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Godinez v. City of Chicago

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

October 30, 2019

JANET GODINEZ, on behalf of herself and as administrator of the estate of her brother, HERIBERTO GODINEZ, Deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
THE CITY OF CHICAGO, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          MARY M. ROWLAND, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Janet Godinez filed this action against Defendant City of Chicago (“the City”) and individually named Defendant Police Officers (“Defendant Officers”) for conduct, she alleges, resulted in the death of her 26-year-old brother Heriberto Godinez on July 20, 2015. Plaintiff asserts excessive force, failure to intervene, supervisory liability and conspiracy claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a Monell policy claim, and Illinois state law claims for wrongful death, battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Before the Court are cross motions for summary judgment by Plaintiff and Defendant Officers on the excessive force and failure to intervene claims. Defendant Officers also move for summary judgment on the supervisory liability, conspiracy, and state law claims, as well as their qualified immunity defense.[1]

         For the reasons stated below, Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment [293] is denied and Defendant Officers' motion for summary judgment [286] is granted in part and denied in part. The Court denies Plaintiff's summary judgment motion on excessive force and failure to intervene. The Court grants summary judgment for Defendants on Plaintiff's conspiracy claim, but denies summary judgment on the excessive force, failure to intervene, supervisory liability claims, state law claims, and Defendants' qualified immunity defense.

         SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         Summary judgment is proper where “the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). A genuine dispute as to any material fact exists if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The substantive law controls which facts are material. Id.

         The party seeking summary judgment has the burden of establishing that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323 (1986). After a “properly supported motion for summary judgment is made, the adverse party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250 (quotation omitted). Construing the evidence and facts supported by the record in favor of the non-moving party, the Court gives the non-moving party “the benefit of reasonable inferences from the evidence, but not speculative inferences in [its] favor.” White v. City of Chi., 829 F.3d 837, 841 (7th Cir. 2016) (internal citations omitted). “The controlling question is whether a reasonable trier of fact could find in favor of the non-moving party on the evidence submitted in support of and opposition to the motion for summary judgment.” Id. (citation omitted). The court “may not assess the credibility of witnesses, choose between competing inferences or balance the relative weight of conflicting evidence; it must view all the evidence in the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and resolve all factual disputes in favor of the non-moving party.” Abdullahi v. City of Madison, 423 F.3d 763, 773 (7th Cir. 2005).

         On cross-motions for summary judgment, the Court must “view all facts and inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party on each motion.” Lalowski v. City of Des Plaines, 789 F.3d 784, 787 (7th Cir. 2015) (citation omitted); see also Hotel 71 Mezz Lender LLC v. Nat'l Ret. Fund, 778 F.3d 593, 603 (7th Cir. 2015) (“[T]he court must be mindful of its obligation to adopt what Judge Shadur aptly characterizes as a dual, ‘Janus-like' perspective. That is, the court must now grant the unsuccessful movant all of the favorable factual inferences that it has just given to the movant's opponent. Only if the court can say, on that sympathetic reading of the record, that no finder of fact could reasonably rule in the unsuccessful movant's favor may the court properly enter summary judgment against that movant.”) (internal citations omitted). Where there is video evidence in a case, the court should “view[] the facts in the light depicted by the videotape.” Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 381, 127 S.Ct. 1769, 1776 (2007). See also Williams v. Brooks, 809 F.3d 936, 942 (7th Cir. 2016).

         STATEMENT OF FACTS[2]

         On July 20, 2015, Chicago Police Department Officers Lindskog and McAndrew responded to a 911 call made at 12:57:13 a.m. by Julio Garcia who informed the officers that he was walking home from work when he saw a man on his front porch knocking hard on his door and swearing at him; the man then ran away in the direction of a school. (Dkt. 329 at 2; Dkt. 365 at 2). Although Officer Lindskog testified that he and Officer McAndrew heard screams and glass breaking when they encountered Godinez in the garage, [3] (Dkt. 361 at 3), Defendant Officers admit that when Lindskog and McAndrew found Mr. Godinez, he approached them with his hands up. (Dkt. 329 at 3). Officer McAndrew testified that Godinez was acting erratically, and Officers Lindskog and McAndrew stated that they believed Godinez was under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. (Dkt. 329 at 3, 6). Officer Lindskog ordered Godinez to the ground. (Dkt. 329 at 4) He complied, and Officers Lindskog and McAndrew handcuffed Godinez behind his back while he was lying on his stomach. (Dkt. 329 at 4).

