Frederick Lee Jackson v. Michael Barnes et al

Filing 201

ORDER ACCEPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS by Judge Ronald S.W. Lew. IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that (1) Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED as to Michael Barnes' liability; (2) Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED as to Patricia M. Murphy's and Ventura County Sheriff's Department's liability; (3) Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED as to Patricia M. Murphy's liability; and (4) Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED as to Michael Barnes' and the Ventura County Sheriff's Department's liability. (es)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 FREDERICK LEE JACKSON, Plaintiff, 12 13 14 Case No. CV 04-08017 RSWL (RAO) v. MICHAEL BARNES, et al., Defendants. 15 ORDER ACCEPTING FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 16 17 Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636, the Court has reviewed the Third Amended 18 Complaint, all of the records and files herein, and the Magistrate Judge’s Report 19 and Recommendation, dated February 4, 2016. Further, the Court has engaged in a 20 de novo review of those portions of the Report to which the Parties have objected. 21 The Court accepts and adopts the findings, conclusions, and recommendations of 22 the Magistrate Judge. 23 On September 27, 2004, Plaintiff Frederick Lee Jackson filed the instant 24 action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff filed his Third Amended Complaint on 25 May 12, 2015, asserting claims against Defendants Michael Barnes, Patricia 26 Murphy, and the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department. 27 Defendants moved for summary judgment on all claims in the Third Amended 28 Complaint. Both Plaintiff and On February 4, 2016, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report and 1 Recommendation, recommending that the Court grant, in part, and deny, in part, the 2 Parties’ cross-summary judgment motions. Both Plaintiff and Defendants have 3 filed Objections to the Report. 4 Defendants object to the Report’s finding that Plaintiff was taken into 5 custody for purposes of Miranda. (Defs.’ Objs. at 2.) Defendants argue that the 6 circumstances in this case closely resemble the circumstances found in Howes v. 7 Fields, --- U.S. ----, 132 S. Ct. 1181, 182 L. Ed. 2d 17 (2012). (See id. at 2-5.) In 8 Howes, two sheriff’s deputies questioned a Michigan jail inmate about allegations 9 of sexual conduct with a minor occurring before his incarceration. 132 S. Ct. at 10 1185. A deputy led the inmate down one floor of the facility and through a locked 11 door to a conference room in another section of the facility. Id. at 1185-86. The 12 deputies told the inmate that he was free to leave and return to his jail cell at the 13 beginning of and during the interview. Id. at 1186. The deputies were armed, but 14 the inmate was not restrained. Id. The conference-room door was open at times 15 and closed at times during the interview. Id. The inmate was questioned between 16 five and seven hours and was at no time given Miranda warnings. Id. 17 About halfway through the interview, the inmate “became agitated and began 18 to yell” after being confronted with allegations of abuse. Howes, 132 S. Ct. at 19 1186. One of the deputies, using an expletive, told the inmate to sit and said that 20 “‘if [he] didn’t want to cooperate, [he] could leave.” Id. The inmate told the 21 deputies “several times during the interview that he no longer wanted to talk” to 22 them, but he did not ask to return to his cell. Id. The inmate ultimately confessed. 