Robert Stinson v. James Gauger


Filed opinion of the court by Judge Williams. The qualified immunity appeals are DISMISSED, and the judgment of the district court is AFFIRMED with respect to its absolute immunity rulings. Diane P. Wood, Chief Judge; William J. Bauer, Circuit Judge; Richard A. Posner, Circuit Judge; Joel M. Flaum, Circuit Judge; Frank H. Easterbrook, Circuit Judge; Daniel A. Manion, Circuit Judge; Michael S. Kanne, Circuit Judge; Ilana Diamond Rovner, Circuit Judge; Ann Claire Williams, Circuit Judge; Diane S. Sykes, Circuit Judge, dissenting, and David F. Hamilton, Circuit Judge. (Sykes, Circuit Judge, with whom Bauer, Flaum, and Manion, Circuit Judges, join, dissenting). [6862583-1] [6862583] [13-3343, 13-3346, 13-3347]

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Case: 13-3343 Document: 91 Filed: 08/18/2017 Pages: 35 In the United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit ____________________  Nos. 13‐3343, 13‐3346 & 13‐3347  ROBERT LEE STINSON,      Plaintiff‐Appellee,  v.  JAMES GAUGER, LOWELL T. JOHNSON,   and RAYMOND RAWSON,   Defendants‐Appellants.  ____________________  Appeals from the United States District Court for the  Eastern District of Wisconsin.  No. 09 CV 1033 — Charles N. Clevert, Jr., Judge.  ____________________  ARGUED JUNE 6, 2014 — DECIDED AUGUST 25, 2015  REARGUED EN BANC FEBRUARY 9, 2016  DECIDED AUGUST 18, 2017  ____________________  Before  WOOD,  Chief  Judge,  and  BAUER,  POSNER,  FLAUM,  EASTERBROOK,  MANION,  KANNE,  ROVNER,  WILLIAMS,  SYKES,  and HAMILTON, Circuit Judges.    Case: 13-3343 Document: 91 Filed: 08/18/2017 Pages: 35 2                                                 Nos. 13‐3343, 13‐3346 & 13‐3347  WILLIAMS, Circuit Judge. Robert Stinson spent twenty‐three  years in jail for a murder he did not commit. No eyewitness  testimony or fingerprints connected him to the murder. Two  dentists testified as experts that Stinson’s dentition matched  the teeth marks on the victim’s body, and a jury found Stinson  guilty. After DNA evidence helped exonerate Stinson, he filed  this civil suit against the lead detective and the two dentists  alleging that they violated due process by fabricating the ex‐ pert opinions and failing to disclose their agreement to fabri‐ cate.  The  district  court  denied  the  defendants’  motions  for  summary judgment seeking qualified immunity after finding  that sufficient evidence  existed for Stinson  to prevail  on his  claims at trial.   We conclude that we lack jurisdiction to hear the defend‐ ants’  appeals  of  the  denial  of  qualified  immunity  because  those appeals fail to take the facts and reasonable inferences  from  the  record  in  the  light  most  favorable  to  Stinson  and  challenge the sufficiency of the evidence on questions of fact.  As  a  consequence,  Johnson  v.  Jones,  515  U.S.  304  (1995)  pre‐ cludes interlocutory review. We do have jurisdiction to con‐ sider the district court’s denial of absolute immunity to John‐ son  and  Rawson.  That  denial  was  correct  because  Stinson’s  claims focus on their conduct while the murder was being in‐ vestigated, not on their trial testimony or trial testimony prep‐ aration.  I. BACKGROUND  As this is an appeal from a ruling on summary judgment,  the chronology that follows takes the facts in the light most  favorable  to  Stinson  as  the  non‐moving  party  at  summary  judgment. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255  (1986). Ione Cychosz was murdered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin    Case: 13-3343 Document: 91 Nos. 13‐3343, 13‐3346 & 13‐3347  Filed: 08/18/2017 Pages: 35 3 on  November  3,  1984.  Sixty  photographs  were  taken  of  her  body at the county medical examiner’s office, including pic‐ tures of bite marks to her body. An assistant deputy medical  examiner authorized the use of Dr. Lowell Johnson as a foren‐ sic odontology (the scientific study of teeth) consultant, and  Johnson examined the bite marks on Cychosz’s body. He iden‐ tified eight complete or partial bite marks and took rubber im‐ pressions  of  the  bite  marks  on  Cychosz’s  right  breast.  Two  days later he returned to the medical examiner’s office to ex‐ tract tissue from her right breast.   James Gauger and Tom Jackelen were assigned as the lead  detectives to investigate Cychosz’s murder. Before heading to  the crime scene, Gauger reviewed the case file that had been  assembled in the two to three days after the murder. Accord‐ ing to Stinson’s version of the events, and before Gauger and  Jackelen’s first visit to the crime scene on November 6, 1984,  the two detectives met with Johnson. At that meeting, John‐ son  showed  the  detectives  photos  of  the  bite  marks  and  a  drawing he had made of the assailant’s teeth. Johnson told the  detectives the assailant was missing the tooth depicted in his  sketch, a lateral incisor (a tooth one over from the upper front  teeth). There is no police report memorializing any meeting  between Johnson and either detective before November 15.   On  November  6,  Gauger  and  Jackelen  went  to  the  area  where Cychosz’s body was found to interview neighbors, and  they  visited  the  nearby  home  where  Stinson  lived.  Jackelen  questioned  Stinson  while  Gauger  interviewed  Stinson’s  brother. Stinson is missing his right central incisor, or what is  more commonly called the upper right front tooth. On Stin‐ son,  this  tooth  is  fractured  and  decayed  almost  to  the  gum  line.     Case: 13-3343 Document: 91 Filed: 08/18/2017 Pages: 35 4                                                 Nos. 13‐3343, 13‐3346 & 13‐3347  After  they  finished  their  interviews,  the  two  detectives  met at the front of the house, and Jackelen told Gauger, “We  have him.” The detectives then went back to speak with Stin‐ son and intentionally said something to make Stinson laugh  so that his teeth would be visible. When Gauger saw that Stin‐ son had a missing upper front tooth, he thought, according to  his  later  memoir,  The  Memo  Book,  published  long  after  Stin‐ son’s conviction, “There it was. The broken front tooth and the  twisted tooth just like on the diagram and pictures.” (At his  deposition in this case, however, Gauger said that the missing  tooth was on the upper right side and to the right of the front  tooth.)   This was the not first time Gauger and Jackelen had ques‐ tioned Stinson regarding a murder. Two years earlier, a man  named  Ricky  Johnson  was  shot  and  killed  during  an  at‐ tempted robbery, and Gauger and Jackelen were assigned to  the case. Stinson told the detectives he had no information re‐ garding  who  killed  Ricky  Johnson,  and  the  detectives  re‐ sponded  that  they  were  “tired  of  all  that  bull****  story  you  telling.” No charges were ever filed in the case, but Gauger  wrote  in  The  Memo  Book  that  he  believed  Stinson  and  his  friends murdered Ricky Johnson. Writing about the case in his  memoir, Gauger said “[l]ots of people get away with murder”  and maintained the case was still open “because we had the  right guys, but couldn’t prove it.”  After the interview of Stinson at his home, the detectives  met  with  prosecutors  including  Assistant  District  Attorney  Dan Blinka. Blinka thought there was not sufficient evidence  at that point to obtain a search warrant to examine Stinson’s  dentition.  Blinka  called  Johnson  during  the  meeting  and  asked whether Johnson could make an identification from the    Case: 13-3343 Document: 91 Nos. 13‐3343, 13‐3346 & 13‐3347  Filed: 08/18/2017 Pages: 35 5 bite marks on the body, and Johnson replied that under the  right conditions he could, if he had a full make‐up of the sus‐ pect’s dentition.   On  November  15,  1984,  Gauger  and  Jackelen  met  with  Johnson. The November 15 police report states that Johnson  said the offender would have a missing or broken right cen‐ tral incisor (i.e., the upper right front tooth). That is the same  tooth that the detectives had observed that Stinson was miss‐ ing when they questioned him.  