Beaman v. Freesmeyer

Decision Date07 February 2019
Docket NumberDocket No. 122654
Parties Alan BEAMAN, Appellant, v. Tim FREESMEYER et al., Appellees.
CourtIllinois Supreme Court

David M. Shapiro and Locke E. Bowman, of Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center, and Jeffrey Urdangen, of Bluhm Legal Clinic, both of Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, of Chicago, for appellant.

Thomas G. DiCianni and Lucy B. Bednarek, of Ancel Glink Diamond Bush DiCianni & Krafthefer, P.C., of Chicago, for appellees.

Arthur Loevy, Jon Loevy, and Steven Art, of Loevy & Loevy, of Chicago, for amici curiae former prosecutors Stuart Chanen et al.

E. King Poor, James I. Kaplan, Thomas J. McDonell, and An Nguyen, of Quarles & Brady LLP, of Chicago, for amicus curiae the Innocence Network.

Tamara L. Cummings, of Western Springs, Bruce Bialorucki, of Springfield, Dan Hassinger, of Decatur, and Pasquale A. Fioretto, of Baum Sigman Auerbach & Neuman Ltd., of Chicago, for amici curiae Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council et al.

Edward N. Siskel, Corporation Counsel, of Chicago (Benna Ruth Solomon, Myriam Zreczny Kasper, and Kerrie Maloney Laytin, Assistant Corporation Counsel, of counsel), Patrick W. Hayes and John Milhiser, both of Springfield, Donald B. Leist, Corporation Counsel, of Peoria, Lee Roupas, of Wheaton, and Margo Ely, of Westchester, amici curiae.

JUSTICE KILBRIDE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

¶ 1 The issue presented in this appeal is the proper test to satisfy the "commencement or continuance" prong of the tort of malicious prosecution. In 2008, this court reversed plaintiff Alan Beaman's conviction for the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Jennifer Lockmiller. People v. Beaman , 229 Ill. 2d 56, 82, 321 Ill.Dec. 778, 890 N.E.2d 500 (2008). We concluded that the State violated his constitutional right to due process under Brady v. Maryland , 373 U.S. 83, 83 S.Ct. 1194, 10 L.Ed.2d 215 (1963), when it failed to disclose material and exculpatory information about a viable alternative suspect. Beaman , 229 Ill. 2d at 81, 321 Ill.Dec. 778, 890 N.E.2d 500.

¶ 2 Beaman initiated this action, alleging defendants, Tim Freesmeyer, Dave Warner, and Frank Zayas, former officers with the Normal Police Department, acted maliciously in investigating him and aiding in his prosecution. Beaman asserted claims of malicious prosecution, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and conspiracy against those individual defendants. Beaman sought damages from defendant, the Town of Normal, on theories of respondeat superior and indemnification. The circuit court of McLean County granted defendants' motion for summary judgment, finding no genuine issue of material fact as to Beaman's claims of malicious prosecution. The appellate court affirmed. 2017 IL App (4th) 160527, 415 Ill.Dec. 296, 82 N.E.3d 241. For the following reasons, we reverse and remand to the appellate court for further proceedings.


¶ 4 On August 28, 1993, 21-year-old Jennifer Lockmiller, a student at Illinois State University, was found dead in her apartment in Normal, Illinois. A number of police officers from the Normal Police Department were involved in investigating Lockmiller's death. Those officers included defendants, Detective Tim Freesmeyer, Detective Dave Warner, and Lieutenant Frank Zayas. Freesmeyer served as the principal detective in the investigation. Warner's role included serving as an evidence custodian and investigating one of the suspects, Stacey Gates. Zayas supervised Detective Freesmeyer and Detective Warner in the Lockmiller investigation until he retired in November 1994. Other individuals involved in the Lockmiller murder investigation included McLean County State's Attorney Charles Reynard and Assistant State's Attorney James Souk. Souk acted as the lead prosecutor in Beaman's criminal prosecution.

¶ 5 The murder investigation only focused on individuals Lockmiller knew. Police questioned Lockmiller's then-boyfriend, Michael Swaine, as well as former boyfriends, including Beaman, Stacey Gates, and Larbi John Murray.

¶ 6 A meeting was held on May 16, 1994, to determine whether to arrest Beaman for Lockmiller's murder. Those in attendance included State's Attorney Reynard, Assistant State's Attorney Souk, Freesmeyer, Zayas, Normal Chief of Police James Taylor, and Detective Tony Daniels. During the meeting, Reynard decided to charge Beaman. Souk agreed. At his deposition in this case, Daniels testified he suggested a list of investigative avenues to pursue before arresting Beaman. Souk responded, "I think we've got our guy," and stated, "we went as far as we can with this case." Souk said they were going to issue a warrant for Beaman's arrest.