23 After the interview, the inmate waited 20 minutes for an officer to be summoned to 24 take him back to his jail cell. Id. 25 The United States Supreme Court found that the inmate was not in custody 26 for purposes of Miranda. Howes, 132 S. Ct. at 1192-93. The Court indicated that, 27 in assessing the question of custody, a court must consider all of the circumstances 28 surrounding the interrogation to determine whether a reasonable person would not 2 1 have felt free to end the interrogation and leave. Id. at 1189. The Court stated that 2 “[w]hen a prisoner is questioned, the determination of custody should focus on all 3 of the features of the interrogation … includ[ing] the language that is used in 4 summoning the prisoner to the interview and the manner in which the interrogation 5 is conducted.” Id. at 1192. 6 Defendants attempt to draw favorable comparisons with Howes, arguing that 7 Plaintiff was subjected to even fewer restraints and therefore could not have been in 8 custody for purposes of Miranda. (See Defs.’ Objs. at 3-5.) Defendants contend 9 that the undisputed facts show Plaintiff was a sophisticated criminal, Defendant 10 Barnes interviewed Plaintiff for less than five minutes, Barnes was unarmed during 11 the interview, Plaintiff voluntarily ended the interview by standing up and telling 12 the guards outside that he wanted to leave, and the conditions of the interview room 13 were no harsher than Plaintiff’s usual environment. (See id.) In reaching their 14 conclusion, however, Defendants err by taking a narrow view of the circumstances 15 surrounding Plaintiff’s interview. 16 The Court agrees with the Report that a comprehensive analysis that takes 17 into consideration all of the circumstances surrounding Plaintiff’s interview leads to 18 the conclusion that Plaintiff was in Miranda custody. See Howes, 132 S. Ct. at 19 1192 (“the determination of custody should focus on all of the features of the 20 interrogation …”) (emphasis added). For instance, Plaintiff was not told he was 21 free to terminate the interview at any time. 22 untruthful in his past interviews. 23 confronted Plaintiff with evidence of guilt. Further, Barnes persisted in asking 24 Plaintiff for his story – eight times, specifically – within an approximately four- 25 minute timespan, despite Plaintiff refusing each time. Not only are these coercive 26 aspects absent in Howes, they also outweigh the other circumstances suggesting 27 Plaintiff was not in Miranda custody. 28 /// Plaintiff was accused of being Barnes insisted Plaintiff tell the truth and 3 1 Defendants claim that the Report’s emphasis on the fact that Plaintiff was not 2 informed he was free to leave undermines the totality of the circumstances test, 3 citing to Howes, 132 S. Ct. at 1194, in support. (Defs.’ Objs. at 7.) But the Howes 4 Court, in considering the totality of the circumstances, weighed this factor heavily. 5 See, e.g., 132 S. Ct. at 1194 (“Taking into account all of the circumstances of the 6 questioning – including especially the undisputed fact that respondent was told he 7 was free to end the questioning and to return to his cell – we hold that respondent 8 was not in custody within the meaning of Miranda.”) (emphasis added); see also id. 9 at 1195 (Ginsburg, J., concurring in part, dissenting in part) (“Critical to the Court’s 10 judgment is “the undisputed fact that [Fields] was told that he was free to end the 11 questioning and to return to his cell.”). The Report’s consideration that Barnes did 12 not inform Plaintiff he was free to leave, combined with the other coercive factors 13 found in Plaintiff’s interview, does not render the Report’s custodial finding 14 improper. See United States v. Thomas, Case No. 12-CR-0128-MJD-JJK, 2012 WL 15 6812536, at *6, 7 (D. Minn. Dec. 19, 2012) (comparing Howes and finding 16 custodial interrogation where, inter alia, defendant was not advised she was free to 17 leave), R&R adopted, 2013 WL 101930 (D. Minn. Jan. 8, 2013). 18 Defendants also object to the Report’s finding that Barnes is not entitled to 19 qualified immunity, arguing that the specific context of this case had not been 20 considered before 1993 so as to put a reasonable officer on notice that Barnes’ 21 conduct was unlawful. (Defs.’ Objs. at 6-8.) The argument is untenable because it 22 rests on an unwarrantedly narrow view of the circumstances surrounding Plaintiff’s 23 interview, glossing over the coercive aspects of the interview. (See id. at 6-7 24 (claiming the context at issue here for determining qualified immunity is “where a 25 prisoner already in custody is questioned for a matter of minutes by a single 26 unarmed officer without any restriction on the inmate’s movement beyond that 27 inherent in a prison setting”)); cf. Mullenix v. Luna, --- U.S. ----, 136 S. Ct. 305, 28 308, 193 L. Ed. 2d 255 (2015) (determining whether the law placed a state actor on 4 1 reasonable notice that his conduct would violate the Constitution must be 2 determined “in light of the specific context of the case, not as a broad general 3 proposition.”) (emphasis added). 4 Defendants urge this Court to disregard the coercive aspects of the interview 5 in determining qualified immunity because they are “secondary features” not 6 typically considered by other courts and do not establish “beyond debate” that a 7 reasonable officer would know Barnes’ conduct was unlawful. (Id. at 7-8.) The 8 arguments lack foundation and merit. At the time of Plaintiff’s interview, the law 9 was clearly established that, at a minimum, a person is in custody for purposes of 10 Miranda when there is a “formal arrest or restraint on freedom of movement of the 11 degree associated with a formal arrest.” See California v. Beheler, 463 U.S. 1121, 12 1125, 103 S. Ct. 3517, 77 L. Ed. 2d 1275 (1983). And in applying the law, courts 13 had found Miranda custody in cases decided before 1993 where a suspect was not 14 advised he or she may voluntarily terminate the interview and was free to leave, and 15 was confronted with psychological pressure and/or evidence of guilt. See, e.g., 16 United States v. Beraun-Panez, 812 F.2d 578, 580-81 (9th Cir. 1987) (finding 17 custody where, inter alia, suspect was not informed he was free to leave, was 18 repeatedly accused of lying, confronted with false or misleading witness statements, 19 and told to tell the truth); United States v. Wauneka, 770 F.2d 1434, 1438-39 (9th 20 Cir. 1985) (finding custody where, inter alia, suspect was not offered an 21 opportunity to leave the interview room prior to his confession, the questioning 22 turned accusatory, and the suspect was told to tell the truth). 23 Finally, Defendants claim in their Objections that summary judgment should 24 be entered for Defendant Ventura County Sheriff’s Department because Plaintiff 25 failed to present any evidence supporting the department’s liability under a Monell 26 theory. (Defs.’ Objs. at 8.) Because Defendants did not raise the issue of Monell 27 liability in their motion for summary judgment, the Court declines to consider the 28 argument as improper. See Greenhow v. Sec’y of Health & Human Servs., 863 F.2d 5 1 633, 638-39 (9th Cir. 1988) (district court properly ruled that issues raised for the 2 first time in objections to magistrate judge’s report had been waived), overruled on 3 other grounds by United States v. Hardesty, 977 F.2d 1347, 1348 (9th Cir. 1992). 4 Plaintiff objects to the Report’s conclusion that summary judgment should be 5 entered for Defendant Patricia M. Murphy. (See generally Pl.’s Objs.) Plaintiff 6 disagrees with the Report’s statement that he needs to prove Murphy’s participation 7 in the deprivation of his constitutional rights, arguing that he only needs to show 8 Murphy entered into an agreement or “meeting of the minds” with Barnes to 9 unlawfully elicit a confession from Plaintiff. (See id. at 1-2 (citing Gilbrook v. City 10 of Westminster, 177 F.3d 839, 856-57 (9th Cir. 1999).) However, a defendant is 11 liable under § 1983 only if his or her conduct “subjects, or causes to be subjected” 12 the alleged deprivation of a constitutional right. Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 370- 13 71, 96 S. Ct. 598, 46 L. Ed. 2d 561 (1976); see also Lacey v. Maricopa County, 693 14 F.3d 896, 915-16 (9th Cir. 2012). To prove then a civil conspiracy in violation of 15 § 1983, a plaintiff must have sufficient evidence showing that the defendant 16 participated in the conspiracy. See Lacey, 693 F.3d at 916; Gilbrook, 177 F.3d at 17 856-57. 