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Taylor v. City of Chicago

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

September 23, 2019

DANIEL TAYLOR, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, CHICAGO POLICE OFFICERS ANTHONY VILLARDITA, THOMAS JOHNSON, BRIAN KILLACKY, TERRY O’CONNOR, RICK ABREU, ROBERT DELANEY, SEAN GLINSKI, MICHAEL BERTI, and UNIDENTIFIED EMPLOYEES OF THE CITY OF CHICAGO, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN Z. LEE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Daniel Taylor was convicted of murder and spent more than 20 years in prison before his conviction was vacated. He filed this lawsuit against the City of Chicago (“the City”) and Chicago police officers Anthony Villardita, Thomas Johnson, Brian Killacky, Terry O’Connor, Rick Abreu, Robert Delaney, Sean Glinski, and Michael Berti (collectively, “the Officer Defendants”), pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Taylor alleges that the Officer Defendants coerced him to give a false confession and concealed exculpatory evidence. The Officer Defendants and the City seek summary judgment on Taylor’s claims. For the reasons stated herein, the Officer Defendants’ motion [485] is granted in part and denied in part, and the City’s motion [488] is denied.

         Background

         I. The November 16, 1992 Murders and Subsequent Arrests

         This case involves relatively few undisputed facts. At approximately 8:43 p.m. on November 16, 1992, Jeffrey Lassiter and Sharon Haugabook were shot and killed in Lassiter’s apartment at 910 W. Agatite Avenue in Chicago. Officer Defs.’ LR 56.1 Stmt. (“Defs.’ SOF”) ¶ 10, ECF No. 486.[1] Within minutes, police officers arrived on the scene. Id. ¶ 11. Detectives Villardita and Johnson of the Chicago Police Department (“CPD”) were assigned to lead the investigation. Id. ¶ 12.

         At the scene, the detectives spoke with Faye McCoy, who lived in Lassiter’s apartment complex. Id. ¶ 13. McCoy told the detectives that she had seen four African-American men leaving the building shortly after the shootings. Id. Two days later, after viewing a photo lineup, she identified one of the men as Dennis Mixon, a/k/a “Goldie.” Id., Ex. 7, Villardita Dep. Vol. I at 121:8–122:7, 133:10–134:7, ECF No. 484-8; Id., Ex. 8, Johnson Dep. Vol. I at 119:10–14, 149:5–9, ECF No. 484-10; Pl.’s LR 56.1 Stmt. Add’l Facts (“Pl.’s SOF”) ¶ 3, ECF No. 496. Mixon was also mentioned in an information report prepared by CPD officer Renard Foote (“the Foote information report”) on November 17. Pl.’s SOF ¶ 4. The report indicates that, in the weeks leading up to the murders, Lassiter and Mixon were involved in a dispute over drugs and property. Id. Further investigation revealed that Mixon’s brother, Larry Mixon, along with several other individuals, had recently been arrested for trespassing near the murder scene. Id. ¶ 5.

         Several weeks passed with little development in the case, until December 2, when CPD officers arrested Lewis Gardner, Paul Phillips, and Akia Phillips. Id. ¶ 12. Although the three teenagers were brought in for drug possession, Gardner eventually provided a transcribed statement implicating himself in the murders of Lassiter and Haugabook. Id. ¶ 20; Defs.’ SOF ¶ 17. Gardner also implicated Paul and Akia Phillips, as well as Taylor, Mixon, Deon Patrick, Joseph Brown, and Rodney Matthews, who also were arrested and eventually confessed to their involvement in the murders. Defs.’ SOF ¶ 21.

         The circumstances surrounding these confessions, however, are hotly disputed––as are the events surrounding the criminal case that followed. The Court will summarize each side’s version of the facts and will address the material disputes as necessary.

         II. Taylor’s Confession and Subsequent Investigation

         A. The Officer Defendants’ Version

         According to the Officer Defendants, Taylor and his co-defendants voluntarily confessed to the crimes. Id. ¶¶ 17–18, 20–21. On the day that Taylor was arrested––December 3, 1992–– Faye McCoy, the eyewitness from the murder scene, viewed a lineup consisting of Taylor, Paul Phillips, Patrick, Matthews, and two other individuals. Id. ¶ 22. Detectives O’Connor and Villardita stayed with McCoy while she viewed the lineup, while Detectives Delaney and Killacky were inside the room with the lineup participants. Id. ¶ 23. Afterward, Villardita and O’Connor told Delaney and Killacky that McCoy said she knew Taylor and his co-defendants and had previously seen them in the neighborhood. Id. ¶ 24. Delaney and Killacky documented this information in a supplementary report (“the lineup supplementary report”). Id.

