Brown v. City of Chicago

Decision Date30 September 2022
Docket Number18 C 7064
PartiesARTHUR BROWN, Plaintiff, v. CITY OF CHICAGO, Kimberly Campbell as Special Representative for the Estate of JOSEPH CAMPBELL, Diane Romza-Kutz as Special Representative for the Estate of DAVID KUTZ, and Frank W. Fine as Special Administrator for the Estate of JOSEPH D. FINE, Former Assistant State's Attorney JOEL WHITEHOUSE, and other as-yet unidentified employees of the City of Chicago, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Illinois


Arthur Brown spent nearly 30 years in prison for a crime he insists he did not commit. Years after being convicted and sentenced on arson and murder charges, Mr. Brown filed a successful petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that trial witnesses offered perjured testimony and that Mr. Brown was denied the effective assistance of counsel at trial. The State chose not to re-try Mr. Brown, who then obtained a Certificate of Innocence and was released from prison on November 14, 2017.[1]

Within a year of his release, Mr. Brown filed this action against the City of Chicago; former Chicago Police Officers Joseph Campbell, David Kutz, and Joseph Fine; former Assistant State's Attorney Joel Whitehouse; and other unidentified City employees, alleging that officers coerced a confession manufactured false evidence, and otherwise violated his rights under the Constitution. This court granted Defendants' motions to dismiss certain counts, but several of Plaintiff's claims survived the motions, including a claim that the Individual Defendants fabricated evidence against him and that Defendants Fine, Campbell, and Whitehouse engaged in physical and psychological abuse to coerce his confession and ultimately secure his conviction. Mr. Brown brings claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging evidence fabrication compulsory self-incrimination, and malicious prosecution; under 42 U.S.C. § 1985, alleging that the Individual Defendants conspired to deprive him of his constitutional rights; and 42 U.S.C. § 1986, alleging that the Individual Defendants failed to intervene to stop the violation of his constitutional rights. Mr. Brown also asserts state law claims against the Individual Defendants for malicious prosecution, intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”), and civil conspiracy. Finally, Mr. Brown charges that the City of Chicago is liable for the officers' conduct in violation of federal law under Monell v. Department of Social Services of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978), and for the officers' state law violations under principles of respondeat superior and indemnification.

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, all Defendants now move for summary judgment. For the reasons discussed below, the court grants in part and denies in part the Detective Defendants' motion [297], grants in part and denies in part ASA Whitehouse's motion [293], and grants the City's motion for summary judgment on the Monell claim [308].


I. The Parties
A. Plaintiff Arthur Brown

In May 1988, a fire destroyed the Magic Video store on Chicago's south side and killed two individuals asleep in a neighboring restaurant. In 1990, Plaintiff Arthur Brown was convicted on one count of arson and two counts of murder arising out of that incident. (EDSOF ¶ 2.) In 2003, following an evidentiary hearing, the Circuit Court of Cook County vacated his conviction and ordered a new trial (id. ¶ 86), at which Brown was again convicted. (Id. ¶ 2.) That conviction was vacated in 2017 on the basis of evidence that prosecutors had made a false statement during closing argument, to which Brown's trial counsel failed to object. (EDSOF ¶ 108; PSOAF ¶ 38.) The Cook County States Attorney's Office (CCSAO) initially took an appeal, but later chose not to pursue a third trial against Mr. Brown and dismissed the charges against him. (EDSOF ¶ 120.) Mr. Brown then sought and obtained a Certificate of Innocence (COI) from the Circuit Court of Cook County and was released from prison on November 14, 2017. (See PSOAF ¶ 44.) In 2018, Mr. Brown filed this lawsuit against the police officers who investigated the crimes for which he was convicted, the Assistant State's Attorney involved in the investigation, and the City of Chicago for its role in the violation of his rights. (See EDSOF ¶ 143.)

B. Detectives David Kutz, Joseph Fine, and Joseph Campbell

Detectives David Kutz, Joseph Fine, and Joseph Campbell (collectively referred to as “Detective Defendants or “Estate Defendants) are the police officers who were involved in investigating the crime for which Mr. Brown was convicted.[3] Detectives Kutz and Fine worked as detectives in Area 1 of the Chicago Police Department; Detective Campbell worked in the Bomb and Arson unit. (EDSOF ¶ 19.) Mr. Brown claims the Detective Defendants deprived him of his constitutional rights during the arson and murder investigation. (See Id. ¶ 143.) He also alleges they fabricated evidence that ultimately led to his conviction. (Id.) All three Detective Defendants are now deceased, and they are represented here by their estates. (See Estate Defs.' Mem. in Supp. of Summ. J. [299] at 1 n.1.)