The  next  day,  the  detectives  interviewed  and  photo‐ graphed two other men with at least one missing or broken  tooth. Johnson ruled them out as suspects in Cychosz’s mur‐ der based only on looking at the photographs. Stinson’s odon‐ tological expert in the current case, Dr. Michael Bowers, states  there was no scientific basis for Johnson to exclude these two  men by just looking at photographs.  At some point, a police sketch artist made a second sketch  of  the  assailant’s  dentition.  Johnson  says  he  told  the  artist  a  tooth in the upper quadrant was missing but did not specify  which  one.  The  police  artist  used  Johnson’s  initial  sketch  to  make  the  police  sketch.  Consistent  with  Stinson’s  theory  of  Johnson’s initial sketch, the police sketch reflects a missing or  broken  upper  tooth  that  is  not  the  upper  right  front  tooth.  Johnson says he did not use the police artist’s sketch at any  point after it was created.  On  December  3,  1984,  Stinson  appeared  in  a  Wisconsin  state court “John Doe hearing” pursuant to subpoena as a per‐ son who might have knowledge or information bearing on an  investigation.  During  this  hearing,  Jackelen  testified  that  he  observed  that  Stinson  had  missing  and  crooked  front  teeth    Case: 13-3343 Document: 91 Filed: 08/18/2017 Pages: 35 6                                                 Nos. 13‐3343, 13‐3346 & 13‐3347  consistent  with  the  information  he  had  received  from  John‐ son. Johnson inspected Stinson’s teeth  at the  hearing  for  fif‐ teen  to  twenty  seconds.  Johnson  asked  for  his  sketch  of  the  perpetrator’s  dentition,  but  Jackelen  said  he  did  not  have  a  copy  with  him.  Johnson  then  testified  it  was  “remarkable”  how similar Stinson’s teeth were to the sketch and said that  Stinson’s  teeth  were  consistent  with  what  he  expected  from  the  assailant  after  his  analysis  of  the  bite  marks.  The  judge  then ordered Stinson to submit to a detailed dental examina‐ tion, including the creation of wax molds of his teeth and pho‐ tographs of his teeth, which he did.   Later,  Johnson  compared  the  molds  and  photographs  of  Stinson’s teeth and the wax exemplars of Stinson’s bite with  the bite mark evidence from Cychosz’s body, and he opined  that Stinson’s teeth were identical to those that caused the bite  marks.  Johnson  conveyed  that  opinion  to  Gauger,  Jackelen,  and  Blinka.  Blinka  met  with  Johnson  and  one  or  both  of  Gauger and Jackelen to review the evidence, and Johnson said  that Stinson’s dentition was consistent with that of the person  who inflicted the bite marks on Cychosz.   However,  that  did  not  satisfy  Blinka.  He  would  not  ap‐ prove charges against Stinson without a second opinion from  a  forensic  odontologist.  So  Johnson  contacted  Dr.  Raymond  Rawson about the case, with Johnson telling Gauger that he  “wanted the best forensic odontologist in the United States to  confirm his findings.” Rawson had a private dental practice  in Las Vegas, served as a forensic odontologist since 1976 and  was a diplomat of the American Board of Forensic Odontol‐ ogy.   Johnson had also been a diplomat of the American Board  of  Forensic  Odontology,  and  the  two  were  friends  and  had    Case: 13-3343 Document: 91 Nos. 13‐3343, 13‐3346 & 13‐3347  Filed: 08/18/2017 Pages: 35 7 known  each  other  for  at  least  seven  years.  On  January  17,  1985, Gauger and Jackelen hand‐delivered evidence, includ‐ ing Cychosz’s preserved skin tissue and the dental molds and  models of Stinson that Johnson had generated, to Rawson in  Las  Vegas.  Rawson  reviewed  the  evidence  for  one  to  three  hours  in Gauger’s hotel room and  verbally confirmed John‐ son’s findings, saying he was impressed with the amount of  evidence. Gauger recalled that Rawson looked at the x‐rays  and molds and said that was enough for him and that he con‐ curred with Johnson.   A few days later, on January 21, 1985, a criminal complaint  was issued that charged Stinson with the first‐degree murder  of  Cychosz.  Before  trial,  Johnson  authored  an  expert  report  setting forth his opinions, including that “to a reasonable de‐ gree of scientific certainty … the teeth of Robert Lee Stinson  would be expected to produce bite patterns identical to those  which  [Johnson]  examined  and  recorded  in  this  extensive  analysis.”  Rawson  prepared  a  one‐page  expert  report  that  summarized his opinions. After reviewing the materials John‐ son generated, Rawson stated he agreed with Johnson’s con‐ clusion that Stinson caused the bite mark injuries to Cychosz.   Stinson’s trial took place in December 1985. The prosecu‐ tion did not offer any evidence of motive, nor did it produce  any eyewitness testimony that connected Stinson to Cychosz’s  murder.  Some  testimony  suggested  that  Stinson  had  given  conflicting  versions  of  his  whereabouts  on  the  night  of  Cy‐ chosz’s death. Stinson’s counsel moved to exclude any foren‐ sic odontology evidence from trial, but that request was de‐ nied. Johnson testified at trial that the bite marks on Cychosz  must have been made by teeth identical in relevant character‐   Case: 13-3343 Document: 91 Filed: 08/18/2017 Pages: 35 8                                                 Nos. 13‐3343, 13‐3346 & 13‐3347  istics to those that Johnson examined on Stinson. Rawson tes‐ tified  that  Johnson  performed  “a  very  good  work‐up”  and  that he agreed with Johnson’s conclusion to a reasonable de‐ gree of scientific certainty that Stinson caused the bite marks  on Cychosz’s body.   No  contrary  expert  was  offered  by  the  defense  at  trial.  (Stinson’s counsel had hired an odontology expert but did not  call him at trial.) The jury convicted Stinson of murder, and  he  received  a  sentence  of  life  imprisonment.  After  the  trial,  Johnson  used  the  Cychosz  bite  mark  evidence  for  teaching  and career‐furthering purposes.  More than twenty‐three years after Stinson’s conviction, a  panel of four forensic odontologists reanalyzed the bite mark  evidence and concluded that Stinson could not have made the  bite marks found on Cychosz. DNA testing of blood found on  Cychosz’s clothing also excluded Stinson. Stinson’s conviction  was vacated on January 30, 2009, and he was released from  prison. The State of Wisconsin dismissed all charges against  him that July. In April 2010, the Wisconsin State Crime DNA  Database matched the DNA profile of the blood found on Cy‐ chosz’s clothing with that of a convicted felon, Moses Price.  Price later pled guilty to Cychosz’s murder.   Stinson  filed  the  present  suit  under  42  U.S.C.  §  1983  against,  as  relevant  here,  Gauger,  Johnson,  and  Rawson.  (Jackelen has passed away.) Stinson’s expert in this case, Dr.  Bowers, reviewed the bite mark evidence and concluded that  the  bite  marks  found  on  Cychosz  excluded  Stinson.  Con‐ sistent with the panel, Bowers concluded that Johnson’s and  Rawson’s explanations of why a bite mark appeared on Cy‐ chosz’s body where Stinson has a missing tooth has “no em‐ pirical or scientific basis and does not account for the absence    Case: 13-3343 Document: 91 Nos. 13‐3343, 13‐3346 & 13‐3347  Filed: 08/18/2017 Pages: 35 9 of any marks by the adjacent, fully developed teeth.” Bowers  believed that the methods Johnson and Rawson used “were  flawed and did not comport with the accepted standards of  practice in the field of forensic odontology at the time.” Bow‐ ers  concluded  that  “to  a  reasonable  degree  of  scientific  cer‐ tainty  as  a  forensic  odontologist  …  Johnson  and  Rawson  knowingly manipulated the bite mark evidence and Stinson’s  dentition to appear to ‘match’ when there was in fact no cor‐ relation between Stinson’s teeth and the bite marks inflicted  on Cychosz’s body.”   Gauger, Johnson, and Rawson moved for summary judg‐ ment  on  immunity  grounds.  The  district  court  ruled  that  Johnson and Rawson were not entitled to absolute immunity.  