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Tucker v. J. Lally

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

January 6, 2020




         Anthony Tucker sued Detectives John Lally, Daniel Gillespie, and Jacinto Gonzalez of the Chicago Police Department alleging unlawful pretrial detention and malicious prosecution stemming from his arrest in February 2014 for the armed robbery and murder of John Serpe. (Dkt. 67). Tucker claims the detectives fabricated evidence by way of improper photo array identifications, suggestive lineup procedures, and selective recording of witness statements. Neither party filed dispositive motions and a jury trial occurred in October 2019. The jury heard five days of testimony. At the close of evidence, Defendants moved for a directed verdict on all counts for all Defendants. (Dkt. 93). The Court heard oral argument on the Motion and found that Plaintiff had completely failed to establish any personal involvement on the part of Detective Gonzalez[1]. The Motion was taken under advisement as to Detectives Lally and Gillespie pending the jury's deliberation and ultimate verdict. After deliberating, the jury returned a verdict for Plaintiff, and against Detectives Lally and Gillespie, as to unlawful pretrial detention and for all Defendants on the malicious prosecution count. (Dkt. 99). The jury awarded Plaintiff compensatory damages in the amount of $750, 000.00 and declined to award any punitive damages. Following trial, Defendants Lally and Gillespie filed a Renewed Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(b) on the grounds that a reasonable jury could not find Detectives Lally and Gillespie lacked probable cause or were personally involved in Plaintiff's constitutional deprivation, and that they are entitled to qualified immunity. For the reasons detailed within, the Court denies both the Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law and its renewed counterpart. (Dkts. 93, 113).


         On February 9, 2014, John Serpe was murdered on the west side of Chicago. Detectives Lally and Gillespie, detectives with the Chicago Police Department, were assigned as lead detectives for the Serpe murder. Mahagony Lewis and Monica Carter, both eye-witnesses to the murder, eventually identified Plaintiff as the shooter after purportedly improper, coercive, and suggestive interview techniques. Eventually, Plaintiff was arrested on February 16, 2014, and charged with first degree murder and armed robbery in Cook County. The case proceeded to a bench trial where, in May 2016, Plaintiff was found not guilty. Plaintiff then pursued the instant federal civil rights litigation where a jury of his peers found in his favor on the unlawful pretrial detention count against Defendants Lally and Gillespie, awarding him $750, 000.00. Defendants now seek post-trial review of the jury's decision. The following is a summary of the relevant testimony and evidence developed at trial construed “strictly in favor of [Plaintiff]…” as the prevailing party. Passananti v. Cook County, 689 F.3d 655, 659 (7th Cir. 2012).

         In the early morning hours of February 9, 2014, Monica Carter, while working as a prostitute, was robbed at gunpoint near the West Garfield Park neighborhood of Chicago. (Dkt. 105, 4:20-5:3). Carter testified that she did not personally know the offender, but that she had seen him before in the neighborhood. (Id. at 10:2-8). Afterwards, the man who robbed her forced Carter to follow him to go and “rob the drug dealers” near the intersection of Monroe and Kostner or else he would shoot her. (Id. at 5:4-6); (Dkt. 104, 160:1-2). On their way to that intersection, the two came across a car with a “white man and a young lady in it.” (Id. at 6:1). The offender approached the car while at the same time holding Carter at gun point, shot the man, and proceeded to rob Mahagony Lewis, the female passenger. (Id. at 6:5-15; 6:18-7:10); (Dkt. 104, 160:14-18). Thereafter the offender left the scene and Carter and Lewis went their separate ways. (Id. at 7:9-23).

         Later on February 9, Detectives Lally and Gillespie brought Lewis to a police station to look at various photos. (Dkt. 104, 24:6-14). While at the station, Detective Lally showed Lewis a photo array of six individuals (not including a photo of Plaintiff), but Lewis was unable to identify any as the offender. (Id. at 28: 17-19); (Dkt. 104, 150:8-13). Lewis provided the detectives with a description of the offender as “a male black with medium to dark skin and tall” and that “he was wearing a black hoodie, a black jacket that had some type of white lettering on…black sweatpants and black shoes.” (Dkt. 103, 16:4-11).

         On February 13, 2014, Carter was interviewed by Detectives Lally and Gillespie regarding the February 9th robbery and murder. (Dkt. 105, 14:1-15); (Dkt. 103, 19:22-25). Carter testified that during the course of the interview Detective Lally told her that she could be charged with murder and that her son could be taken away from her. (Id. at 14:20-25). Eventually Carter told Lally and the other detective interviewing her that she knew the offender to be named Anthony and go by the nickname “Killer.” (Id. at 17:13-20; 18:8-14). However, she testified that she did not, in fact, know “Killer” to be the offender, but just gave that name because she wanted to go home and was in heroin withdrawal. (Id. at 17:21-18:7). The detectives did not create a General Progress Report (“GPR”) of this interaction with Carter. (Dkt. 103, 21:1-4).