¶ 7 Prior to trial, the State filed a motion in limine to exclude evidence of Lockmiller's relationships with men other than Beaman and Swaine. The State argued that Beaman should not be allowed to offer alternative-suspect evidence unless he could establish it was not remote or speculative. The prosecutor informed the court that the State did not possess nonspeculative evidence of a third-party suspect. The trial court reserved ruling on the motion.

¶ 8 Later, the State and Beaman's defense counsel discussed Lockmiller's relationship with an individual identified as "John Doe," namely, Larbi John Murray. Souk told the court Doe had "nothing to do with the case." Souk did not disclose to Beaman's trial counsel Murray's criminal records that exposed his drug and steroid use and incidents of domestic violence against a subsequent girlfriend, nor did Souk disclose his incomplete polygraph examination. Beaman's trial counsel had no specific evidence pointing to another individual who could have committed the offense. The trial court granted the State's motion in limine .

¶ 9 At trial, the State argued that all of the other possible suspects were excluded due to alibis:

"Did we look at Mr. Swaine? You bet we did. Did we look at [Gates]? You bet we did. Did we look at a lot of people and interview a lot of witnesses? You bet we did. And guess who sits in the courtroom * * * with the gap in his alibi still unclosed even after all this?"

¶ 10 The jury found Beaman guilty of first degree murder. He was sentenced to 50 years of imprisonment. Beaman's conviction was affirmed on appeal. People v. Beaman , 279 Ill. App. 3d 1115, 233 Ill.Dec. 723, 701 N.E.2d 573 (1996) (table) (unpublished order under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 23 ).

¶ 11 In April 1997, Beaman filed a petition for postconviction relief. Beaman alleged, in part, that the State violated his right to due process by failing to disclose material information on Murray's viability as a suspect. An evidentiary hearing was held on Beaman's petition. After the hearing, the circuit court denied Beaman's postconviction petition. The appellate court affirmed. People v. Beaman , 368 Ill. App. 3d 759, 306 Ill.Dec. 633, 858 N.E.2d 78 (2006).

¶ 12 In 2008, this court found the State violated Beaman's constitutional right to due process of law when it failed to disclose the evidence related to Murray and reversed the circuit court order denying Beaman's postconviction petition. Beaman , 229 Ill. 2d at 81-82, 321 Ill.Dec. 778, 890 N.E.2d 500. In that appeal, we summarized the undisclosed evidence as consisting of four points: "(1) [Murray] failed to complete the polygraph examination; (2) [Murray] was charged with domestic battery and possession of marijuana with intent to deliver prior to [Beaman's] trial; (3) [Murray] had physically abused his girlfriend on numerous prior occasions; and (4) [Murray's] use of steroids had caused him to act erratically." Beaman , 229 Ill. 2d at 74, 321 Ill.Dec. 778, 890 N.E.2d 500. We concluded that the State's case against Beaman was "tenuous" and that the evidence withheld by the State was favorable to Beaman because it supported Murray's viability as an alternative suspect. Beaman , 229 Ill. 2d at 77-78, 321 Ill.Dec. 778, 890 N.E.2d 500. We determined that "[w]e cannot have confidence in the verdict finding [Beaman] guilty of this crime given the tenuous nature of the circumstantial evidence against him, along with the nondisclosure of critical evidence that would have countered the State's argument that all other potential suspects had been eliminated from consideration." Beaman , 229 Ill. 2d at 81, 321 Ill.Dec. 778, 890 N.E.2d 500. We vacated Beaman's conviction and remanded the case to the circuit court for further proceedings. Beaman , 229 Ill. 2d at 82, 321 Ill.Dec. 778, 890 N.E.2d 500.

¶ 13 On remand, the State declined to reprosecute Beaman and dismissed the charges against him. Beaman was released from prison in June 2008. In April 2013, the State of Illinois certified his innocence. On January 9, 2015, Governor Pat Quinn pardoned Beaman "based upon innocence as if no conviction."

¶ 14 In January 2010, Beaman filed a federal section 1983 ( 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (2006) ) civil suit against defendants Freesmeyer, Warner, and Zayas, as well as against Souk, Reynard, and other detectives. Beaman alleged three federal claims: (1) defendants acting individually and in conspiracy withheld exculpatory evidence in violation of Brady (individual liability), (2) defendants conspired to deprive Beaman of exculpatory evidence (conspiracy liability), and (3) defendants failed to intervene to prevent the violation of his rights. Beaman included state law claims for malicious prosecution, civil conspiracy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress against the Town of Normal.

¶ 15 The district court dismissed claims against Souk and Reynard based on absolute or qualified immunity. The claims against the other detectives, who are not named defendants in this case, were voluntarily dismissed after discovery revealed they were not involved in the suppression of evidence. The district court granted summary judgment on the federal claims to the remaining defendants, Freesmeyer, Warner, and Zayas. Beaman v. Souk , 7...

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