Humbert v. Jones, CIVIL NO.: WDQ-11-0440

CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
Writing for the CourtWilliam D. Quarles, Jr. United States District Judge
PartiesMARLOW HUMBERT, Plaintiff, v. CHRISTOPHE JONES, et al., Defendants.
Docket NumberCIVIL NO.: WDQ-11-0440
Decision Date22 June 2015

CHRISTOPHE JONES, et al., Defendants.

CIVIL NO.: WDQ-11-0440


June 22, 2015


Marlow Humbert sued Christophe Jones, Caprice Smith, and Dominick Griffin (the "police defendants") for constitutional violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law claims. ECF No. 1. A jury trial was held from April 14, 2015 to April 20, 2015. Pending are (1) legal issues reserved for post-trial determination,1 (2) the police defendants' motions for judgment as a matter of law, or in the alternative, for a new trial and remittitur, and to strike Humbert's opposition, and (3) Humbert's motion for attorneys' fees. In light of the jury's findings about the Victim's identification of Humbert, his resemblance to the composite sketch, and the absence of actual malice, among others, the Court will determine that the police

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defendants have federal qualified immunity and are entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the state law claims; thus, judgment will be entered for the police defendants on all counts. Additionally, the police defendants' motion to strike will be denied, and Humbert's motion for attorneys' fees will be denied as moot.

I. Background2

This case arises from the April 30, 2008 rape of a woman3 in her home in Baltimore's Charles Village neighborhood, Humbert's arrest and pre-trial detention on rape charges, and his release--15 months later--when the assigned prosecutor, former Assistant State's Attorney Joakim Tam, chose to nolle prosequi the case.

According to trial testimony, on April 30, 2008, Griffin and Jones went to the Victim's home shortly after several police officers had arrived. Rough Trial Tr., Vol. II, 10:7-11. The

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Victim recalled describing her attacker as 5'7", African-American, late 30s to early 40s, and fairly well-spoken. Id., Vol. II, 10:16-21.4 After taking her statement, Jones and Griffin transported the Victim and her friend--Kirsten Pickup--to a hospital for a physical examination. Id., Vol. II, 10:25-11:9.5 She was then taken to the police station to provide a recorded statement. Id., Vol. II, 11:20-23.

On May 1, 2008, Griffin transported the Victim and Pickup to the police station to meet with Officer Michael Brassell, a sketch artist. Id., Vol. IV, 86:23-25, 87:14-16.6 The Victim testified that she was unhappy with the generic sketch initially produced by Brassell, so she worked with him to redraw parts of it so that it looked as close to her attacker as possible. Id.,

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Vol. II, 13:14-24, 45:13-22, 49:3-9. In particular, the Victim drew the attacker's nose, which she had described as one of his distinctive features. Id., Vol. II, 49:10-15. The Victim testified that she had been satisfied with the final composite sketch,7 and recognized it as the composite sketch on the wanted flyer. Id., Vol. II, 50:2-12.8

The Victim further testified that Jones and Griffin were present while she worked with Brassell, and, at some time, Jones had shown her a photograph of a man on his cellphone. Id., Vol. II, 13:23-24, 14:2-10.9 Griffin testified that he had been assisting officers to canvass the area while the Victim worked with the sketch artist. Id., Vol. IV, 87:6-8. Jones testified that he did not believe he had been present while the Victim worked with the sketch artist; instead, he recalled visiting a

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nearby school to review surveillance video. Id., Vol. I, 78:6-19. Jones testified that he did not recall showing the Victim a photograph on his cellphone. Id., Vol. I, 77:19-78:4. Investigative notes state that on May 1, 2008, the Victim had completed a composite sketch and that Jones and Griffin had reviewed surveillance video, but did not state when each event occurred. See Def. Trial Ex. 28.10

The composite sketch was reproduced on flyers and distributed in the area near the Victim's home. Rough Trial Tr., Vol. I, 152:6-10; Vol. II, 89:2-7.11 Smith testified that an officer stopped Humbert near the Victim's home and identified him as a suspect based on the Victim's physical description of her attacker and the composite sketch. Id., Vol. I, 150:1-16; Vol. IV, 35:8-13.12 The officer photographed Humbert; the

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picture was included in a photo book of possible suspects to show the Victim. Id., Vol. I, 150:16-19.