         Meanwhile, at some point while Taylor was in custody, he told Villardita and Johnson that he had been “locked up” in the 23rd District on the night of the murders. Id. ¶¶ 19, 25. Villardita and Johnson examined Taylor’s criminal history report, but found no mention of an arrest on November 16, so Villardita asked Officer Steve Caluris to see if there were any arrest reports for Taylor in the 23rd District that day. Id. ¶¶ 26–27. On December 6, Caluris informed Villardita that he had located an arrest report for a “Daniel Taylor, ”[2] indicating that Taylor had been arrested on November 16. Id. ¶ 28. Villardita and Johnson went to the 23rd District station and located a copy of Taylor’s arrest report and bond slip, which showed that Taylor had been arrested for disorderly conduct at 6:45 p.m. on November 16 and had been released from custody at 10:00 p.m., when he bonded out in the presence of Officer James Gillespie. Id. ¶¶ 29–31.

         Villardita and Johnson recognized that these documents appeared to show that Taylor had been in custody at the time of the murders, which conflicted with his confession. Id. ¶ 32. They checked to see if Taylor had been photographed or fingerprinted upon arrival at the 23rd District, but he had not been. Id. ¶ 33. And they looked at a “personnel roster” for the 23rd District, which listed the names and assignments of personnel working at the station on November 16. Id. ¶ 34.

         The next day, while Taylor remained in custody, Villardita and Johnson met with Cook County Assistant State’s Attorneys (“ASAs”) David Styler and Garritt Howard and informed them of the conflict between Taylor’s confession and the arrest report and bond slip. Id. ¶ 36. It was decided that Styler would interview the 23rd District personnel working on the night in question, while Villardita and Johnson would attempt to locate any witnesses who may have seen Taylor and his co-defendants prior to the murders. Id. ¶¶ 37–38.

         On December 18, ASA Styler sent grand jury subpoenas to 23rd District personnel who worked at the station on November 16, based on the names that appeared on the arrest report and personnel roster. Id. ¶ 44. He interviewed various officers on December 22 and 23 and took notes of these interviews, identifying which officers and civilian aides were on duty during the third watch of November 16 and the first watch on November 17. Id. ¶¶ 45–46. Styler also noted the importance of tracking down James Anderson, who had shared a cell with Taylor that night. Id. ¶¶ 47–48. Additionally, he made reference in his notes to a “log book, ” and stated that there were no individuals in the lockup at 7:15 p.m., while there were five in the lockup at 8:30 p.m. Id. ¶ 49.

         At some point, using the arrest report and bond slip, Villardita and Johnson drafted a timeline of Taylor’s movements on November 16, which they put into a General Progress Report (“GPR”) (the “timeline GPR”). Id. ¶ 39. They also requested that Detectives Robert Elmore and James Gildea obtain arrest reports and bond slips for other individuals who were in the lockup on November 16, as well as a copy of the list of people who were there that night (“the lockup roster”). Id. ¶ 40. Elmore and Gildea provided these documents to Villardita and Johnson on December 7. Id. Villardita and Johnson then turned over the documents to ASA Howard, and a copy of the lockup roster was also sent to the State’s Attorney’s Office (“SAO”). Id. ¶¶ 42–43. Meanwhile, Elmore and Gildea searched for Anderson and documented these efforts in a GPR. Id. ¶ 41.

         While investigating Taylor’s alibi, Villardita and Johnson documented an interview with Adrian Grimes, who said he had seen Taylor at a park on November 16, during the time that police records indicated that Taylor was in custody. Id. ¶ 50. They also spoke to Michael Seymore, who stated that he had seen Taylor on the street shortly after the murders. Id. ¶ 51. The detectives also followed up on Taylor’s confession, in which he stated that on the night of the murders, he had gone with two officers to help them find Akia Phillips. Id. ¶ 53. These officers, who were discovered to be Berti and Glinski, drafted a supplementary report on December 14, in which they documented their interactions with Taylor on the night of the murders (“the Berti/Glinski supplementary report”). Id. ¶¶ 53–54.