18 evidence demonstrating Murphy’s participation in a conspiracy, within the lens 19 framed by Plaintiff – that Murphy directed Barnes to elicit a unlawful confession 20 from Plaintiff and knew about Barnes’ past practice of withholding Miranda 21 warnings. (See Third Amended Complaint, ¶¶ D(1), (9), (15)); cf. Robichaud 22 v. Ronan, 351 F.2d 533, 537 (9th Cir. 1965) (holding that prosecutors who 23 allegedly directed police to coerce confession from suspect, were not immunized 24 from responsibility for the unlawful acts). The Report correctly reviewed whether Plaintiff adduced sufficient 25 Plaintiff further claims in his Objections that the Report improperly weighed 26 the evidence in finding summary judgment for Murphy. (See Pl.’s Objs. at 2-5.) 27 The Court’s function in evaluating a summary judgment motion “is not to weigh 28 the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is 6 1 a genuine issue for trial.” Tolan v. Cotton, --- U.S. ----, 134 S. Ct. 1861, 1866, 188 2 L. Ed. 2d 895 (2014). “The evidence of the nonmovant is to be believed, and all 3 justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.” Id. at 1863. The exception 4 though is that the nonmovant may not create a genuine issue of material fact 5 through speculation or unjustifiable inferences. See Nelson v. Pima Cmty. Coll., 83 6 F.3d 1075, 1081-82 (9th Cir. 1996) (“[M]ere allegation and speculation do not 7 create a factual dispute for purposes of summary judgment.”); In re Coordinated 8 Pretrial Proceedings, 906 F.2d 432, 441 (9th Cir. 1990) (at summary judgment 9 stage, a court may refuse to adopt unreasonable inferences from circumstantial 10 evidence), cert. denied, Chevron Corp. v. Arizona, 500 U.S. 959, 111 S. Ct. 2274, 11 114 L. Ed. 2d 725 (1991). 12 The Court finds that the Report did not weigh the evidence in considering the 13 cross-motions for summary judgment, but rather appropriately reviewed the 14 materiality of the facts proffered to determine if they “might affect the outcome of 15 the suit under the governing law.” George v. Morris, 736 F.3d 829, 834 (9th Cir. 16 2013) (citing Behrens v. Pelletier, 516 U.S. 299, 312-13, 116 S. Ct. 834, 133 L. Ed. 17 2d 773 (1996) and Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S. Ct. 18 2505, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202 (1986)). And as the Report thoroughly explains, Plaintiff 19 fails to set forth evidence reasonably supporting the inference that Murphy 20 participated in a conspiracy to unlawfully elicit a confession. For example, Plaintiff 21 argues in his Objections that Murphy’s declaration stating she was knowledgeable 22 about the events with the prosecution demonstrates she was fully aware Barnes 23 would unlawfully elicit a confession from Plaintiff. (See Pl.’s Objs. at 4-5.) The 24 Court disagrees with the inference Plaintiff draws from this evidence because 25 Plaintiff offers only speculation as to the existence of a causal link between 26 Murphy’s knowledge of the events concerning the prosecution and her participation 27 in the alleged conspiracy. In short, Plaintiff’s proffered evidence fails to raise a 28 genuine triable issue of fact that Murphy directed Barnes to elicit an unlawful 7 1 confession from Plaintiff or knew about Barnes’ past practice of withholding 2 Miranda warnings. 3 IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that (1) Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary 4 Judgment is GRANTED as to Michael Barnes’ liability; (2) Plaintiff’s Motion for 5 Summary Judgment is DENIED as to Patricia M. Murphy’s and Ventura County 6 Sheriff’s Department’s liability; (3) Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment is 7 GRANTED as to Patricia M. Murphy’s liability; and (4) Defendants’ Motion for 8 Summary Judgment is DENIED as to Michael Barnes’ and the Ventura County 9 Sheriff’s Department’s liability. 10 11 12 13 14 DATED: 4/13/2016 s/ RONALD S.W. LEW RONALD S.W. LEW UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 8

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