Miller v. Field

Citation35 F.3d 1088
Decision Date23 September 1994
Docket NumberNo. 92-2204,92-2204
PartiesWilliam B. MILLER, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. George FIELD and Officer Crippen, Defendants-Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Sixth Circuit

Lawrence D. Hochman (argued and briefed), Hugh M. Davis, Jr., Hugh M. Davis, Jr., P.C., Detroit, MI, for plaintiff-appellant.

E. Michael Stafford, Asst. Atty. Gen. (argued and briefed), David M. Gadaleto, Office of the Atty. Gen., Corrections Div., Lansing, MI, for defendants-appellees.

Before: MARTIN, NELSON, and DAUGHTREY, Circuit Judges.

DAUGHTREY, Circuit Judge.

The plaintiff, William B. Miller, claims that while incarcerated in a Michigan penal institution, he was raped by another inmate. Miller filed an action under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 against the supervisor and two corrections officers of the prison camp where the alleged attack occurred, contending that he was subjected to cruel and unusual punishment because the officials had been apprised of the threats of assault made against Miller but had taken no steps to prevent such an attack thereby evidencing deliberate indifference to his safety. Based upon the jury's determination that the alleged rape did not, in fact, occur, the district court entered judgment in the defendants' favor. Miller has raised several issues on appeal, one of which is dispositive and requires that we reverse the judgment and remand the case for retrial.

That issue involves the admissibility of Michigan State Police reports concerning the investigation of the rape charge, which were introduced into evidence over plaintiff Miller's hearsay objection to the documents. The district judge ruled the reports admissible in their entirety, relying upon this court's unpublished opinion in Neal L. Roland v. Perry Johnson, et al., 933 F.2d 1009 (6th Cir.1991), 1991 WL 84346, at page 4 (Roland II ), filed following the order of remand in Roland v. Johnson, 856 F.2d 764 (6th Cir.1988). After a careful study of the record, we conclude that our opinion in Roland II is inapplicable to the facts in this case.

Those facts establish that in October 1985, plaintiff Miller was incarcerated at Camp Cusino in Alger County, Michigan. Miller alleges that during the last week of that month, he had received threats from several inmates that he would be raped in retaliation for challenging an inmate named Robert Bills. The plaintiff claims that he informed George Field, the camp supervisor, and Officer Crippen of the threats but that both officials ignored the complaints. Miller maintains that he was attacked by several inmates and raped by Bills in the camp bathroom on the evening of November 3, 1985. Despite suffering the alleged beating and rape, Miller did not immediately report the incident to authorities and did not seek prompt medical attention. Instead, Miller and a compatriot, Scott Konjer, escaped from Camp Cusino and, upon their recapture, raised the defense of duress, insisting that they had escaped from the facility in order to avoid further threats and assaults. Even at the trial of Miller's Sec. 1983 complaint, the plaintiff testified, moreover, that he suffered no pain or medical complaints from the attack, other than headaches that he began suffering after being struck in the head during the assault.

During pretrial proceedings, the defendants had proffered as exhibits three investigatory reports from the Michigan State Police file pertaining to the alleged rape of Miller by Bills. The first of the reports consisted of a short summary of interviews by the reporting officer of four Camp Cusino inmates who, Miller alleged, had witnessed the assault. All four prisoners were noted as denying any knowledge of the assault. The reporting officer indicated that the alleged rapist, Bills, had been transferred to a different prison facility and was unavailable for an interview.

The second report summarized plaintiff Miller's recapitulation of the events that, he alleged, occurred in October and November, 1985. The third report summarized an interview with the local Michigan prosecutor. It contained information that the alleged perpetrators of the attack would not be charged by authorities because of the "lack of credibility of the victim" and because there was no evidence available to corroborate the victim's allegations.

When these reports were formally presented for admission at trial, the district judge initially ruled that they would have to be redacted to delete statements made by "third parties," as inadmissible hearsay. Counsel for the defendants responded that such a redaction would make the reports useless as evidence, and he argued forcefully that the entire file was admissible under authority of Roland II. In that case, defense counsel argued, the Sixth Circuit permitted the introduction of "a mammoth report, hundreds of pages ... of interviews by state police of prisoners relative to alleged rapes." He noted that "[a]ll of the statements [in the Roland reports] were hearsay statements of prisoners." He also argued that the summary of the interview with the state prosecutor in the instant case was admissible as "an opinion" and was therefore not a "hearsay statement" at all.