         The police also continued searching for Anderson, without success. Id. ¶ 55. On December 29, Sergeant Fred Bonke wrote a GPR instructing detectives to look for Anderson. Id. Two days later, Detective John Fitzsimmons wrote that “in regards to the [GPR from] 30 Dec[ember] 1992 from Villardita and Johnson, ” he had gone to the Salvation Army to look for Anderson, but had been unable to find him. Id. ¶ 56. But this was an error, as Fitzsimmons now states that he had actually been referring to Bonke’s GPR of December 29. Id. ¶ 57.

         B. Taylor’s Version

         Taylor paints a very different picture of what transpired between Gardner’s arrest and Taylor’s eventual conviction for murder.[3] He states that, although Johnson and Villardita had identified Mixon as a suspect, they failed to follow up in any meaningful way, instead telling their colleagues to “clear [the] case” by December 2, when they returned from their time off. Pl.’s SOF ¶ 10. When the case was not “cleared, ” they pinned the murders on three teenagers who had been arrested for drug possession, along with several other youths including Taylor. Id. ¶¶ 12–28, 30– 41. They did this even though Taylor and his co-defendants were innocent and, prior to December 2, nothing in the investigation had pointed to them. Id. ¶¶ 10–11.

         Killacky and Delaney arrested Taylor at 2:15 a.m. on December 3. Id. ¶ 35. While on the way to the station, one of the officers punched Taylor in the chest. Id. ¶ 37. Upon arrival at the station, Taylor was placed in an interrogation room and handcuffed to a ring on the wall. Id. ¶ 38. The Officer Defendants then interrogated him about the murders of Lassiter and Haugabook. Id. When Taylor denied any knowledge of the crimes, the officers began acting “verbally and physically aggressive” toward him, including striking him with a flashlight and punching him, and they threatened to continue doing so unless he confessed. Id. ¶¶ 38–40. Eventually, Taylor confessed to the murders (even though it was not true), and the Officer Defendants fed him false details of the crime to do so. Id.

         Taylor also asserts that the Officer Defendants fabricated the lineup supplementary report after McCoy viewed the lineup on December 3. Id. ¶ 46. What actually transpired, he states, is that McCoy told the Officer Defendants that Taylor, Patrick, Matthews, and Paul Phillips were not the men she had seen on the night of the murders, and that they instead needed to track down Mixon. Id. ¶ 45. Despite this, Killacky and Delaney wrote in their report that McCoy had seen the four co-defendants in the neighborhood, omitting that she had not seen them on the night of the murders. Id. ¶ 46.

         According to Taylor, he could not have committed the crimes, because he was in custody when they occurred. Id. ¶ 49. He told this to Villardita and Johnson on December 3, but they claimed that there was no record of him being in lockup that night. Id. ¶ 50. But on December 6, Villardita and Johnson obtained documentation confirming Taylor’s alibi; namely, his arrest report, bond slip, the lockup roster, and the personnel roster from the 23rd District. Id. ¶¶ 51–53. They also learned that Anderson had shared a cell with Taylor, and they tried to locate Anderson, as documented in several GPRs. Id. ¶ 54. Contrary to the Officer Defendants’ version of events, Taylor states that they successfully located and interviewed Anderson, who confirmed that he had seen Taylor in the lockup at the time of the murders. Id. ¶ 55.

         Once the Officer Defendants learned of Taylor’s alibi, he asserts, they went to great lengths to fabricate evidence, including creating several reports, to undercut it. Id. ¶ 64. For instance, on December 8, Villardita and Johnson falsified a GPR stating that they had met with Gillespie (the officer who had signed Taylor’s bond slip), who told them that Taylor “could have been gone already” when Gillespie signed the slip at 10:00 p.m. Id. ¶ 59. They also falsified a GPR stating that Gillespie had told them that people who were arrested for disorderly conduct were generally released in short order. Id. ¶ 60. The December 8 GPR also stated that Grimes had seen Taylor prior to the murders––but this statement was fabricated and was the product of coercion. Id. ¶ 61. Using physical force, threats, and promises of leniency on unrelated drug charges, the Officer Defendants pressured Grimes into identifying Taylor. Id. ¶ 62. Grimes would later testify at Taylor’s criminal trial in a manner consistent with this report, but according to Taylor, that testimony, too, was false and coerced. Id. In addition, the Officer Defendants fabricated a report of an interview with Michael Seymore, who allegedly told them that he had seen Taylor on the night of the murders prior to 10:00 p.m. Id. ¶ 63.