         Carter was brought back to meet with Detectives Lally and Gillespie at a separate time and was presented with a photo array of individuals. (Dkt. 105, 19:10-23); (Dkt. 104, 60:10-12); (Dkt. 103, 30:9-18). Carter testified that when Detective Lally handed her the photo array, a single photograph-that of Plaintiff-was already circled. (Id. at 21:1-8). When he took the witness stand, Detective Lally testified that Carter, not he, circled the photograph of Plaintiff. (Dkt. 104, 165:2-9). She further testified that Detective Lally told her that “this was him and to initial it, ” which she did. (Dkt. 105, 21: 13-5; 22:3-7). The photograph she initialed next to was of Plaintiff. (Dkt. 104, 63:17-20). Detective Lally testified that the Chicago Police database did not recognize the nickname “Killer” to be associated with Plaintiff, but rather “Crip” (short for cripple) and “Slim.” (Id. at 65:6-23). That same day, Detectives Lally and Gillespie showed Mahagony Lewis a photo array which included Plaintiff, but she was unable to identify any of the individuals as the offender. (Id. at 80:19-81:2); (Dkt. 103, 34:1-13). Detectives Lally and Gillespie conceded that Chicago Police Department procedures required they complete a report every time an individual is shown a photo array and that their failure to do so was in violation of that rule. (Dkt. 104, 177:16-178:5); (Dkt. 103, 34:19-35:8).

         Carter testified she was brought back to the station on February 16, 2014, to meet with Detective Lally and observe a physical lineup. (Dkt. 105, 23:3-10). This time, Carter testified that Detective Lally picked her up and gave her “some money to go get [her] drugs” before viewing the lineup. (Id. at 23:15-24:12). Prior to entering the observation room, a detective showed Carter a picture of Plaintiff and was told by Detective Lally to make sure she picks the right person. (Id. at 25:3-14; 26:1-2; 28:21-23). Carter was unable to identify the specific detective who showed her the picture, but did note that Detective Lally was with that detective at the time. (Id. at 25:15-22). Detective Lally denied that he showed Carter a single photograph of Plaintiff before she entered the lineup room. (Dkt. 104, 186:13-16). Once in the lineup room, Carter identified Plaintiff “because that was the picture that [she] saw before [she] walked in.” (Dkt. 104, 31:11-14). Detective Lally testified on direct examination that no GPR was created for any interaction with Monica Carter even though nearly every other person interviewed was the subject of a GPR. (Dkt. 104, 47:14-19). Later in the investigation, Carter would go on to identify Plaintiff as the shooter at the grand jury because that is “who [she] was told to say in the beginning” and she was on drugs and did not care about the repercussions. (Dkt. 105, 33:20-34:1). On the same day, Lewis viewed a physical lineup with Detective Gillespie present. (Dkt. 103, 58:2-9). Ultimately, Lewis identified Plaintiff as “the person who shot John Serpe.” (Id. at 59:8-12).

         The Court heard testimony from Reginald Riley[2], Tucker, and Carter regarding the February 16, 2014, physical lineups. Riley testified that he was picked up by police officers on the morning of February 16 and eventually told he would be participating in a physical lineup. Riley noted that he was one of five men, including Plaintiff, in the lineup and that when they entered the lineup room, they were each given assigned seats. At a certain point during the lineup, Riley testified that the men were instructed to stand up and while the rest were standing shoulder to shoulder, Plaintiff was told to stand apart from the remaining four. Riley told the jury that this occurred during both of the physical lineups that day. Plaintiff similarly told the jury that he was specifically instructed where to sit in the lineup room and that when it was time for all the individuals to stand, he was made to stand separate and apart from the remaining individuals during both lineups. To the contrary, Carter, who viewed the physical lineup which included Riley and Plaintiff, testified that all the men in the lineup were standing shoulder-to-shoulder. (Dkt. 105, 89:25-90:1).

         At no time during the investigation did the detectives attempt to obtain a search warrant for the residence where Plaintiff was arrested to search for a firearm or other evidence. (Dkt. 104, 11:7-12). However, Detective Lally did return to the Lloyd residence, the location Plaintiff was arrested, the day following Plaintiff's arrest. (Id. at 195:1-4). While there, Detective Lally spoke with Annie Lloyd, Marvin Lloyd, and Maurice Lloyd. (Id. at 195:13-18). Notably, Maurice Lloyd testified that he told Detective Lally on February 17, 2014, that Plaintiff was at the residence from the night of February 8, 2014 through the morning of February 9, 2014-the pertinent time frame of the Serpe murder. While on direct testimony, Plaintiff himself testified that he was at the Lloyd residence the entire night and into the morning. Detective Lally, testified that Maurice Lloyd instead told him that he could not remember one way or another whether Plaintiff was there. (Dkt. 104, 115:11-21). Because of this, Detective Lally only took statements and composed a GPR for Marvin Lloyd and Annie Lloyd. (Id. at 117:1-19). The report reflected that Marvin and Annie told Detective Lally that Plaintiff was not present at the time in question. (Id. at 121:10-15).

         Detective Lally testified that throughout the entirety of the investigation, he never found any forensic or scientific evidence connecting Plaintiff to the scene of the crime. (Dkt. 104, 8:12-25).


         Entering judgment as a matter of law is appropriate only if “a party has been fully heard on an issue during a jury trial [and] …a reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the party on that issue.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a)(1); see Thorne v. Member Select Ins. Co.,882 F.3d 642, 644 (7th Cir. 2018). In evaluating a Rule 50 motion, the court must “give the nonmovant ‘the benefit of every inference' while refraining from weighing … the credibility of evidence and testimony.” Ruiz-Cortez v. City of Chicago,931 F.3d 592, 601 (7th Cir. 2019) (quoting Equal Employment Opportunity Comm'n v. Costco Wholesale Corp.,903 F.3d 618, 621 (7th Cir. 2018)). The court views all evidence in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Id. Only then, if the court finds that “no rational jury could have found for the nonmovant” may the court grant a Rule 50 motion. Id. In this posture the court's ...

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