At that point in the proceedings, counsel for plaintiff tried to convince the district judge that the reports in question were "double hearsay" and that, even under Federal Rule of Evidence 803(8)(C), which permits the introduction of official reports as an exception to the rule against hearsay, the statements of extrajudicial declarants contained in those reports would themselves have to constitute a hearsay exception in order to be admissible. Nevertheless, the district judge, relying on defense counsel's characterization of the ruling in Roland II and giving Rule 803(8) a broad reading, ultimately declared the reports admissible and allowed them to go to the jury. We conclude that the district judge erred in this ruling.

Although Federal Rule of Evidence 802 generally prohibits the introduction of hearsay testimony in the federal courts, Rule 803 lists 24 categories of evidence that "are not excluded by the hearsay rule, even though the declarant is available as a witness." In particular, Rule 803(8) allows into evidence:

Records, reports, statements, or data compilations, in any form, of public offices or agencies, setting forth (A) the activities of the office or agency, or (B) matters observed pursuant to duty imposed by law as to which matters there was a duty to report, excluding, however, in criminal cases matters observed by the police officers and other law enforcement personnel, or (C) in civil actions and proceedings and against the Government in criminal cases, factual findings resulting from an investigation made pursuant to authority granted by law, unless the sources of information or other circumstances indicate lack of trustworthiness.

(Emphasis added.) As explained in the notes prepared by the Advisory Committee on the Rules, "[j]ustification for the exception is the assumption that a public official will perform his duty properly and the unlikelihood that he will remember details independently of the record."

The Supreme Court has further determined that Rule 803(8)(C) allows for admission of reports containing opinions and conclusions, as well as facts. Beech Aircraft Corp. v. Rainey, 488 U.S. 153, 169-70, 109 S.Ct. 439, 449-50, 102 L.Ed.2d 445 (1988). In Beech Aircraft Corp., the Supreme Court held, "As long as the conclusion is based on a factual investigation and satisfies the Rule's trustworthiness requirement, it should be admissible along with other portions of the report." Id. at 170, 109 S.Ct. at 450.

The Advisory Committee Notes "assume[ ] admissibility [of the report] in the first instance." In light of that presumption, therefore, "[t]he burden [is] upon the [opponent] to show that the report was inadmissible because its sources of information or other circumstances indicated a lack of trustworthiness." Baker v. Elcona Homes Corp., 588 F.2d 551, 558 (6th Cir.1978), cert. denied, 441 U.S. 933, 99 S.Ct. 2054, 60 L.Ed.2d 661 (1979). Furthermore, this court stated in Baker:

In determining whether the "sources of information or other circumstances" indicate lack of trustworthiness, the Advisory Committee Notes list four suggested factors for consideration: (1) the timeliness of the investigation; (2) the special skill or experience of the official; (3) whether a hearing was held on the level at which conducted, and (4) possible motivational problems.


Although we review the factual components of a district court's evidentiary determinations under the abuse of discretion standard, United States v. Rios, 842 F.2d 868, 874 (6th Cir.1988) (per curiam), cert. denied, 488 U.S. 1031, 109 S.Ct. 840, 102 L.Ed.2d 972 (1989), we review de novo the legal components of those determinations. United States v. Levy, 904 F.2d 1026, 1029 (6th Cir.1990) (whether proffered evidence constitutes hearsay within the meaning of the Federal Rules of Evidence is a legal issue subject to de novo review), cert. denied sub nom., Black v. United States, 498 U.S. 1091, 111 S.Ct. 974, 112 L.Ed.2d 1060 (1991). As an example, in United States v. Gessa, 971 F.2d 1257, 1261 (6th Cir.1992) (en banc), we examined the admission of evidence of "other acts" of a defendant under Fed.R.Evid. 404(b) and noted, "First, it must be determined as a matter of preliminary fact whether there is sufficient evidence that the prior act occurred. Second, a legal determination must be made whether the 'other act' allegedly committed by the defendant was admissible as evidence of 'intent, preparation, [or] plan.' "

The district court in this case did not abuse its discretion in determining that the state police reports in question qualify as records or reports of a public agency for purposes of Rule 803(8). Baker, 588 F.2d at 556. Hence, the district court was correct in analyzing the...

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