         What is more, Villardita and Johnson asked Berti and Glinski to fabricate a report of an encounter with Taylor prior to 10:00 p.m. on the night of the murders. Id. ¶ 65. When Berti and Glinski prepared the report, they knew that Taylor had actually been in custody at the time. Id. Since then, Glinski has repeatedly lied about the circumstances surrounding the report’s creation. Id. ¶ 67. When he testified at Taylor’s criminal trial, he acknowledged that, when he prepared the report, he was aware of Taylor’s lockup alibi; but when he later testified at the civil trial of Taylor’s co-defendant, Patrick, [4] he stated that he learned about Taylor’s alibi after drafting the report. Id. ¶¶ 67, 70. In any event, the report is inaccurate, because while Taylor did encounter Berti and Glinski on the night of the murders, it was not until after he was released from lockup at 10:00 p.m. Id. ¶ 71.

         III. Discovery, Legal Representation, and the Criminal Trial

         A. The Officer Defendants’ Version

         ASA Thomas Needham was assigned to prosecute Taylor and his co-defendants and was made aware of the conflict between Taylor’s confession and the arrest report and bond slip. Defs.’ SOF ¶¶ 57–58. At some point, ASA Jeanne Bischoff was also assigned to the case, and was also made aware of Taylor’s lockup alibi. Id. ¶¶ 66–68.

         ASA Needham was responsible for providing discovery to Taylor’s criminal defense counsel, including any exculpatory material. Id. ¶¶ 59–60. According to the Officer Defendants, all relevant GPRs and other documents were produced to the SAO, and on February 23, 1993, Needham tendered a “full set” of police reports, arrest reports, written statements, and other materials to Taylor’s counsel. Id. ¶¶ 61–65. He also disclosed to defense counsel that the State might call McCoy, Grimes, and Seymore as witnesses, and provided their contact information. Id. ¶ 69.

         Taylor was represented by Nathan Diamond-Falk, an experienced criminal defense attorney, and Ellen Rubin, who began working on the case after the pretrial phase. Id. ¶¶ 70, 83. Diamond-Falk was aware that Taylor claimed to have an alibi for the murders, and he had the November 16 arrest report and bond slip. Id. ¶¶ 92–93. Although Diamond-Falk knew the attorneys who were representing Taylor’s co-defendants and could have asked them if their clients were claiming to have been coerced, he did not do so, because he did not believe such evidence would be admissible at trial. Id. ¶¶ 71–72, 77. Similarly, he did not ask to see the other attorneys’ discovery materials. Id. ¶¶ 73–74.

         In August 1993, Diamond-Falk sent a subpoena requesting “lock up records from the 23rd District from November 14, 1992 through November 17, 1992.” Id. ¶ 75. When he did not receive a response, he did not file a motion to compel, although he was aware that the CPD kept records of people who were arrested and detained. Id. ¶¶ 75–76. Rubin also made no attempt to obtain the documentation, despite her knowledge that the CPD kept such records. Id. ¶¶ 86, 88. She did not “do any investigation as it relates to [Taylor’s] criminal case” because she believed Diamond-Falk had already done so. Id. ¶¶ 89–90. Diamond-Falk and Rubin also did not attempt to determine the identity of Taylor’s cellmate in the 23rd District lockup. Id. ¶¶ 85, 87, 94–96. And, although they knew McCoy and Grimes had been disclosed as witnesses, they did not attempt to interview either of them. Id. ¶¶ 78–82.

         Diamond-Falk and Rubin met with Taylor prior to his criminal trial and discussed his alibi defense. Id. ¶¶ 99–100. At that time, Diamond-Falk believed he had everything in his file that should have been there. Id. ¶ 101. The case proceeded to trial, and Rubin called the 23rd District lockup keeper, John Meindl, as a witness. Id. ¶ 102. Rubin asked Meindl how many people had been in lockup on the evening of November 16, 1992, and Meindl stated that he would need to “look at a lockup intake report” to give an accurate answer, but that he did not have the report with him that day. Id. ¶¶ 104–05. Yet, prior to the conclusion of the trial, Rubin and Diamond-Falk did not attempt to obtain the report Meindl had referenced. Id. ¶¶ 106–07.

