United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
VIRGINIA M. KENDALL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
LaShawn Ezell, Larod Styles, Charles Johnson, and Troshawn
McCoy each filed a nearly identical civil rights
action against the City of Chicago, Cook County,
a number of Chicago Police Officers,  and former Cook County
State's Attorney Joseph Alesia. Each asserts claims
stemming from his wrongful conviction in 1998 for crimes
related to the double murder of Khaled Ibrahim and Yousef Ali
including: several claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983
against the Defendant Officers and Defendant Alesia for
allegedly coercing his false confession, fabricating
evidence, and withholding and suppressing exculpatory
evidence (Counts I-VI); a claim for municipal liability under
Monell against the City alleging that its
policies, practices and customs and/or inadequate training,
discipline and supervision caused the unconstitutional acts
committed the Defendant Officers and Plaintiffs'
resulting injuries (Count VII); and state law claims for
malicious prosecution against the Defendant Officers (Count
VIII), intentional infliction of emotional distress and civil
conspiracy against the Defendants Officers and Defendant
Alesia (Counts IX and X), respondeat superior
liability against the City (Count XI) and indemnification
against the City and Cook County (Count XII). (See,
e.g., Dkt. 1). Plaintiffs' cases were consolidated
before this Court for the purpose of discovery. (Dkts. 39,
46). The City now seeks to bifurcate and stay discovery on
Plaintiffs' Monell claims (Count VII) against
it. For the following reasons, the City's Motion to
Bifurcate and Stay Discovery on Plaintiffs' Monell
Claims (Dkt. 81) is granted.
cases stem from the 1995 murders of Khaled Ibrahim and Yousef
Ali. The following summary of the allegations is based on the
facts as alleged in Plaintiffs' Complaints.
6:30 p.m. on December 4, 1995, two men visited Elegant Auto,
a used car lot on Chicago's South Side owned by Ibrahim
and Ali. (Dkt. 1 at ¶ 15). The men examined and touched
two vehicles and then left. (Id.). They returned
around 7:00 p.m., shot and killed Ibrahim and Ali
execution-style in their office, stole two cars, and fled.
(Id. at ¶ 16). That evening, CPD investigators
lifted fingerprints and palm prints from the cars the
perpetrators had touched during their initial visit to the
lot. (Id. at ¶ 18). They also lifted
fingerprints from the two stolen vehicles once they were
recovered early the next morning. (Id. at ¶
19). None of these prints matched any Plaintiff.
(Id. at ¶ 20).
December 6, the Defendant Officers arrested Plaintiff McCoy
who was 17 at the time at his high school without any reason
to believe he was involved in the murders and took him to the
police station, isolated him, denied him counsel, harshly
interrogated him and fed him information about the murders.
(Id. at ¶¶ 21-22). Eventually, McCoy
succumbed to the coercive tactics and gave a false and
inculpatory statement to Defendants. (Id. at ¶
23). In the false confession, McCoy stated that he and Ezell
were acting as lookouts for Johnson and Styles who planned to
steal a car from Elegant Auto when he and Ezell heard
gunshots and saw Johnson and Styles leave the lot in two
stolen cars. (Id. at ¶ 25).
Defendant Officers used McCoy's coerced confession to
then arrest Styles, Johnson and Ezell without probable cause.
(Id. at ¶ 26). After arresting Styles, who was
16 at the time, Defendants interrogated him for hours without
an attorney, parent, guardian or other adult present.
(Id. at ¶ 28). Defendants eventually brought in
a youth officer who never spoke and did nothing to intervene
or protect Styles. (Id. at ¶ 29). Styles
initially denied any involvement in the murders but after
several hours, gave a false and inculpatory statement.
(Id. at ¶ 31).
arrested Johnson, who was 19 at the time, at his home.
(Id. at ¶ 32). Upon learning he had been
arrested for murder, Johnson immediately denied any
involvement in the crime. (Id. at ¶ 35).
Despite being subjected to hours of hostile and aggressive
interrogation, Johnson continued to proclaim his innocence.