         Officers Arroyo and Corona then arrived on the scene in a vehicle equipped with a forward-facing dashcam which produced a video recording (the video recording has no audio track). (Dkt. 329 at 5). Officer Corona testified that the police interaction with Godinez was part of a “burglary investigation.” (Dkt. 329 at 4). When Officers Arroyo and Corona arrived at 12:06:29 a.m., [4] the video shows Officer McAndrew standing next to Godinez with his left foot on Godinez's back for seven to ten seconds. (Id.). Gonzalez was lying on his stomach with his hands cuffed behind his back. (Id.). The video shows Gonzalez lifting his head and left shoulder off the ground and moving his head and shoulders from side-to-side while Officer McAndrew's foot is on Godinez's back. (See Video at 12:06:29-12:06:40).[5] After lying on the ground for approximately one minute, sporadically lifting his head and upper body, Godinez maneuvered himself into a seated position and scooted down the side of the vehicle towards the rear of the police SUV. (Dkt. 329 at 6) (see Video). At 12:10:00 a.m., [6]Officer McAndrew puts his hands on Godinez's shoulders as Godinez continues to scoot toward the rear of the vehicle. Godinez falls backward, then lifts his upper body and moves his legs. Officer McAndrew again puts his hands on Godinez's shoulders and his knee on Godinez's abdomen as Godinez continues to move his upper body and legs towards the rear of the vehicle. (Dkt. 329 at 5-7). Whether Officer McAndrew pushed Godinez to the ground or merely placed his hands on his shoulders to prevent him from moving forward is in dispute, as is the extent to which Godinez is struggling, flailing, and resisting.

         At 12:10:16 a.m., according to the dashcam timestamp, Officer Corona is seen walking up to Godinez and placing his foot on Godinez's stomach as Godinez continues to move his upper body and legs.[7] (Dkt. 329 at 8). Godinez continues to move his body until his head is near the tailpipe, and, at 12:10:21 a.m., [8] Officer Corona puts his right foot on the side of Godinez's head for approximately 2 to 3 seconds and Godinez's head moves to the ground under Officer Corona's foot. (Dkt. 365 at 5-6). Officer Corona testified that Godinez was agitated, sweating profusely, and his breathing was labored. (Dkt. 329 at 8). Officer Corona claimed that he used his right foot to prevent Godinez from moving around and hurting himself. (Dkt. 329 at 9; Dkt. 365 at 5). The parties dispute how much weight Officer Corona put on Godinez's head and whether he pushed his head to the ground with his foot or “stood” on his head. Defendant Officers claim, “Officer Corona's foot never pressed Godinez's head to the ground and Corona never ‘stands' on Godinez's face, head, neck, or back.” (Dkt. 365 at 6). Plaintiff argues that the video shows: “Corona's foot press Godinez's head to the ground . . . [and] Corona standing with at least some of his weight on Godinez's head and/or face and all of his weight on Godinez's legs.” (Dkt 365 at 6).

         When Officers Johnson, Madsen, and Nowakowski arrived, Godinez was lying on his stomach with his hands cuffed behind his back at the rear of the police SUV. (Dkt. 329 at 10). The timestamp on the dashcam video was 12:11:06 a.m.[9] (Id.). Godinez can be seen struggling, moving his upper body, hands and legs. (See Video). Officer McAndrew held Godinez's upper body down with his hands, while Officer Corona held Godinez's legs down with his foot or feet. (Dkt. 329 at 10). At 12:11:09 a.m., [10] Officer Johnson placed his foot on Godinez. (See Video). It appears that at 12:13 or 12:14 a.m., [11] Officer Johnson took his foot off Godinez. (See Video). He and the other Officers who were around Godinez all moved away from Godinez.

         The location of where he placed his foot (i.e., on Godinez's head, neck, or shoulder) is in dispute (Dkt. 329 at 11), and it is unclear from the video. Officer Johnson testified that his foot was on Godinez's left shoulder blade. (Dkt. 329 at 11). Officer McAndrew testified that Officer Johnson's foot was on Godinez's shoulder and briefly on his head. (Dkt. 329 at 12). Lt. Jerome observed Officer Johnson's foot on Godinez's shoulder. (Dkt. 329 at 15). It is disputed how much weight Officer Johnson placed on Godinez and for how long. (Dkt. 329 at 12-13).

         Immediately after Officer Johnson removed himself from Godinez, for approximately 4 minutes and 8 seconds on the dashcam video, between 12:14:16 a.m. and 12:18:24 a.m., [12] Godinez was completely still. (Dkt. 365 at 16). The parties dispute whether Godinez was “calmly lying on his back” during this time or was lying unconscious. (Dkt. 365 at 16-17). The video shows the officers moving around the alley, occasionally shining their flashlights on Godinez, (Dkt. 329 at 17), but not otherwise interacting with Godinez except for one unnamed officer briefly touching Godinez for approximately six seconds. (Dkt. 365 at 16). Lt. Jerome communicated to the dispatcher that the police no longer needed shackles for Godinez. (Dkt. 329 at 16).