         McCoy also testified at Taylor’s criminal trial. Id. ¶ 108. She stated that she had told the police that none of the people in the lineup were those she had seen leaving Lassiter’s apartment on the night of the murders. Id. The trial concluded on September 7, 1995, and Taylor was convicted of murder, home invasion, and robbery. Id. ¶ 110.

         B. Taylor’s Version

         According to Taylor, the Officer Defendants withheld significant evidence from his defense counsel, even though all material information relating to the investigation should have been placed in the CPD’s investigative file. Pl.’s SOF ¶ 72. For instance, Villardita and Johnson suppressed evidence of Taylor’s alibi, such as the lockup roster and the 23rd District personnel roster, and Diamond-Falk never received copies of those documents. Id. ¶¶ 73–74. The Officer Defendants also suppressed evidence of a logbook (“the visual check logbook”) used by 23rd District officers to record “visual checks” of detainees. Id. ¶ 75. Moreover, they suppressed evidence relating to Anderson, Taylor’s cellmate in the 23rd District lockup. Id. ¶¶ 75–76, 78–79. As a result, Diamond-Falk did not learn of Anderson’s identity until after Taylor’s trial had already concluded. Id. ¶ 78. And Diamond-Falk never received a copy of the Foote information report, which explained Lassiter’s relationship to Dennis Mixon. Id. ¶ 93.

         This evidence was also suppressed from the SAO. Id. ¶¶ 80–88, 94. To make matters worse, the State did not keep a record of discovery that was tendered to defense counsel, and the only place where ASA Needham may have kept notes about what was produced in discovery was his “blue-back”––a piece of blue cardboard attached to lined paper, the indictment, and the speedy trial calendar. Id. ¶¶ 89–90. But the SAO cannot locate the blue-back, which has apparently been missing since 2002. Id. ¶ 91. The SAO’s original trial file for Taylor’s criminal case is also missing. Id. ¶ 92.

         What is more, Taylor notes that, although Grimes and Seymore were both disclosed as witnesses, defense counsel was never made aware that Grimes had been manipulated into testifying against Taylor. Id. ¶¶ 95–97.

         In addition, although CPD regulations required the creation and retention of complete investigative files for homicides resulting in convictions, the files for Taylor’s case “allegedly cannot [be] locate[d].” Id. ¶¶ 98–103. During the investigation, the CPD also maintained a “street file”––a file that is not turned over to the prosecution, even if it contains exculpatory information. Id. ¶¶ 106–07. This file contained criminal trespass incident reports for individuals with ties to Mixon and evidence pointing to other perpetrators, as well as evidence pertaining to Taylor’s lockup alibi, Anderson’s identity, and the Foote information report. Id. ¶¶ 109–10, 112.

         Contrary to the Officer Defendants’ version of events, Taylor states that Diamond-Falk diligently pursued this suppressed evidence. In 1993, he issued a formal discovery motion to the State; when he received a response that the State was not aware of any evidence or witnesses favorable to the defense, he believed he had the right to rely upon the State to fulfill its constitutional obligation. Id. ¶ 113. Nevertheless, he separately issued a subpoena to the CPD for lockup records from the 23rd District for November 14 through 17, 1992, but received no response. Id. ¶ 115. Furthermore, according to Taylor, his attorney could not have discussed the case with the co-defendants’ attorneys without running afoul of his ethical obligations. Id. ¶ 117. Accordingly, Diamond-Falk and Rubin used what information they had at trial to attempt to corroborate Taylor’s alibi. Id. ¶ 119. When Meindl made a “passing reference” to a “lockup intake report” at trial, Rubin did not know whether such a report actually existed, because it had not been produced during discovery. Id.

         Taylor’s criminal case proceeded to trial on September 1, 1995. Id. ¶ 121. Villardita, Johnson, Killacky, and Glinski testified against him. Id. Taylor was convicted on September 7, 1995, and sentenced to mandatory life without the possibility of parole on November 1, 1995. Id. Eventually, after years of post-conviction proceedings and a reinvestigation of the case by the SAO, he was granted a Certificate of Innocence on January 23, 2014. Id. ¶¶ 122–24.

         IV. This Lawsuit and ...


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