All three defendants asserted qualified immunity. Regarding  the due process claim of fabrication of evidence, the district  court concluded that “Stinson has sufficient evidence to get to  trial” and explained its conclusion that sufficient evidence in  the record existed. The district court also stated that qualified  immunity did not apply because the law as of 1984 and 1985  clearly  established  that  an  investigator’s  fabrication  of  evi‐ dence violated a criminal defendant’s constitutional rights. As  for Stinson’s claim of failure to disclose pursuant to Brady v.  Maryland,  373  U.S.  83  (1963),  that  the  opinions  were  fabri‐ cated, the district court ruled that there was enough evidence  to go to a factfinder on this claim as well. The court also stated  that it was clearly established by 1984 that the withholding of  information about fabricated evidence constituted a due pro‐ cess violation, citing among others our decision in Whitlock v.  Brueggemann, 682 F.3d 567 (7th Cir. 2012).     Case: 13-3343 Document: 91 Filed: 08/18/2017 Pages: 35 10                                                 Nos. 13‐3343, 13‐3346 & 13‐3347  Gauger,  Johnson,  and  Rawson  appealed.  A  panel  of  our  court concluded that the defendants were not entitled to ab‐ solute immunity, that we had jurisdiction to consider appeals  of  the  denial  of  qualified  immunity  at  summary  judgment,  and that the defendants were entitled to qualified immunity.  We granted rehearing en banc.   II. ANALYSIS  Our threshold question in any appeal is whether we have  jurisdiction to hear the case. Congress has granted us jurisdic‐ tion over appeals from “final decisions” of the district courts.  28  U.S.C.  §  1291.  An  order  denying  a  motion  for  summary  judgment is usually not a final decision within the meaning  of  §  1291  and  so  is  not  generally  immediately  appealable.  Ortiz v. Jordan, 562 U.S. 180, 188 (2011).   Even if it is not the last order in a case, a district court de‐ cision  is  “final”  within  the  meaning  of  §  1291  if  it  is  within  “that small class which finally determine claims of right sep‐ arable from, and collateral to, rights asserted in the action, too  important  to  be  denied  review  and  too  independent  of  the  cause itself to require that appellate consideration be deferred  until the whole case is adjudicated.” Cohen v. Beneficial Indus.  Loan Corp., 337 U.S. 541, 546 (1949). An appeal from the denial  of a claim of absolute immunity is one such order that is ap‐ pealable  before  final  judgment.  Mitchell  v.  Forsyth,  472  U.S.  511, 525 (1985).   A. No  Jurisdiction  to  Determine  Qualified  Immunity  Appeal  Our case involves both the denial of claims of absolute im‐ munity as well as the denial of claims of qualified immunity.  Qualified immunity protects government officials from civil    Case: 13-3343 Document: 91 Nos. 13‐3343, 13‐3346 & 13‐3347  Filed: 08/18/2017 Pages: 35 11 damages liability when their conduct does not violate “clearly  established statutory or constitutional rights of which a rea‐ sonable person would have known.” Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457  U.S. 800, 818 (1982). Qualified immunity is an immunity from  suit and not just a defense to liability. Mitchell, 472 U.S. at 526.   “[D]eterminations of evidentiary sufficiency at summary  judgment  are  not  immediately  appealable  merely  because  they happen to arise in a qualified‐immunity case.” Behrens v.  Pelletier, 516 U.S. 299, 313 (1996). The Supreme Court ruled in  Mitchell that, “to the extent that it turns on an issue of law,” a  defendant may take an immediate appeal of a decision deny‐ ing him qualified immunity at summary judgment. 472 U.S.  at  530.  Later,  in  the  case  at  the  heart  of  this  appeal,  the  Su‐ preme Court addressed appeals from the denial of qualified  immunity at summary judgment when the denial is based on  a  factual dispute  rather than  a legal question. See  Johnson v.  Jones, 515 U.S. 304 (1995). For such cases, the Supreme Court  made it clear: “we hold that a defendant, entitled to invoke a  qualified immunity defense, may not appeal a district court’s  summary  judgment  order  insofar  as  that  order  determines  whether or not the pretrial record sets forth a ‘genuine’ issue  of fact for trial.” Id. at 319‐20. The defendants here, invoking  a  qualified  immunity  defense,  seek  to  appeal  the  district  court’s summary judgment order that concluded the pretrial  record set forth a genuine issue of fact for trial. While Johnson  might seem to end matters, we examine whether any subse‐ quent Supreme Court decisions limit Johnson’s reach.  The first post‐Johnson case to which we turn is Scott v. Har‐ ris, 550 U.S. 372 (2007). Like Johnson, Harris involved the de‐ fendant’s appeal of the denial of a motion for summary judg‐ ment on the basis of qualified immunity in an excessive force    Case: 13-3343 Document: 91 Filed: 08/18/2017 Pages: 35 12                                                 Nos. 13‐3343, 13‐3346 & 13‐3347  case.  In  upholding  the  denial  of  the  motion,  the  Supreme  Court recognized that the district court had stated there were  material issues of fact on which the qualified immunity deci‐ sion  turned.  See  id.  at  376.  Nonetheless,  the  Supreme  Court  addressed the appeal  on the merits.1 In light of a videotape  that recorded the sequence of events and that “blatantly con‐ tradicted” the plaintiff’s account, the Court concluded the de‐ fendant officer’s actions were reasonable and did not violate  the Fourth Amendment and that no reasonable jury could de‐ cide otherwise. Id. at 380, 386. As a result, the defendant of‐ ficer was entitled to summary judgment. Id. at 386.  The Supreme Court’s decision in Harris does not mention  Johnson, so it was not overruling Johnson. The Court’s silence  came despite the Harris respondent’s argument to the Court  that it lacked jurisdiction because of Johnson. See Brief for Re‐ spondent  at  1‐3,  Scott  v.  Harris,  550  U.S.  372  (2007)  (No.  05‐ 1631),  2007  WL  118977,  at  *1‐3.  There  was  no  need  for  the  Court to mention Johnson, though, because Johnson and Harris  are  consistent.  The  events  in  Harris  were  captured  on  vide‐ otape, and the question on appeal was the constitutionality of  the officer’s conduct in light of the facts depicted on the un‐ challenged videotape. So review was of the district court’s de‐ cision on an issue of law, not of whether there was a genuine  issue of fact for trial.  Seven years later, the Supreme Court decided Plumhoff v.  Rickard, 134 S. Ct. 2012 (2014). There the district court denied                                                    1 The Eleventh Circuit rejected the plaintiff’s argument that it lacked  jurisdiction over the appeal, stating simply that the “appeal goes beyond  the evidentiary sufficiency of the district court’s decision.” Harris v. Coweta  Cty., Ga., 433 F.3d 807, 811 n.3 (11th Cir. 2005), rev’d sub nom. Scott v. Harris,  550 U.S. 372 (2007).   Case: 13-3343 Document: 91 Filed: 08/18/2017 Pages: 35 Nos. 13‐3343, 13‐3346 & 13‐3347  13 the defendant officers’ motion for summary judgment on the  basis of qualified immunity, ruling that the officers’ conduct  violated the Fourth Amendment and was contrary to clearly  established law. See id. at 2018. Again, unsurprisingly, the Su‐ preme Court decided the legal question of whether there was  excessive force and did not dismiss the case for lack of juris‐ diction. The Court explained:  The District Court order in this case is nothing like the  order in Johnson. Petitioners do not claim that other of‐ ficers  were  responsible  for  shooting  Rickard;  rather,  they  contend  that  their  conduct  did  not  violate  the  Fourth Amendment and, in any event, did not violate  clearly  established  law.  Thus,  they  raise  legal  issues;  these issues are quite different from any purely factual  issues  that  the  trial  court  might  confront  if  the  case  were  tried;  deciding  legal  issues  of  this  sort  is  a  core  responsibility of appellate courts, and requiring appel‐ late courts to decide such issues is not an undue bur‐ den.  