CA7: Former police officer stated 4A malicious prosecution claim for false and misleading information in arrest and SW

Plaintiff stated a Fourth Amendment (not called malicious prosecution) for false statements and omissions in support of his arrest and search warrant where the alleged probable cause was thin to begin with. He was tried three times, reversed twice, and acquitted on the third trial. The police exaggerated the alleged forensic evidence from unqualified people. Camm v. Faith, 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 27252 (7th Cir. Sept. 10, 2019):

There are many factual disputes. Construing the evidence in Camm’s favor, as we must at this stage, the claims center on the following version of events. Camm came home on the night in question and found his wife and two young children shot to death in the garage. Two days later law-enforcement officers obtained a warrant for his arrest, relying almost exclusively on the observations of Robert Stites—a plainly unqualified forensic assistant who was not trained to do anything more than photograph evidence. Taking a far more active role in the investigation, Stites told the investigators that several bloodstains on Camm’s T-shirt were “high velocity impact spatter,” indicating that Camm was present and in close proximity when one or more of the victims was struck by a bullet. Investigators and prosecutors exaggerated Stites’s qualifications in a probable-cause affidavit and at trial, and a jury found Camm guilty. The judgment was reversed on unrelated grounds, and on retrial Camm was again convicted. That judgment too was reversed. A jury found him not guilty the third time around. He was released after 13 years in custody.

This lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 followed. The defendants are several investigators, two prosecutors, and Stites and his boss, who backed up his assistant’s opinions. Camm alleges that the defendants willfully or recklessly made false statements in three probable-cause affidavits that led to his arrest and continued custody while he awaited trial and retrial. Though the parties and the district judge referred to this as a claim for malicious prosecution, we’ve since explained that “malicious prosecution” is the wrong label. It’s a Fourth Amendment claim for wrongful arrest and detention. The suit also raises a claim of evidence suppression in violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 83 S. Ct. 1194, 10 L. Ed. 2d 215 (1963). Finally, Camm alleges that the defendants deprived him of a fair trial by inducing the real killer Charles Boney to give a false account implicating him in the murders. The judge entered summary judgment for the defendants.

We reverse in part. Camm presented enough evidence to proceed to trial on the Fourth Amendment claim, but only as it relates to the first probable-cause affidavit. A trial is also warranted on the following aspects of the Brady claim: whether some of the defendants suppressed evidence of Stites’s lack of qualifications and their failure to follow through on a promise to run a DNA profile through a law-enforcement database to check for a match. In all other respects, we affirm the judgment.

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