March 9, 1995, Richardson gave him an oral statement in which he admitted to participating in the rape and murder of Nina Glover. Valentini testified that he told Richardson that he could document his statement in writing or through use of a court reporter, but that Richardson's father, who was in the room at the time, shook his head “no” and Richardson then said “no.” [478] at 9. At the conclusion of the bench trial, Richardson was found guilty. The trial judge stated that he believed Richardson's oral confession and “'t]hat's really all I need” to find Richardson guilty. [484] at 9. Saunders, Thames, and Swift were also convicted based, at least in substantial part, on their allegedly false and coerced confessions.

         During post-conviction proceedings, vaginal swabs contained in the rape kit taken from Glover's body were tested and found to contain DNA that was consistent with the DNA of another man, Johnny Douglas. When Richardson received these DNA results, he filed a petition to have his conviction vacated. Richardson's conviction was vacated on November 16, 2011. On January 17, 2012, the state dismissed charges against him and, on September 14, 2012, he was granted a certificate of innocence. Saunders, Thames, and Swift were also successful in having their convictions vacated based on this new DNA evidence.

         In March 2012, Johnson was interviewed by an FBI agent, Jeffrey Moore (“Moore”), and two attorneys from the Department of Justice (“DOJ”). The day after the interview, Moore compiled a report (the “302 Report”) based on his notes and recollections. See [465-7]. According to the 302 Report, although Johnson “never heard any of the detectives tell one of the subjects ‘Say what we want you to say and you can go home, '” “at some point during all the interviews the subjects were told that the first one to talk can become a witness and that witnesses go home.” Id. at 4.

         According to the 302 Report, Johnson and Valentini both felt that CPD detectives coached and fed the subjects information during their statements to the ASAs, at times correcting their responses to questions. Valentini told Johnson that two of the subjects from whom he took statements refused to sign the statements; one subject got cold feet and recanted, while the other subject's parents were in the room and he did not want his parents to know what he had done. The report states that Johnson worried that the statements were fabricated because they were too consistent and CPD officers fed the subjects information during their statements.

         The 302 Report further states that prior to the motion to suppress hearing, Detectives James Cassidy (“Cassidy”) and Richard Paladino (“Paladino”) circulated a document/timeline detailing what the detectives and ASAs should say when questioned about the Glover investigation, so they all would provide consistent statements. During breaks, the detectives told Johnson and Valentini what the defense attorneys were asking and discussed what their responses should be. According to the 302 Report, Johnson thought the suppression hearing was “[r]igged.” [465-7] at 6. “It bothered Johnson that they were all supposed to agree to the way things happened.” Id. According to the report, “Valentini told Johnson he would use the time line and that it would help them remember, ” but “Johnson told Valentini he would say he didn't remember if there was something in the time line he did not agree with.” Id. “Johnson never told anyone about the incident or document.” Id.

         Richardson filed his original complaint [1] on November 15, 2012. The complaint included eleven claims against the City and the Officer Defendants: Section 1983 claims for violations of Due Process and the Fifth Amendment, failure to intervene, conspiracy, supervisory liability, and Monell liability; and state law claims for malicious prosecution, intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”), civil conspiracy, respondeat superior, and indemnification. Richardson was the only one of the four plaintiffs who did not also bring claims against the County and one or more ASAs in November 2012. In particular, Swift named Johnson and the County as defendants, while Saunders named Johnson, Valentini, and the County as defendants. Saunders' complaint included the same eleven claims as Richardson's original complaint.

         The Saunders complaint, filed on November 15, 2012 (the same day Richardson filed his original complaint), ...

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