Id. at 2019. The Court proceeded to decide the case on the mer‐ its. Id. at 2020. Plumhoff too is consistent with Johnson. As in  Harris, the Court decided a purely legal issue, not a question  of evidentiary sufficiency. The Court did the same thing when  it  considered an interlocutory qualified immunity  appeal  in  Mullenix v. Luna, 136 S. Ct. 305 (2015) on the question of law  of whether the defendants used excessive force.  No Supreme Court decision has criticized Johnson; to the  contrary,  the  Court  continues  to  rely  on  it  post‐Harris.  See  Plumhoff, 134 S. Ct. at 2018–19; Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,  671, 673–74 (2009); Ortiz v. Jordan, 562 U.S. 180, 188–91 (2011).    Case: 13-3343 Document: 91 Filed: 08/18/2017 Pages: 35 14                                                 Nos. 13‐3343, 13‐3346 & 13‐3347  Nor has the Court disavowed its pre‐Harris reliance on John‐ son in multiple cases. See Behrens v. Pelletier, 516 U.S. 299, 306,  312–13 (1996); Johnson v. Fankell, 520 U.S. 911, 922 (1997); Craw‐ ford‐El v. Britton, 523 U.S. 574, 595, 597 n.18 (1998); Richardson  v. McKnight, 521 U.S. 399, 402 (1997).   Johnson very much remains the law. As a result, we must  adhere to the distinction it draws between appeals from de‐ nial of summary judgment qualified immunity rulings based  on  evidentiary  sufficiency  and  those  “presenting  more  ab‐ stract issues of law.” Johnson, 515 U.S. at 317. If what is at issue  in  the  sufficiency  determination  is  whether  the  evidence  could support a finding that particular conduct occurred, “the  question decided is not truly ‘separable’ from the plaintiff’s  claim, and hence there is no ‘final decision’ under Cohen and  Mitchell.” Behrens, 516 U.S. at 313. So appeal is possible only if  “the  issue  appealed  concern[s],  not  which  facts  the  parties  might  be  able  to  prove,  but,  rather,  whether  or  not  certain  given  facts  show[]  a  violation  of  ‘clearly  established’  law.”  Johnson, 515 U.S. at 311 (citing Mitchell, 472 U.S. at 528). John‐ son’s  distinction  between  appeals  of  evidentiary  sufficiency  determinations and those of legal issues also makes practical  sense, as the principle helps keep qualified immunity inter‐ locutory appeals within reasonable bounds.  Our basic question in determining whether we have juris‐ diction over this appeal,  then, is  whether our case is one of  evidentiary  sufficiency  or  one  of  a  question  of  law.  Stinson  maintained in this suit that Gauger, Johnson, and Rawson vi‐ olated his due process right to a fair trial by: (1) fabricating  the principal evidence of his guilt (the opinions that his den‐ tition matched the bite marks on Cychosz), and (2) failing to  disclose, as required by Brady, the defendants’ agreement to    Case: 13-3343 Document: 91 Filed: 08/18/2017 Pages: 35 Nos. 13‐3343, 13‐3346 & 13‐3347  15 fabricate this opinion evidence. (He also brought failure to in‐ tervene and conspiracy claims that were predicated on these  two  claims.).  In  ruling  on  the  fabrication  of  evidence  claim,  the district court reviewed the evidence presented in the sum‐ mary judgment materials and concluded that Stinson had suf‐ ficient evidence to get to trial. Regarding the Brady theory, the  district court concluded that “there are credibility questions  that  preclude  summary  judgment”  and  so  “in  this  case  the  jury will have to decide whether Gauger, Jackelen, and John‐ son,  and  then  Rawson,  impliedly  agreed  that  the  odontolo‐ gists  would  opine  that  Stinson’s  dentition  matched  the  bite  marks.” Stinson v. City of Milwaukee, No. 09 C 1033, 2013 WL  5447916, at *20 (E.D. Wis. Sept. 30, 2013). More particularly,  the district court stated:  The  evidence  in  the  record  about  Johnson’s  shift  re‐ garding which tooth was missing after the detectives  thought they had their man, the lack of a sketch at the  John Doe hearing, Johnson’s call to Rawson, Rawson’s  extremely brief initial review of the physical evidence  in Las Vegas, and the existence of gross errors in John‐ son’s  and  Rawson’s  review  of  the  physical  evidence  (which  another  expert  says  could  not  be  honestly  made) provides enough to allow Stinson to get John‐ son,  Rawson,  and  Gauger  before  the  jury  for  evalua‐ tion.   Id.   On  appeal,  the  defendants  assert  that  they  are  crediting  Stinson’s account and asking only for a legal determination of  whether Stinson’s version of the facts means they violated a  clearly established constitutional right. Accepting a plaintiff’s  version of the facts in the summary judgment record can help    Case: 13-3343 Document: 91 Filed: 08/18/2017 Pages: 35 16                                                 Nos. 13‐3343, 13‐3346 & 13‐3347  allow us to consider a defendant’s legal arguments in a qual‐ ified  immunity  appeal.  Jones  v.  Clark,  630  F.3d  677,  680  (7th  Cir. 2011). Here, however, the premise of the defendants’ as‐ sertion is not true; rather, the defendants fail to take as true  Stinson’s version of the facts, and they fail to do so on signifi‐ cant  matters.  We  have  explained  that  if  “we  detect  a  back‐ door effort to contest the facts, we will reject it and dismiss  the appeal for want of jurisdiction.” Id.; see also id. (“[A]n ap‐ peal from a denial of qualified immunity cannot be used as an  early way to test the sufficiency of the evidence to reach the  trier of fact. In such a case, where there really is no legal ques‐ tion, we will dismiss for lack of jurisdiction.”). Said another  way,  “an  appellant  challenging  a  district  court’s  denial  of  qualified immunity effectively pleads himself out of court by  interposing  disputed  factual  issues  in  his  argument.”  Gutierrez v. Kermon, 722 F.3d 1003, 1010 (7th Cir. 2013).   A  significant  factual  dispute  at  summary  judgment  was  whether Johnson met with Gauger and Jackelen before the de‐ tectives interviewed Stinson on November 6, 1984. Related to  that was whether, if such a meeting took place, Johnson gave  or showed the detectives a sketch at that meeting. The district  court concluded that viewing the submitted evidence in the  light most favorable to Stinson, such a meeting did take place,  and that during the pre‐interview meeting Johnson showed  the detectives a sketch of the assailant’s dentition reflecting a  missing tooth to the right of the central incisor. This pre‐inter‐ view meeting is critical because, if it happened, it showed that  Johnson changed his analysis after the detectives interviewed  Stinson. Although under Stinson’s version the original sketch  showed a missing tooth to the right of the central incisor, after  the detectives interviewed Stinson and met with Johnson on  November 15, Johnson changed his analysis and said that the    Case: 13-3343 Document: 91 Nos. 13‐3343, 13‐3346 & 13‐3347  Filed: 08/18/2017 Pages: 35 17 assailant was missing the right central incisor, i.e., the right  front  tooth,  which  is  the  same  tooth  the  detectives  had  ob‐ served missing on Stinson. Johnson had not done any analysis  of the bite marks between November 6 and 15 that would ex‐ plain this change.   The  pre‐interview  meeting  is  critical  to  Stinson’s  theory  that the defendants fabricated evidence and failed to disclose  Brady material, but the defendants do not credit that the meet‐ ing took place in their briefs to us. To the contrary, after quot‐ ing Gauger’s account of visiting Stinson for the first time in‐ cluding that the detectives knew they were looking for some‐ one with a missing tooth and a twisted tooth, Gauger’s brief  asserts, “but since there is no report of any meeting with Dr.  Johnson prior to this interview, it is not possible that it came  from any meeting with the doctor.” See Opening Brief for the  Respondent Gauger at 6, Stinson v. Gauger, 799 F.3d 833 (7th  Cir.  2015)  (Nos.  13‐3343,  13‐3346,  13‐3347).  Johnson’s  and  Rawson’s briefs omit the November 6 pre‐interview meeting,  despite the centrality of it to the district court’s analysis and  Stinson’s fabrication and Brady claims.   