(Id. at ¶ 36). Eventually after more than ten
hours of questioning and denying Johnsons' requests to
contact an attorney, Defendants misled Johnson into signing a
false confession to being a shooter in the murders.
(Id. at ¶¶ 42-44).
was 15 at the time he was arrested. (Id. at ¶
46). The Defendant Officers took him to police headquarters,
interrogated him without any attorney, parent or guardian
present, and denied his requests to see his grandmother.
(Id. at ¶ 47-51). A youth officer was present
during portions of the interrogation but did nothing to
intervene or to protect Ezell. (Id. at ¶ 50).
Despite initially denying any involvement in the crimes,
Ezell was eventually coerced by the Defendant Officers into
signing a false confession. (Id. at ¶ 52).
January 1998, Styles and Johnson were tried jointly before
separate juries and each found guilty of first-degree murder
and armed robbery and sentenced to life in prison without the
possibility of parole. (Styles, Dkt. 1 at
¶¶ 49-52; Johnson, Dkt. at ¶¶
48-51). In November 1998, Plaintiffs Ezell and McCoy were
tried jointly before separate juries; each was found guilty
of armed robbery but the jury did not reach a verdict on the
first-degree murder charge against McCoy. (Ezell,
Dkt. 1 at ¶¶ 53-56; McCoy, Dkt. 1 at
¶¶ 49-52). Ezell was sentenced to 20 years in
prison. (Ezell, Dkt. 1 at ¶ 56). McCoy
eventually pled guilty to murder and was sentenced to 55
years for murder and 30 years for armed robbery.
(McCoy, Dkt. 1 at ¶ 52).
2009, the state court ordered that the fingerprints from the
murder investigation be reanalyzed and uploaded to the
Automated Fingerprint Identification System. (Ezell,
Dkt. 1 at ¶ 58). This testing excluded Plaintiffs and
matched the prints to three other previously unidentified
men. (Id.). The state court granted each Plaintiff a
new trial based on newly-discovered evidence and the
State's Attorney's Office dismissed all charges
against them. (Id. at ¶ 59; Styles,
Dkt. 1 at ¶¶ 55-57; Johnson, Dkt. 1 at
¶¶ 54-56; McCoy, Dkt. 1 at ¶ 55).
Each Plaintiff filed a petition for a Certificate of
Innocence and on January 22, 2018, the Court granted their
petitions. (Ezell, Dkt. 1 at ¶ 60;
Styles, Dkt. 1 at ¶ 58; Johnson, Dkt.
1 at ¶ 57; McCoy, Dkt. 1 at ¶ 56). Ezell
served 10 years in prison and had been released in 2005.
(Ezell, Dkt. 1 at ¶ 56). Styles, Johnson and
McCoy each served approximately 21 years in prison before
being released. (Styles, Dkt. 1 at ¶ 56;
Johnson, Dkt. 1 at ¶ 55; McCoy, Dkt. 1
at ¶ 52).
February 12, 2018, Plaintiffs filed the present actions
seeking to recover damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983
and various state-law claims for the physical harm, mental
suffering, and loss of normal life caused by the Individual
Defendants', the City's, and Cook County's
alleged misconduct. (See, e.g., Ezell, Dkt. 1 at
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42(b), the Court has
considerable discretion to separate claims or issues for
trial if the separation would prevent prejudice to a party or
promote judicial economy. Chlopek v. Fed. Ins. Co.,
499 F.3d 692, 700 (7th Cir. 2007) (citing Houseman v.
U.S. Aviation Underwriters, 171 F.3d 1117, 1121 (7th
Cir. 1999)); Fed.R.Civ.P. 42(b); seealso Treece
v. Hochstetler, 213 F.3d 360, 365 (7th Cir. 2000).
“If one of these criteria is met, the district court
may order bifurcation as long as doing so will not prejudice
the non-moving party or violate the Seventh Amendment,
” which guarantees a jury trial for civil cases in
federal court. Id. at 700 (citing Krocka v. City
of Chi., 203 F.3d 507, 516 (7th Cir. 2000)). Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 26(d) also permits a court to stay