Coleman v. City of Peoria, 052419 FED7, 18-1742

Docket Nº:18-1742
Party Name:Christopher Coleman, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. City of Peoria, Illinois, et al., Defendants-Appellees.
Judge Panel:Before Ripple, Manion, and Brennan, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:May 24, 2019
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

Christopher Coleman, Plaintiff-Appellant,


City of Peoria, Illinois, et al., Defendants-Appellees.

No. 18-1742

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

May 24, 2019

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois. No. l:15-cv-01100-SLD-TSH - SaraDarrow, Chief Judge.

Argued February 22, 2019

Before Ripple, Manion, and Brennan, Circuit Judges.


Almost twenty-five years ago, a jury convicted Christopher Coleman of armed robbery, home invasion, residential burglary, and aggravated sexual assault. Three witnesses linked Coleman to the crimes, and their identifications were the key evidence leading to his conviction. The court sentenced Coleman to sixty years' imprisonment.

Fifteen years later, a group of men came forward claiming they were responsible for the crimes. Based on this new evidence, the Illinois Supreme Court ultimately vacated Coleman's convictions and remanded for retrial. People v. Coleman, 996 N.E.2d 617 (111. 2013). Rather than retry the case, the prosecution decided to drop it. After nineteen years behind bars, Coleman was released in 2013, and a later judicial order certified his innocence.

Coleman has now sued the City of Peoria and four police officers-Patrick Rabe, 1 Terry Pyart, Timothy Anderson, and Michael Ford-accusing them of constitutional violations and state torts. Specifically, Coleman contends defendants elicited a false statement from an alleged accomplice through coercive interrogation techniques, employed improper and unduly suggestive identification procedures, and suppressed impeachment evidence. After three years of civil litigation, the district court granted defendants summary judgment on Coleman's federal claims and state law malicious prosecution claim, and it relinquished supplemental jurisdiction over his remaining state law claims.

We agree with the district court's summary judgment decision and affirm. Coleman failed to present evidence supporting a reasonable inference that defendants knowingly fabricated false evidence, caused unreliable eyewitness identifications to taint his criminal trial, withheld material evidence, or arrested him without probable cause.

I. Background

The parties agree on many basic facts, but they vigorously dispute a few key points and the inferences to be drawn from undisputed evidence. Because this appeal comes to us on summary judgment, we review all evidence in the light most favorable to Coleman and give him the benefit of all reasonable inferences. See Cairel v. Alderden, 821 F.3d 823, 830 (7th Cir. 2016).

A. The Home Invasions

During August 1994, the Peoria Police Department investigated a series of home invasions with a similar modus operandi. The early morning hours of August 22 were especially busy.

At approximately 2:10 a.m., Officer Douglas Theobald responded to a 911 call from Yolanda Buckley reporting a violent burglary. Buckley told the police that four men forced their way into her house, placed a pillowcase over her head, struck her with a gun, and ransacked her home, stealing money, a bike, and a stereo. She also claimed to have overheard her attackers discussing what to do next.

About thirty minutes later, a group of men broke into Bertha Miller's house, less than a half mile from Buckley's. Bertha lived with two of her sisters and her twin teenage daughters, Tequilla Miller and Tekelia Miller. The burglars entered via the kitchen window, wore bandanas over their faces, demanded money and drugs, and tore up the home looking for valuables to steal. They threatened the residents with handguns drawn, repeatedly hitting and kicking their victims. One of the invaders dragged Tekelia into a bathroom and raped her at gunpoint, within earshot of Bertha.

Eventually, one of Bertha's sisters reached a telephone upstairs and dialed 911. The first police officers arrived at approximately 3:10 a.m. A preteen boy acting as the criminals' lookout alerted them to the officers' arrival. Two men raced out the front door with the boy, while the rest retreated to the second story before jumping out a window one by one. The police apprehended Robert Nixon inside the house and James Coats after he jumped out the window, but the others escaped the scene.

B. Police Investigation

Detective Patrick Rabe arrived shortly after the first responding officers, at around 3:15 a.m. Rabe led the investigation into the Miller home invasion, which the police conducted separately from the investigation into the Buckley burglary.

While the events at the Miller home were unfolding, [2] Officer Theobald drove to the Warner Homes, a public housing development about five blocks away known for drug and gang-related activity. There, he arrested Coleman in connection with the Buckley crimes.3 Theobald failed to record Coleman's time of arrest in his report, contrary to department protocol.

Rabe took the Millers to the police station shortly after 4:00 a.m. Officers conducted witness interviews but did not show the victims any photographs or lineups during this early morning visit. Tequilla Miller told officers she recognized the perpetrators from her time living in the Warner Homes.

As Tequilla exited the station to go home, officers were escorting Coleman and Nixon down the same hallway. Seeing the two men (and in the presence of an unnamed officer), Tequilla announced, "Well, there goes two of them dudes that was at our house." Rabe was not in the hallway during the encounter, but Tequilla told him about it later that day.

Tequilla returned to the station around noon. Based on her earlier statement that she recognized the perpetrators from the Warner Homes, Rabe asked Sergeant Michael Ford and Officer Timothy Anderson for assistance. Ford and Anderson both worked a beat around the Warner Homes, and they offered names of possible suspects as Tequilla described the burglars. Rabe then showed Tequilla pictures of over one hundred possible offenders on a computer screen, as well as a stack of photographs of juveniles who officers suspected might have been the lookout she described.4 Tequilla picked out Coleman as one of the burglars and identified a 12-year-old boy named Anthony Brooks as the lookout.

Officers brought Brooks down to the station later that afternoon, and Rabe questioned him without an attorney or parent present. Brooks initially denied any involvement with the Miller home invasion. Rabe told Brooks he did not believe him, informed Brooks that a witness had already identified him, showed him a photograph of Coleman, and told Brooks he would spend the rest of his life in prison and never see his family again if he did not incriminate Coleman.5 Eventually, Brooks confessed to committing the crimes with Coleman and four other individuals.

Shortly thereafter, Tequilla Miller returned to the police station for the third time that day, where she viewed a four-person lineup. Officers told Tequilla, "We are not going to tell you who to pick. ... Go in there and just pick out whoever you saw in the photos, you know, if those are the people. ... One of these people is the person you picked out in the photo, the rest are volunteers. ... Pick out the person that you think was the one." Coleman was in the lineup, as were three inmates from the Peoria County Jail who each wore identical yellow wristbands. Coleman did not wear such a wristband. Tequilla identified Coleman as one of her assailants.

C. Grand Jury Testimony

On September 13, 1994, a grand jury convened to decide whether to indict Coleman. Bertha Miller took the stand to describe the crimes to the grand jury. When asked if she knew any of the burglars, Bertha testified, "I know Chris Coleman from a little kid, but I didn't know at the time that was him." Tequilla Miller stated she recognized one of the men, who she named as "Robert Nicker son"-Tequilla did not mention Coleman. Anthony Brooks did not testify before the grand jury.

Rabe did testify, summarizing how Coleman was identified and arrested: We later, through photographs and speaking with other police officers who were familiar with these guys, came up with the names of Chris Coleman, Elbert Nickerson, one still at large by the name of Roberson ..., and a juvenile by the name of Anthony Brooks. What we did was put together photograph line-ups of these subjects. We showed 'em to the Millers, they were identified.

We went out, we arrested them. We brought them in and we placed them in an in-person line-up with black males of similar age, height, and weight. Coats, Nixon, Coleman, Nickerson, were all positively identified in those line-ups as being the subjects who had broken into their house and robbed them on that evening.

The grand jury indicted Coleman on...

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