Who made the first call to Rawson is another dispute of  historical fact. The district court concluded that, viewing the  evidence in the light most favorable to Stinson, Johnson made  the  first  contact  with  Rawson.  That  Johnson  made  the  first  contact was significant to the district court’s analysis because  the call allowed Johnson to tell Rawson the “desired result”  Rawson should reach. Stinson, 2013 WL 5447916, at *19. This  call was also central to the district court’s determination that  Rawson was part of the conspiracy. Gauger, however, states  on appeal, again in contradiction to the district court’s view  of the evidence, that Blinka was the one who first contacted    Case: 13-3343 Document: 91 Filed: 08/18/2017 Pages: 35 18                                                 Nos. 13‐3343, 13‐3346 & 13‐3347  and focused on Rawson. See Gauger Opening Br. at 19. John‐ son’s and Rawson’s briefs do not even acknowledge that they  ever communicated with each other.   So despite their statements to the contrary, the defendants  on appeal have not asked us to view the record in the light  most favorable to Stinson. That means that although they try  to suggest otherwise, the defendants are not asking us for re‐ view of an abstract question of law, but rather they seek a re‐ assessment of the district court’s conclusion that sufficient ev‐ idence existed for Stinson to go to trial. See Jones, 630 F.3d at  680; Gutierrez, 722 F.3d at 1010‐11, 1014 (dismissing appeal for  lack of jurisdiction where qualified immunity argument de‐ pended upon disputed fact).   The  nature  of  the  defendants’  appeals  further  demon‐ strates  that  they  do  not  present  the  requisite  abstract  ques‐ tions of law. Johnson and Rawson maintain they did not in‐ tentionally fabricate their opinions and so did not fail to turn  over Brady material. But whether their opinions were inten‐ tionally fabricated or honestly mistaken is a question of fact,  not a question of law. Johnson itself explains that we lack ju‐ risdiction over factual questions about whether there is suffi‐ cient evidence of intent:  For  another  thing,  questions  about  whether  or  not  a  record demonstrates a “genuine” issue of fact for trial,  if appealable, can consume inordinate amounts of ap‐ pellate time. Many constitutional tort cases, unlike the  simple “we didnʹt do it” case before us, involve factual  controversies  about,  for  example,  intent—controver‐ sies that, before trial, may seem nebulous. To resolve  those controversies—to determine whether there is or  is not a triable issue of fact about such a matter—may    Case: 13-3343 Document: 91 Filed: 08/18/2017 Pages: 35 Nos. 13‐3343, 13‐3346 & 13‐3347  19 require reading a vast pretrial record, with numerous  conflicting affidavits, depositions, and other discovery  materials.  This  fact  means,  compared  with  Mitchell,  greater delay.  Johnson, 515 U.S. at 316; see also Ortiz, 562 U.S. at 190 (stating  defendants’  claims  of  qualified  immunity  did  not  present  purely legal issues and that “[c]ases fitting that [legal issue]  bill  typically  involve  contests  not  about  what  occurred,  or  why an action was taken or omitted, but disputes about the  substance and clarity of pre‐existing law.”).  The district court concluded that the evidence in the rec‐ ord meant that a reasonable jury could find that Johnson and  Rawson  fabricated  their  opinions.  The  district  court  re‐ counted that, taking the record in the light most favorable to  Stinson, Johnson altered the missing tooth identification only  after meeting with the detectives, after they interviewed Stin‐ son and observed his dentition. Johnson did not have any new  information before making the switch, and he has never said  the  change  was  a  matter  of  reevaluation.  The  district  court  also stated Johnson and Rawson had to have known that Stin‐ son was excluded from causing the bite marks because of ob‐ vious differences between Stinson’s teeth and the bite mark  patterns. Bowers, Stinson’s expert in the current case, opined  that  Johnson  and  Rawson  knowingly  manipulated  the  bite  mark evidence and Stinson’s dentition to make them appear  to match. Both the four‐odontologist panel and Bowers found  no empirical or scientific basis for finding a bite mark on Cy‐ chosz’s  body  where  Stinson  has  a  missing  tooth.  They  also  found  inexplicable  Johnson’s  and  Rawson’s  conclusion  that  Stinson’s upper second molars made a bite mark because mo‐   Case: 13-3343 Document: 91 Filed: 08/18/2017 Pages: 35 20                                                 Nos. 13‐3343, 13‐3346 & 13‐3347  lars are located so far back in the mouth. And if Stinson’s ver‐ sion of the facts is accepted, there was also a cover up of the  switch in tooth identification, as no police report accounts for  it. From all of this evidence, the district court concluded there  was sufficient evidence for a factfinder to draw an inference  that the defendants were lying.   We add a bit more about Rawson, who argues that he was  too far removed from any misconduct and so should receive  qualified immunity. As he emphasizes, he was not involved  in the November meetings between the detectives and John‐ son  or  in  Johnson’s  initial  analysis.  The  district  court  found  sufficient evidence in the record of Rawson’s liability, noting  that it was Johnson who first called Rawson, that when he did  Johnson  phrased  the  “second  opinion”  request  as  a  request  for confirmation of Johnson’s opinion, and that Bowers stated  that confirmation could not be made with such a short review.  The  district  court  also  reasoned  that  a  factfinder  could  find  that Rawson complied, as supported by the short amount of  time it took him to confirm Johnson’s findings in a Las Vegas  hotel room and to state he concurred with Johnson. Whether  the evidence was sufficient for a factfinder to find the requi‐ site intent to fabricate is beyond the scope of our interlocutory  review.   Intent is, after all, most often proven circumstantially. See,  e.g., Hoskins v. Poelstra, 320 F.3d 761, 764 (7th Cir. 2003) (stating  that a meeting of minds “may need to be inferred even after  an opportunity for discovery, for conspirators rarely sign con‐ tracts”); United States v. Nocar, 497 F.2d 719, 725 (7th Cir. 1974)  (“As courts have frequently pointed out, knowledge and in‐ tent  must  often  be  proven  by  circumstantial  evidence.”).    Case: 13-3343 Document: 91 Nos. 13‐3343, 13‐3346 & 13‐3347  Filed: 08/18/2017 Pages: 35 21 Rarely will there be an admission of subjective intent. The in‐ tent to fabricate is a question of fact that the district court con‐ cluded could be inferred in Stinson’s favor by the evidence in  the record at summary judgment, and the defendants’ chal‐ lenge to whether that is true is the type of appeal forbidden  by Johnson.  Whether  Gauger  knew  that  Johnson  and  Rawson  fabri‐ cated their opinions that the bite mark evidence matched Stin‐ son’s dentition was a related, and important, factual dispute  at summary judgment. Gauger argued that because he is not  a  dentist,  he  cannot  be  blamed  for  Johnson’s  and  Rawson’s  expert conclusions. The district court determined that taking  the facts in Stinson’s favor, “Gauger was cognizant of John‐ son’s  shifting  view  of  which  tooth  was  missing”  and  “was  fully aware” of the “contents of his conversations with John‐ son and what he implied in their second meeting, following  his and Jackelen’s interview of Stinson,” namely that Gauger  implied a desired result in the expert opinions. Stinson, 2013  WL 5447916, at *20. But on appeal, Gauger argues that the ev‐ idence  in  the  record  does  not  support  a  conclusion  that  Gauger knew the dentists were producing false opinions. See  Gauger Opening Br. at 25‐28, 40. This challenge to the suffi‐ ciency of the evidence is again precluded by Johnson.    We note that the district court’s conclusion that circum‐ stantial evidence might prove intentional collusion between  Gauger and the two experts is the kind of finding of historical  fact that implicates Johnson, not an “abstract question of law.”  