On May 8, 2008, Jones contacted the Victim about viewing photographs of potential suspects. Id., Vol. II, 20:11-16.13 About 20 minutes after the telephone call, Smith and Griffin arrived at the Victim's home and showed her photographs compiled from several leads--including Humbert's--and recently released offenders. Id., Vol. I, 147:11-17, 149:18-25.14

Smith testified that the Victim pointed at Humbert's photograph, stated "that's him" several times, and became

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visibly upset. Id., Vol. I, 154:1-8.15 The Victim, at Smith's request, finished reviewing the photos and then returned to Humbert's photograph, stating "that's him." Id., Vol. I, 154:4-6. Smith testified that she told the Victim to write, in her own words, who the person was; the Victim wrote "that's him" on the back of the photograph. Id., Vol. I, 154:10-13. Smith did not recall the Victim saying that she needed to see a physical lineup or hear Humbert's voice to make a positive identification. Id., Vol. I, 154:15-18.

Griffin testified that the Victim pushed the photo book away from her when she turned to the page with Humbert's photograph, stated "that's him," and started crying. Id., Vol. IV, 96:2-11. The Victim wrote "that's him" on the back of the photograph and signed her name. Id., Vol. IV, 97:10-15. Griffin did not recall the Victim saying that she wanted to see a physical lineup or hear Humbert's voice, or indicating doubt about the identification. Id., Vol. IV, 98:14-25. Jones testified that when Smith and Griffin returned to the car, they told him that the Victim had positively identified Humbert and had become emotional when she saw his photograph. Id., Vol. I, 86:11-24.

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The Victim testified that she became very upset when she turned to the second person in the book because he looked like the person in Jones's cellphone picture, and looked like the person who had raped her. Id., Vol. II, 21:3-12. She did not deny stating "that's him," and testified that Smith told her to write "that's him" on the back of Humbert's photograph. Id., Vol. II, 21:13-23, 61:3-5. She acknowledged signing her name above Humbert's photograph and on the back of the photograph. Id., Vol. II, 58:20-59:11; see also Def. Trial Ex. 9 at 5 (the Victim's signature above Humbert's photograph), at 6 (the Victim's handwritten statement--"that's him"--and signature, and Smith and Griffin's signatures, on the back of Humbert's photograph).16

The Victim further testified that she asked Smith and Griffin what would happen next, and told them that she needed to see Humbert in a lineup before she would be completely sure about her identification. Id., Vol. II, 59:16-19. Neither Smith nor Griffin stated that they would provide a physical

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lineup; rather, they told her that they were following procedure. Id., Vol. II, 59:20-23.17

On May 9, 2008, Smith applied for an arrest warrant for Humbert. Id., Vol. I, 158:21-159:5; Pl. Trial Ex. 5 (application for statement of charges and arrest warrant).18 The warrant application summarized the Victim's description of the rape and noted that, during the investigation, "the victim completed a sketch of the suspect [that] was disseminated throughout the community." Pl. Trial Ex. 5. The application then stated that the sketch resulted in "[s]everal leads . . . one of which [led] to Marlow Humbert." Id. His photograph was then shown to the Victim, "along with several other similar photographs, when the victim positively identified him as her

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attacker." Id. Based on this application, a judge issued a warrant for Humbert's arrest. Id.

On May 10, 2008, Humbert was arrested. Id., Vol. III, 3:14-23.19 The Victim testified that she learned about Humbert's arrest from a friend. Rough Trial Tr., Vol. II, 22:21.20 She then called Jones and expressed concern that she had not been informed, and that she could not identify her attacker without a physical lineup. Id., Vol. II, 22:14-23:13.

The Victim attended Humbert's arraignment, but did not recognize him. Id., Vol. II, 24:6-7, 20-21. She testified that she did not inform the prosecutor at the arraignment--or during subsequent conversations--that she had been unable to recognize Humbert. Id., Vol. II, 71:23-25, 73:3-6, 76:2-7.

The Victim testified that a few days after the arraignment, she ran into Jones at a coffee shop; he told her they had the person who had attacked her and would obtain DNA21 to prove it.

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Id., Vol. II, 25:5-13. The Victim told him that she was unsure about the identification,22 but would testify against him if they had DNA evidence. Id., Vol. II, 25:14-18.23 Over the next 14 months, the Victim told the prosecutor on several occasions that she would testify; however, when she learned there was no DNA evidence, she told the prosecutor that she would not testify. Id., Vol. II, 28:4-12, 29:2-4. On July 30, 2009, Tan chose to nolle prosequi the case against Humbert, and Humbert was released. See Def. Trial Ex. 43 ¶ 11.24

On February 17,...

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