C. Defendant Joel Whitehouse

Joel Whitehouse (“ASA Whitehouse”) worked as an Assistant State's Attorney (ASA) in the Felony Review unit of the Cook County State's Attorney's Office in 1988. (DWSOF ¶ 1.) Then, as now, the Felony Review unit was a cadre of Assistant State's Attorneys who were assigned to police districts to provide coverage 24 hours a day, seven days a week. (Id. ¶ 2.) When summoned from the Cook County Criminal Court building by police officers, the Felony Review office would assign an ASA to come to the station and assist police officers by preparing applications for search warrants and other court orders. (Id. ¶¶ 2, 6.) When called to the station for a particular case, the ASA would evaluate what evidence was available, determine whether it was legally obtained, and make a decision about whether the state should bring charges or the investigation should continue. (See Id. ¶ 3.)

D. City of Chicago

Defendant City of Chicago (“the City”) is an Illinois municipal corporation. (DCSOF ¶ 4.) In his Second Amended Complaint (SAC) [70], Mr. Brown alleges that the City's policies and practices directly caused violations of his constitutional rights. (SAC ¶¶ 98-103.) Specifically, he alleges that the City engages in policies and practices of (1) using physical and/or psychological abuse to coerce involuntary false confessions; (2) fabricating witness statements and other evidence; (3) threatening or otherwise manipulating witnesses to coerce false testimony; (4) filing false reports and testifying falsely in affidavits, depositions, or court proceedings; (5) committing perjury during criminal proceedings and failing to retain records of such misconduct; (6) withholding, destroying, covering up, or suppressing evidence of misconduct; (7) failing to properly document and retain records of false testimony and related internal investigations and disciplinary proceedings; (8) failing to implement adequate training, supervision, or disciplinary measures; and (9) perpetuating, encouraging, and condoning a “code of silence” on the part of police. (DCSOF ¶ 7.)

II. The Events of May 28, 1988
A. Undisputed Background Facts

On May 28, 1988, the Magic Video store stood on Chicago's south side at 420 East 63rd Street, adjacent to the King Chef restaurant. (See EDSOF ¶¶ 6-7.) Michael Harper (“Harper”) co-owned Magic Video with his mother. (Id. ¶ 17.) Mr. Brown, a general contractor who lived a few blocks from the strip mall, had previously done construction and repair work for shops in the strip mall, including at Magic Video, where he had installed burglar bars on the front and back of the store. (PSOAF ¶¶ 1, 3.)

Around 5:00 a.m. on May 28, 1988, a fire, intentionally set with an accelerant, ignited inside Magic Video while two people, Kiert Phophairat and Pismai Panichkarn, lay sleeping in the King Chef restaurant next door. (See EDSOF ¶¶ 5-6.) Overcome by the inhalation of smoke and soot, both Phophairat and Panichkarn died. (See Id. ¶¶ 8-9.)

While on routine patrol that morning, Chicago police officers Hester Scott and David Brown observed smoke coming from the Magic Video and headed to the scene. (Id. ¶ 10.) There, the officers spoke to an eyewitness, Sid Malone (“Malone”), who reported, among other details, that he had seen two men-whom he did not identify-exit a light-colored vehicle with license plates that read “GAS 403” and carry a gas can into Magic Video.[4] (See Id. ¶ 11-14.)

Also at the scene, another man approached Officer Brown and identified himself as Michael Harper, the owner of Magic Video. (Id. ¶ 16.) Harper told Officer Brown that, when Harper was last in his store at around 1:00 a.m., he had left the shop with Mr. Brown inside. (Id.; Dep. of Michael Harper, Ex. 18 to EDSOF [302-18] (hereinafter Harper Dep.) at 143:11-16.) Twenty to thirty minutes later, while still on the scene, Harper again approached Officer Brown, who directed him to speak with Officer Scott. (EDSOF ¶ 17; Officer Brown Tr. Test., Ex. 16 to EDSOF [302-16] at AB 706:14-24.) Officer Scott handed Harper a report number for the fire and explained how Harper could report the fire for insurance purposes. (EDSOF ¶ 17.) Harper-who was initially viewed as a victim, not as a suspect (Pl.'s Resp. to EDSOF [314] ¶ 18)-agreed to accompany Officers Brown and Scott to Area 1 police headquarters so they could collect additional information about the Magic Video fire. (See EDSOF ¶ 18.)

Harper arrived at Area 1 with Officers Scott and Brown between 7:30 and 8:00 a.m., at which...

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