Evidence in the summary judgment record supporting an in‐ ference that there was an agreement included that there was  an opportunity to agree (the detectives met with Johnson after  interviewing Stinson, and Johnson called Rawson), and that    Case: 13-3343 Document: 91 Filed: 08/18/2017 Pages: 35 22                                                 Nos. 13‐3343, 13‐3346 & 13‐3347  later experts say no competent odontologist could have pos‐ sibly concluded that Stinson was the assailant.   In short, the appeals here are not like Harris and Plumhoff  where the facts are clear and the only question is the legal im‐ plication of those facts. Instead, the defendants’ appeals fail  to take all the facts and inferences in the summary judgment  record in the light most favorable to Stinson, and their argu‐ ments  dispute  the  district  court’s  conclusions  of  the  suffi‐ ciency of the evidence on questions of fact. With Johnson still  very much controlling law, we lack jurisdiction over the de‐ fendants’ qualified immunity appeals in this case.  B.  Johnson  and  Rawson  Not  Entitled  to  Absolute  Im‐ munity  Johnson and Rawson also argued that they were entitled  to absolute immunity because they were testifying witnesses.  We have jurisdiction on appeal to review denials of absolute  immunity at summary judgment. Mitchell, 472 U.S. at 525.  Witnesses in a § 1983 trial have absolute immunity from  liability based on their testimony at trial. Briscoe v. LaHue, 460  U.S. 325, 345‐46 (1983). That principle does not carry the day  here,  however.  The  Supreme  Court  has  ruled  that  absolute  immunity protects a prosecutor for trial preparation and trial  testimony, but not for investigating the case. Buckley v. Fitz‐ simmons, 509 U.S. 259, 273 (1993); see also Rehberg v. Paulk, 132  S. Ct. 1497, 1507 n.1 (2012) (finding witness entitled to abso‐ lute immunity for grand jury testimony and grand jury testi‐ mony preparation, but stating absolute immunity does not ex‐ tend  “to  all  activity  that  a  witness  conducts  outside  of  the  grand  jury  room”).  As  we  discussed  in  the  panel  opinion,  Stinson’s claims against Johnson and Rawson focused on their    Case: 13-3343 Document: 91 Filed: 08/18/2017 Nos. 13‐3343, 13‐3346 & 13‐3347  Pages: 35 23 actions while Cychosz’s murder was being investigated, not  on  their  testimony  at  trial  or  preparations  to  testify  at  trial.  And if a prosecutor does not have absolute immunity for in‐ vestigating the case, it follows that an expert witness does not  either. So Johnson and Rawson are not entitled to absolute im‐ munity.  III. CONCLUSION  The  qualified  immunity  appeals  are  DISMISSED,  and  the  judgment of the district court is  AFFIRMED with respect to its  absolute immunity rulings.     Case: 13-3343 24 Document: 91 Filed: 08/18/2017 Pages: 35 Nos. 13-3343, 13-3346 & 13-3347 SYKES, Circuit Judge, dissenting, with whom BAUER, FLAUM, and MANION, Circuit Judges, join. My colleagues have misread the district judge’s decision and failed to recognize the limits of jurisdictional principle announced in Johnson v. Jones, 515 U.S. 304 (1995). To the first point, the judge’s decision denying summary judgment actually contains two rulings. The judge held that (1) the evidentiary record reveals genuine factual disputes about whether certain key events occurred; and (2) the defendants are not entitled to qualified immunity because the evidence in the record, when construed in Robert Stinson’s favor, would permit a reasonable jury to find that they violated his right to due process by fabricating evidence used to wrongly convict him, see Whitlock v. Brueggemann, 682 F.3d 567 (7th Cir. 2012), and suppressing evidence of the fabrication, see Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), both of which are clearly established constitutional violations. The judge’s order does not neatly separate rulings (1) and (2), which I confess makes it more difficult to correctly apply the Johnson principle. But the absence of clean lines in the judge’s reasoning does not make the entire decision unreviewable. Our task is to determine whether the decision below contains a legal ruling about qualified immunity. If it does, then we may review it. Here, there’s no question that the judge’s decision does contain a legal ruling about qualified immunity. For the reasons explained in my opinion for the panel, Johnson does not block jurisdiction over this appeal. Stinson v. Gauger, 799 F.3d 833, 838–40 (7th Cir. 2015). Johnson must be read in light of Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372 (2007), and Plumhoff v. Rickard, 134 S. Ct. 2012 (2014). So read, Johnson does not apply and we have jurisdiction to Case: 13-3343 Document: 91 Nos. 13-3343, 13-3346 & 13-3347 Filed: 08/18/2017 Pages: 35 25 address and decide whether the defendants are entitled to qualified immunity. Scott and Plumhoff shed some new light on the limits of the Johnson jurisdictional principle, but my colleagues have misapplied Johnson on its own terms. To recapitulate, it is long-settled law that an order denying an immunity claim is effectively final with respect to the defendant’s right to avoid the burdens of litigation and trial, so appellate jurisdiction arises under 28 U.S.C. § 1291 pursuant to the collateral-order doctrine. Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 524–25 (1985). Johnson announced a limited exception to this general rule. The Supreme Court held that “a defendant, entitled to invoke a qualified immunity defense, may not appeal a district court’s summary judgment order insofar as that order determines whether or not the pretrial record sets forth a ‘genuine’ issue of fact for trial.” Johnson, 515 U.S. at 319–20 (emphasis added). The “insofar as” language is important. So is the context of the Court’s opinion. The plaintiff in Johnson sued five police officers alleging that they severely beat him during his arrest, breaking his ribs and requiring hospitalization, and in so doing violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizure. Id. at 307. Three of the officers moved for summary judgment, claiming qualified immunity and arguing that the plaintiff had no evidence that they were actually involved in the beating. Id. at 307–08. The district court denied the motion, relying on the plaintiff’s statement that he was beaten by unidentified officers and the officers’ admissions that they were present during the arrest. The court held that this evidence raised a genuine factual dispute Case: 13-3343 26 Document: 91 Filed: 08/18/2017 Pages: 35 Nos. 13-3343, 13-3346 & 13-3347 about whether these particular officers participated in the beating. Id. Note that this ruling dealt only with a disputed question of historical fact, not the legal question whether the evidence about the circumstances surrounding the beating—assuming the officers participated—would permit a reasonable jury to find that the officers used excessive force and thus violated the plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizure. And it was precisely because the district court rested its ruling solely on a dispute about the historical facts that the Supreme Court said the order was not immediately appealable; the order contained no final legal determination about qualified immunity for the appellate court to review. Id. at 313–14. Return now to the “insofar as” language, which appears in the Court’s holding at the very end of the opinion. Id. at 319–20. Just before this closing passage, the Court explained that some qualified-immunity rulings will have both reviewable and unreviewable aspects, and acknowledged that it might sometimes be difficult “to separate an appealed order’s reviewable determination (that a given set of facts violates clearly established law) from its unreviewable determination (that an issue of fact is ‘genuine’).” Id. at 319. After all, a qualified-immunity order is unreviewable only “insofar as” it makes the latter kind of determination; the