893 F.3d 504 (8th Cir. 2018), 16-4059, Dean v. Searcey
|Citation:||893 F.3d 504|
|Opinion Judge:||SHEPHERD, Circuit Judge.|
|Party Name:||James L. DEAN; Lois P. White, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Joseph White, deceased; v. Burdette SEARCEY, Dep., in his official and individual capacities; Wayne R. Price, PhD., in his official and individual capacities; County of Gage, Nebraska, a Nebraska political subdivision, Defendants-Appellants Ryan L. Timmerman, Personal ...|
|Attorney:||Counsel who presented argument on behalf of the appellants was Melanie J. Whittamore-Mantzios, of Lincoln, NE. The following attorneys appeared on the appellant brief; Jennifer M. Tomka, of Lincoln, NE., Elizabeth Ryan Cano, of Lincoln, NE., Patrick T. OBrien, of Lincoln, NE. Counsel who present...|
|Judge Panel:||Before BENTON, SHEPHERD, and KELLY, Circuit Judges.|
|Case Date:||June 11, 2018|
|Court:||United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit|
Submitted: November 16, 2017
Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc Denied July 17, 2018
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Appeal from United States District Court for the District of Nebraska— Lincoln, Honorable Richard G. Kopf
Counsel who presented argument on behalf of the appellants was Melanie J. Whittamore-Mantzios, of Lincoln, NE. The following attorneys appeared on the appellant brief; Jennifer M. Tomka, of Lincoln, NE., Elizabeth Ryan Cano, of Lincoln, NE., Patrick T. OBrien, of Lincoln, NE.
Counsel who presented argument on behalf of the appellees was Jeffry D. Patterson, of Lincoln, NE.
The following attorneys appeared on the appellee brief of White, Gonzalez, Winslow, and Taylor; Robert F. Bartle, of Lincoln, NE., Douglas J. Stratton, of Norfolk, NE.
The following attorney appeared on the appellee brief of Dean; Herbert J. Friedman, of Lincoln, NE.
The following attorneys appeared on the appellee brief of Shelden; Maren Lynn Chaloupka, of Scottsbluff, NE., Matthew Kosmicki, of Lincoln, NE.
The following attorneys appeared on the amicus brief of the Nebraska Intergovernmental Risk Management Association, the Nebraska Association of County Officials, and the Nebraska Sheriffs Association; David J.A. Bargen, of Lincoln, NE., Sheila A. Bentzen, of Lincoln, NE.
The following attorney appeared on the amicus brief of the International Municipal Lawyers Associations and the National Sheriffs Association; Lanny Dwight Richmond, II, of North Little Rock, AR.
The following attorney appeared on the amicus brief if the ACLU of Nebraska; Amy Anne Miller, of Lincoln, NE.
Before BENTON, SHEPHERD, and KELLY, Circuit Judges.
SHEPHERD, Circuit Judge.
This case is familiar to us, as it is to Nebraskans and much of the nation. It returns after three prior opinions by this Court, two trials, and, now, one jury verdict that is contested on this appeal. We are asked here, in large part, to sweep the pieces off the board— to overturn our prior rulings— in order to vacate the jurys verdict. We decline to do so. And, after careful examination of the remaining claims on appeal, we find no other reason to disturb the verdict or rulings by the district court.1 Thus, we affirm.
The underlying facts in this case have been discussed at length in past appeals. See Winslow v. Smith, 696 F.3d 716 (8th Cir. 2012); White v. Smith, 696 F.3d 740 (8th Cir. 2012); Dean v. Cty. of Gage, 807 F.3d 931 (8th Cir. 2015), cert. denied, __ U.S. __, 136 S.Ct. 2490, 195 L.Ed.2d 823 (2016). We provide a brief procedural summary to orient our discussion.
Appellees are six individuals— Joseph White, Ada JoAnn Taylor, Thomas Winslow, Debra Shelden, Kathleen Gonzalez, and James Dean— who were arrested for the gruesome February 1985 rape and murder of Helen Wilson in Beatrice, Nebraska.2 All pled guilty to various charges in relation to the crime with the exception of Joseph White— he went to trial and was convicted for first-degree felony murder. Shelden, Gonzalez, and Dean served around five years; the rest served nearly twenty years.3 Appellees were exonerated by DNA evidence in 2008, and the State of Nebraska formally pardoned them in 2009. That same year, they filed this lawsuit on the grounds that their deprivations of liberty were preventable: they argued that their arrests and imprisonment were the result of a reckless investigation, manufactured false evidence, and coerced confessions. They assert claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as parallel conspiracy claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1985, against Gage County (where Beatrice is located) and three individuals in the Gage Countys Sheriff Department— Sheriff Jerry DeWitt, Deputy Burdette Searcey, and Deputy Wayne Price.4
On prior appeals, we narrowed the scope of Appellees claims against Sheriff DeWitt and Deputies Searcey and Price to reckless investigation, manufacture of false evidence, and conspiracy. We also found that the officials were not entitled to qualified immunity. The case then proceeded to trial where it initially ended in a mistrial. After that, the district court, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b), certified its rulings on county liability and the conspiracy claims for appellate review. We reversed the district court on both claims, finding that Gage County could be liable for acts committed under policies instituted by Sheriff DeWitt, as county sheriff, and that the conspiracy claims could go forward.5
Appellees once again proceeded to trial after three interlocutory opinions from this Court. This time the trial ended in a verdict and awards for each of the Appellees totaling approximately $28.1 million. The verdict is summarized in the chart below:
|Searcey (Reckless Investigation)||Dean||White||Gonzalez||Winslow||Taylor||Shelden|
|Price (Reckless Investigation)||Dean||Price||Price||Price||Taylor||Shelden|
|DeWitt (Reckless Investigation)||DeWitt||DeWitt||DeWitt||DeWitt||DeWitt||DeWitt|
|Searcey (Manufactured Evidence)||Searcey||White||Gonzalez||Winslow||Taylor||Searcey|
|Price (Manufactured Evidence)||Dean||White||Gonzalez||Price||Price||Shelden|
|DeWitt (Manufactured Evidence)||DeWitt||DeWitt||DeWitt||DeWitt||DeWitt||DeWitt|
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