         At 12:18:24 a.m., [13] Godinez displayed sudden movements, lifting his waist and lower back off the ground while scooting his body under the running police car. (Dkt. 329 at 18). The parties' characterization of Godinez's movements at this time differs. Defendant Officers assert Godinez can be seen on the video “kicking his legs straight up and lifting his waist and lower back off the ground while scooting sideways under Beat 911R's SUV and hitting his stomach against the tailpipe multiple times . . . [and] pressing his hips and abdomen up with enough force that he moves the SUV upward.” (Def SOF 42). Plaintiff denies Godinez's movements seen on the video “constituted any sort of conscious ‘kicking;' rather, they appear to be almost involuntary, akin to the behavior of a person drowning.” (Dkt. 365 at 17). Lt. Jermone testified that he believed Godinez needed a mental health evaluation immediately before he was taken to the squadrol. (Dkt. 329 at 16-17). Officers Johnson and Corona testified that Godinez was a “passive resistor” or an “active resistor, ” but not an assailant. (Dkt. 329 at 17).

         Multiple officers pulled Godinez out from under the SUV and carried him out of view of the dash camera to a squadrol at 12:19:24 a.m.[14] (Dkt. 329 at 18-19). Lt. Jerome testified that Godinez's breathing was labored; Officer Corona requested an ambulance at 1:27:01 a.m.[15] (Dkt. 329 at 20). The Chicago Fire Department paramedics arrived at 1:34:00 a.m. A minute later, they reported that Godinez had no pulse and no blood pressure and was not breathing. (Id. at 21). At 1:38:12 a.m., an EKG reported no activity of Godinez's heart. EMT's reported that Godinez was dead at 1:50 a.m. (Dkt. 329 at 21).

         ANALYSIS

         I. Count I: Excessive Force

         A. Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment

         Plaintiff moves for summary judgment on her excessive force claim against Officers Corona and Johnson arguing that the undisputed facts, including the video evidence, establish that the amount of force used by Officers Corona and Johnson was unreasonable as a matter of law.

         “An officer who has the right to arrest an individual also has the right to use some degree of physical force or threat of force to effectuate the arrest.” Williams, 809 F.3d at 944 (citation omitted). Courts evaluate a claim that an officer used excessive force while making an arrest under the Fourth Amendment's standard of objective reasonableness. Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 395-96, 109 S.Ct. 1865, 1871-72, 104 L.Ed.2d 443 (1989). This standard requires courts to “‘balance the nature and quality of the intrusion on the individual's Fourth Amendment interests against the importance of the governmental interests alleged to justify the intrusion.'” Scott, 550 U.S. at 383 (brackets omitted) (quoting United States v. Place, 462 U.S. 696, 703, 103 S.Ct. 2637, 77 L.Ed.2d 110 (1983)). “An officer's use of force is unreasonable from a constitutional point of view only if, judging from the totality of circumstances at the time of the arrest, the officer used greater force than was reasonably necessary to make the arrest.” Gonzalez v. City of Elgin, 578 F.3d 526, 539 (7th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         In Graham, the Supreme Court set forth factors to determine whether a police officer's use of force was reasonable, including: (1) “the severity of the crime at issue”; (2) “whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others”; and (3) “whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight.” 490 U.S. at 396. Courts determine whether a particular use of force was reasonable under the circumstances by viewing the matter “from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.” Id. (citation omitted). Courts remain cognizant of “the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments-in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving-about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation.” Williams, 809 F.3d at 944 (quoting Abbott v. Sangamon Cty., Ill., 705 F.3d 706, 724 (7th Cir. 2013)). “[S]ummary judgment is often inappropriate in excessive-force cases because the evidence surrounding the officer's use of force is often susceptible of different interpretations.” Cyrus v. Town of Mukwonago, 624 F.3d 856, 862 (7th Cir. 2010) (citation omitted); see also Abdullahi, 423 F.3d at 772-73 (noting that because the Graham reasonableness inquiry “nearly always requires a jury to sift through disputed factual contentions, and to draw inferences therefrom . . . summary judgment or judgment as a matter of law in excessive force cases should be granted sparingly.”) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         Plaintiff asserts that all of the Graham factors indisputably weigh in her favor because: (1) the severity of the crime was minimal as Godinez was suspected of committing a non-violent property crime; (2) Godinez posed no immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others as he was handcuffed and unarmed during the relevant events; and (3) he was not actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest as he complied with the Officers initial order to get on the ground and be handcuffed. (Dkt. 293). Plaintiff further argues that the amount of force used by Officers Corona and Johnson was unreasonable because the video evidence conclusively establishes that Godinez ...


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