former kind of determination is the legal question at the heart of any qualified-immunity claim and is immediately appealable under Mitchell notwithstanding the Court’s holding in Johnson. To illustrate the point, the Court “concede[d]” that if the district court “had determined that beating [the plaintiff] violated clearly established law, [the Case: 13-3343 Document: 91 Nos. 13-3343, 13-3346 & 13-3347 Filed: 08/18/2017 Pages: 35 27 officers] could have sought review of that determination.” Id. at 318. The lesson of this part of the Court’s opinion in Johnson is that a “mixed” qualified-immunity order is immediately reviewable, at least in part. If the district court holds that the summary-judgment record, viewed in the plaintiff’s favor, shows a violation of clearly established law—that is, would permit a reasonable jury to find for the plaintiff on his constitutional claim—then the defendant may take an immediate appeal to obtain review of that determination even if the order also identifies a genuine factual dispute. Scott and Plumhoff bring this important point into sharper focus. As in Johnson, the plaintiffs in Scott and Plumhoff alleged that the police used excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Each case involved a high-speed vehicular chase. In Scott an officer rammed the plaintiff’s fleeing car during the pursuit, and the excessive-force question ultimately turned on whether a reasonable officer could have believed that the plaintiff’s flight posed an actual and imminent threat to public safety, justifying the use of this degree of force. 550 U.S. at 375, 380–84. The officer moved for summary judgment based on qualified immunity, but the district court denied the motion, holding that genuine issues of fact required submission of the case to a jury. Id. at 376. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. Id. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the plaintiff’s version of the facts—he claimed that he remained in control of his vehicle throughout the pursuit so his flight was not a threat to public safety—was “blatantly contradicted by the record,” which included a video recording of the chase. Id. at 380. Applying the summary-judgment standard, the Court Case: 13-3343 28 Document: 91 Filed: 08/18/2017 Pages: 35 Nos. 13-3343, 13-3346 & 13-3347 addressed “the factual issue whether [the plaintiff] was driving in such fashion as to endanger human life.” Id. at 380–81. Based on the video recording, the Court held that the plaintiff’s flight “posed a substantial and immediate risk of serious physical injury to others” and that “no reasonable jury could conclude otherwise.” Id. at 386. The Court thus had “little difficulty” concluding that “it was reasonable for [the officer] to take the action that he did.” Id. at 384. Scott did not mention Johnson, but as I noted in the panel opinion, the Court’s decision “inescapably implies that Johnson should not be read too expansively.” Stinson, 799 F.3d at 839. Indeed, “[t]he Court made this point explicit in Plumhoff, which specifically addressed the limits of Johnson’s no-jurisdiction holding in light of Scott.” Id. Plumhoff was an excessive-force claim against police officers for shooting at a fleeing car. 134 S. Ct. at 2017–18. As in Scott, the district court held that the record on summary judgment revealed a material factual dispute about the level of danger posed by the driver’s flight and on that basis rejected the officers’ claim of qualified immunity. Id. at 2018. The Sixth Circuit initially dismissed the officers’ appeal under Johnson for lack of jurisdiction, but reversed itself in light of Scott and affirmed the district court’s denial of qualified immunity on the merits. Id. The Supreme Court reversed. The Court first addressed the matter of appellate jurisdiction, noting that the order at issue in Johnson rested entirely on a question of historical fact about which officers participated in the beating. That is, the defendant officers “assert[ed] that they were not present at the time of the alleged beating and had nothing to do with it,” but the district court held that the evidentiary record Case: 13-3343 Document: 91 Nos. 13-3343, 13-3346 & 13-3347 Filed: 08/18/2017 Pages: 35 29 could “support a contrary finding.” Id. at 2019. An “evidence sufficiency” ruling of that type, the Court explained, “does not present a legal question in the sense in which the term was used in Mitchell, the decision that first held that a pretrial order rejecting a claim of qualified immunity is immediately appealable.” Id. But the order at issue in Plumhoff, the Court observed, “is nothing like the order in Johnson.” Id. The defendant officers did not claim, for example, “that other officers were responsible for [the] shooting … ; rather, they contend[ed] that their conduct did not violate the Fourth Amendment and, in any event, did not violate clearly established law.” Id. More specifically, the officers acknowledged that they fired shots at the fleeing car but argued that their conduct was a reasonable response to the degree of danger created by the driver’s flight, or alternatively, that a reasonable officer would not have known that the shooting was unjustified in light of that danger. Id. These were “legal issues … quite different from any purely factual issues that the trial court might confront if the case were tried,” and “deciding legal issues of this sort is a core responsibility of appellate courts.” Id. So Johnson did not apply. Id. Moving to the merits, the Court held that the case was materially indistinguishable from Scott. The summaryjudgment record established “beyond serious dispute that [the driver’s] flight posed a grave public safety risk, and here, as in Scott, the police acted reasonably in using deadly force to end that risk.” Id. at 2022. As Scott and Plumhoff make clear, it’s a mistake to read Johnson as a categorical bar to appellate review of a qualified-immunity order whenever the district court makes Case: 13-3343 30 Document: 91 Filed: 08/18/2017 Pages: 35 Nos. 13-3343, 13-3346 & 13-3347 an “evidence sufficiency” ruling or concludes that facts are in dispute. If that were the right way to understand Johnson, then the district-court orders in Scott and Plumhoff were unreviewable and the Court would not have reached the merits of the qualified-immunity question. As the Court explained in some detail in Plumhoff, Johnson blocks an immediate appeal only when the district court’s order is limited to pure questions of historical fact—in other words, when the sole dispute is whether and how certain events or actions occurred. Johnson does not block immediate appeal when the issue is whether the evidence, if credited by a jury, shows a violation of a clearly established constitutional right. That is, after all, the core qualified-immunity question. Another way to think about the Johnson principle is this: The jurisdictional bar applies if the issues raised on appeal are limited to the “who, what, where, when, and how” of the case. The Johnson bar does not apply if the appeal asks whether the evidence in the summary-judgment record— construed in the plaintiff’s favor—would permit a reasonable jury to find that the defendant committed the claimed constitutional violation and the constitutional right in question was clearly established at the time the defendant acted. Properly understood, then, Johnson’s exception to the Mitchell rule is really quite narrow. That makes sense in this context. Qualified immunity protects public officers from the burdens of litigation and trial; it is immunity from suit, not just protection against liability. Mitchell, 472 U.S. at 525–27. The parties in § 1983 litigation often disagree about key historical facts, and it’s not uncommon for district judges to deny qualified immunity on both factual and legal grounds. Immunity from suit wouldn’t mean much if these mixed Case: 13-3343 Document: 91 Nos. 13-3343, 13-3346 & 13-3347 Filed: 08/18/2017 Pages: 35 31 orders were categorically unreviewable. Indeed, the Court acknowledged in Johnson that many qualified-immunity appeals are of this