470 F.3d 1104 (5th Cir. 2006), 05-30541, Kohler v. Englade

Docket Nº:05-30541.
Citation:470 F.3d 1104
Party Name:Shannon KOHLER, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Pat ENGLADE; Elmer Litchfield; Christopher Johnson; City of Baton Rouge; Parish of East Baton Rouge, Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:November 21, 2006
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

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470 F.3d 1104 (5th Cir. 2006)

Shannon KOHLER, Plaintiff-Appellant,


Pat ENGLADE; Elmer Litchfield; Christopher Johnson; City of Baton Rouge; Parish of East Baton Rouge, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 05-30541.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.

November 21, 2006

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Dennis R. Whalen (argued), Baton Rouge, LA, for Kohler.

James Leslie Hilburn (argued), Baton Rouge, LA, for Defendants-Appellees.

Marc S. Rotenberg (argued), Marcia Hofmann, Elec. Info. Ctr., Washington, DC, for Elec. Privacy Info. Ctr., Amicus Curiae.

Appeal from the United States District Court For the Middle District of Louisiana.

Before GARZA, DeMOSS and STEWART, Circuit Judges.

EMILIO M. GARZA, Circuit Judge:

Plaintiff-Appellant Shannon Kohler ("Kohler") appeals from the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendants-Appellees Detective Christopher Johnson ("Detective Johnson"), Baton Rouge Police Chief Pat Englade ("Chief Englade"), and the City of Baton Rouge (the "City") (collectively, "Defendants") on Kohler's claims for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The issue on appeal is whether Kohler's constitutional rights were violated by the seizure of his DNA.


This case arises out of a massive law enforcement search for a serial killer who terrorized south Louisiana beginning in 2001. Over the span of a year, three women were brutally raped and murdered in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. From DNA evidence left at the crime scenes, analysts with the Louisiana State Police Crime Lab were able to link all three murders to the same, then-unknown male perpetrator.1

As part of the investigation into the serial killer's identity, agents with the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) created a Criminal Investigative Analysis, or "profile," which identified certain behaviors

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and personality traits of the perpetrator. In addition to providing a behavioral and psychological analysis of the perpetrator, the profile suggested that the perpetrator would likely be between 25 and 35 years of age, employed in a job that required physical strength, and financially insecure. Based on a bloody footprint left at one of the crime scenes, the profile also indicated that the perpetrator wore a size 10 to 11 shoe.

To coordinate the work being done by the FBI with the efforts of state and local authorities, the Cit y formed the Multi-Agency Homicide Task Force (the "Task Force"). The Task Force, hoping to generate leads on the serial killer's identity, released the FBI profile to the public and established a "tip line," which received over 5,000 tips concerning possible suspects. After analyzing the tips, Task Force investigators contacted more than 600 men, including Kohler, in an effort to collect oral saliva swabs for DNA comparison.

The Task Force received anonymous tips from two different individuals indicating that Kohler was "a possible person who needed to be checked." Detective Johnson and other Task Force investigators conducted a background check and learned that Kohler had been convicted of burglary in 1982. They also learned that Kohler was currently unemployed, was last employed as a welder for a fabrication company headquartered on Old Perkins Road with a secondary shop on Choctaw Drive)) the Baton Rouge road where investigators had discovered a cell phone taken from one of the victims. Further, they learned that Kohler had worked for another company located off Choctaw Drive 10 or 11 years earlier. When contacted by Task Force officer D. Hamilton ("Officer Hamilton") and asked to give voluntarily a saliva swab for his DNA, Kohler initially agreed but changed his mind when Officer Hamilton arrived at his home. According to Kohler, Officer Hamilton informed him that the Task Force had received two anonymous tips naming him as a person who should be checked but provided no reason as to why he was a suspect. Aware of media reports that the perpetrator had left a size 10 or 11 footprint at one of the murder scenes, Kohler told Officer Hamilton that he had size 13 feet and was wearing size 14 work boots. Kohler also volunteered that he had received a full pardon for his burglary conviction in 1996 and that investigators could check his work records for his whereabouts on the dates of the three murders. When Kohler continued to refuse Officer Hamilton's requests for a DNA swab, Officer Hamilton stated that if officers had to get a court order for his DNA it would go in the public records and Kohler "could get [his] name in the papers." Despite perceiving this statement to be a threat, Kohler declined to provide a DNA swab.

Shortly thereafter, Detective Johnson contacted Kohler and stated that he was taking over for Officer Hamilt on. Detective Johnson again requested that Kohler voluntarily provide a DNA sample. When Kohler refused, Detective Johnson prepared an "Affidavit for Seizure Warrant," which he submitted to Judge Richard Anderson of the Louisiana Nineteenth Judicial District Court for his signature. Upon being served with the signed warrant by Detective Johnson, Kohler submitted to an oral saliva swab. Detective Johnson then filed the affidavit, the warrant, and the warrant return in the public records of the Clerk of Court for the Nineteenth Judicial District Court. Within a day, Kohler was identified by the media as a suspect in the serial killer investigation who was refusing to cooperate with police. Not until two months later did Kohler learn from a local newspaper that he had

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been cleared as a suspect because his DNA was not a match to that of the serial killer.

Kohler brought suit against Detective Johnson, Chief Englade, the City, the Parish of East Baton Rouge, and East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Elmer Litchfield, 2 asserting that the taking of his DNA violated his rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 5 of the Louisiana Constitution. In his Complaint, Kohler alleged that the affidavit submitted by Detective Johnson to procure the seizure warrant did not provide probable cause to believe that Kohler was the serial killer and concealed from Judge Anderson exculpatory facts, namely, that Kohler was pardoned for his burglary conviction, that he had not worked in the area where the victim's cell phone was found for over a decade, and that he could not have made the bloody footprint left at the crime scene. Accordingly, Kohler sought damages and the expungement of his DNA profile from any place where it had been stored.

Detective Johnson, Chief Englade, and the Citymoved for summary judgment on the grounds that: (1) Detective Johnson did not violate Kohler's constitutional rights because he acted pursuant to a seizure warrant and the information he omitted from the warrant affidavit was not material to a finding of probable cause;3 (2) Chief Englade could not be held liable under § 1983 because he was not personally involved in obtaining the seizure warrant and there was no causal connection between his acts and any constitutional violation; and (3) the City could not be held liable under § 1983 because there was no evidence linking the alleged constitutional violation to any policy, practice, or custom of the City. Kohler responded that the warrant affidavit did not set forth probable cause to believe he was the serial killer and was so deficient that no reasonable officer would have submitted it to a magistrate; that the warrant affidavit omitted key facts; and that Chief Englade could be held liable for the constitutional violation because he failed to supervise Detective Johnson.

The district court found that the facts within Detective Johnson's knowledge, including the FBI profile, were sufficient to support a finding of probable cause. The court further found that even if the warrant affidavit had included the omitted facts, there was still probable cause sufficient to obtain a warrant for Kohler's DNA. With respect to Kohler's claims against Chief Englade and the City, the court found that there was no evidence that the alleged constitutional violation was caused by any conduct on the part of Chief Englade or any policy or custom of the City. Accordingly, the court granted Defendants' motion for summary judgment and dismissed all of Kohler's claims. Kohler then filed a motion for a new trial or an amendment of the judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59, which the district court denied.


We review the district court's grant of summary judgment de novo, applying the

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same legal standard as the district court. Rivera v. Houston Indep. Sch. Dist., 349 F.3d 244, 246...

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