mixed variety. Johnson, 515 U.S. at 318–19. This is one of those mixed cases. The parties dispute two historical facts that the district judge concluded are material to the defendants’ potential liability: (1) whether Dr. Johnson met with the two detectives and showed them his initial sketch of the killer’s dentition before the detectives canvassed the neighborhood and interviewed Stinson; and (2) whether Dr. Johnson or Assistant District Attorney Daniel Blinka contacted Dr. Rawson for a second opinion. If the judge’s order denying summary judgment were limited to the identification of these key factual disputes, we would have no legal issue to review, Johnson would apply, and we’d have to dismiss the appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction. But the judge’s order is not limited to identifying these material factual disputes. The judge also ruled that if Stinson’s version of these events is credited—namely, if the preinterview meeting occurred and Dr. Johnson rather than ADA Blinka called Dr. Rawson—then a reasonable jury could find, based on these facts and the rest of the evidentiary record (construed in Stinson’s favor), that the defendants conspired to violate Stinson’s right to due process by delivering up fabricated odontology opinions and covering up the falsehoods, two clearly established constitutional violations. This latter aspect of the judge’s summary-judgment order is a final no-immunity ruling; it fully resolved the qualifiedimmunity question against the defendants. That’s a legal issue and is subject to immediate review under Mitchell notwithstanding the presence of material factual disputes. If Case: 13-3343 32 Document: 91 Filed: 08/18/2017 Pages: 35 Nos. 13-3343, 13-3346 & 13-3347 this aspect of the judge’s decision is unreviewable until after trial, then the immunity is completely lost; any mistake in the judge’s legal conclusion goes wholly uncorrected. Regrettably, by misreading Johnson, Scott, and Plumhoff, my colleagues have stripped the defendants of their right to meaningful review of the judge’s adverse qualifiedimmunity ruling. That ruling is not unreviewable. Appellate jurisdiction is secure, and we should reverse. Giving the evidence a Stinson-friendly benefit of the doubt, we must accept the following as true for purposes of deciding whether the defendants are protected by qualified immunity: 1 (1) Dr. Johnson met with the detectives before their field canvas and showed them his preliminary sketch of 1 At several points in the majority opinion, my colleagues say that the district judge “concluded” that certain historical events occurred and “determined” that certain facts exist. See, e.g., Majority Op. at p. 16 (“The district court concluded that viewing the submitted evidence in the light most favorable to Stinson, such a meeting did take place, and that during the pre-interview meeting Johnson showed the detectives a sketch of the assailant’s dentition reflecting a missing tooth to the right of the central incisor.”); id. at p. 17 (“The district court concluded that, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Stinson, Johnson made the first contact with Rawson.”); id. at p. 21 (“The district court determined that taking the facts in Stinson’s favor, ‘Gauger was cognizant of Johnson’s shifting view of which tooth was missing’ and ‘was fully aware’ of the ‘contents of his conversations with Johnson and what he implied in their second meeting, following his and Jackelen’s interview of Stinson,’ namely that Gauger implied a desired result in the expert opinions.”). This phrasing is wrong as a matter of basic summary-judgment methodology and potentially misleading. District judges are not empowered to make “conclusions” or “determinations” of fact at summary judgment. To be fair, the error originates in the decision below. We should not repeat it. Case: 13-3343 Document: 91 Nos. 13-3343, 13-3346 & 13-3347 Filed: 08/18/2017 Pages: 35 33 the killer’s dentition, which depicted a missing upper right lateral incisor (the tooth just to the right of the two front teeth); (2) Dr. Johnson changed his mind about which tooth the killer was missing after the detectives interviewed Stinson and saw that he was missing his right central incisor (that is, his right front tooth); (3) Dr. Johnson’s expert opinion that Stinson’s dentition matched the bite marks on the victim’s body fell far below the professional standards of forensic odontology at the time (this was not a close call, according to Stinson’s expert); (4) Dr. Johnson, not ADA Blinka, called Dr. Rawson to arrange a second opinion; and (5) Dr. Rawson’s opinion was likewise seriously substandard. 2 Accepting these facts as true establishes only that Drs. Johnson and Rawson were grossly negligent in declaring that Stinson’s dentition matched the bite marks on the victim’s body. In other words, their opinions were objectively unreasonable, and egregiously so. But an error in forensic analysis—even a grossly unprofessional error—is not a dueprocess violation. Fabricating evidence to convict an innocent person is a clear due-process violation, but a dueprocess claim based on an allegation that an expert fabricated his opinion requires evidence from which a reasonable jury could infer that the opinion was both wrong and that the expert knew it was wrong at the time he gave it. In other 2 Stinson’s expert may be qualified to offer an opinion about the deep flaws in the odontologists’ work, but he is not qualified to “opine[] that Johnson and Rawson knowingly manipulated the bite mark evidence and Stinson’s dentition to make them appear to match.” Majority Op. at p. 19 (emphasis added). Nothing in the record supports the expert’s ability to know or opine about their state of mind. Case: 13-3343 34 Document: 91 Filed: 08/18/2017 Pages: 35 Nos. 13-3343, 13-3346 & 13-3347 words, it requires evidence that the expert was not just badly mistaken but that he lied. So Stinson needed at least some circumstantial evidence to support an inference that Drs. Johnson and Rawson knew that he was not the killer and implicated him anyway. He has none. The evidence shows only that Drs. Johnson and Rawson were grossly negligent in their opinions and had an opportunity to reach an agreement with Gauger to frame Stinson. A deeply flawed forensic opinion plus evidence of an opportunity to plot a conspiracy is not enough. Stinson has no evidence of what was said in the preinterview meeting between Dr. Johnson and the detectives. He has no evidence of what was said in the phone call between Drs. Johnson and Rawson (assuming it occurred). He has no evidence of any motive on the part of Drs. Johnson or Rawson to falsely implicate Stinson. Why would credentialed forensic experts want to frame him? A jury could only guess. It’s sheer speculation that a conspiracy to frame Stinson was hatched in these conversations and that the experts implemented it by lying to the prosecutor, the John Doe judge, and the judge and jury at trial. No evidence exists to support this theory. Think of it this way: Would the evidence in this record establish probable cause for a warrant to arrest these defendants for committing perjury in the John Doe proceeding or at trial? Clearly not. A badly botched expert opinion plus a mere opportunity to plot a frame-up does not support probable cause for a perjury charge. Something more would be needed. On this record, even when construed in Stinson’s favor, no reasonable jury could find that Drs. Johnson and Rawson Case: 13-3343 Document: 91 Nos. 13-3343, 13-3346 & 13-3347 Filed: 08/18/2017 Pages: 35 35 violated Stinson’s right to due process by fabricating their expert opinions and suppressing evidence of the fabrication. The odontologists are entitled to qualified immunity. The related claim against Gauger is entirely derivative. Stinson claims that the detective solicited the fabrication and participated in a cover-up. Because no reasonable jury could find that the odontologists fabricated their opinions, Gauger too is entitled to qualified immunity. I respectfully dissent.

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