United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ENTRY ON UNITED STATES' MOTION FOR SUMMARY
William T. Lawrence, Judge United States District Court
Southern District of Indiana
cause is before the Court on the United States' Motion
for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 61). The motion is fully
briefed and the Court, being duly advised, GRANTS the motion
for the reasons set forth below.
Kristine Bunch alleges the following facts in her Complaint
against the United States (Dkt. No. 1 in Cause No.
1:15-cv-160-RLY-TAB). Because the issue before the Court is
whether the United States is entitled to immunity for
Bunch's claims, the Court assumes for purposes of this
motion that these facts are true.
Greensburg, Indiana mobile home caught fire in the early
morning hours of June 30, 1995, killing her three-year-old
son, Anthony. An investigation into the cause of the fire
soon ensued. Indiana Fire Marshal investigators Bryan Frank
and James Skaggs gathered evidence from Bunch's home and
quickly concluded that “the fire was deliberately set,
that accelerants had been used to cause the fire, that there
were ‘pour patterns' in the burned out home where
accelerants had been poured, and that the fire had started in
two separate locations, one of which was the bedroom in which
Anthony was sleeping.” Compl. ¶ 8.
support of their theory, Frank and Skaggs sent the evidence
to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives
(“ATF”) to be tested. William Kinard, a forensic
chemist and gunshot residue analyst specialist (“GRA
specialist”) with the ATF, was assigned to the case.
Kinard concluded that several samples, including those from
Anthony's bedroom (“Exhibit 8”) and the
living room (“Exhibit 6”), had no traces of Heavy
Petroleum Distillates (“HPDs”) or any other
accelerants. He documented these findings in his initial
report and communicated them to Skaggs and Frank.
Kinard's findings were inconsistent with Skaggs and
Franks' theory of the case, they “caused
Kinard's report to be altered so that it falsely stated
that accelerants were found in exhibits 6 and 8, ”
Compl. ¶ 24, and “Kinard agreed to alter his
report to state that accelerants were found in exhibits 6 and
8, and concocted an ‘official' report which falsely
so stated.” Id. ¶ 25. Kinard also agreed
not to include his finding that the areas that tested
positive for HPDs were only “consistent with the
presence of kerosene, for which there was an innocent
explanation”; rather, his official report would state
that “they were consistent with a much broader array of
HPDs[.]” Id. ¶ 26. Skaggs, Frank, and
Kinard submitted only the “official” report to
the Decatur County State's Attorney in July 1995.
1996, Bunch was convicted of Anthony's murder and
sentenced to sixty years in prison. In 2006, Bunch filed a
post conviction petition challenging her conviction. During
the post conviction proceedings,
it was first revealed that Kinard had prepared at least two
reports that found no HPDs in exhibits 6 and 8-the crucial
evidence from the bedroom and the “pour pattern”
in the living room-and that Kinard had also determined that
the HPDs found in other parts of the home were consistent
only with kerosene, not other HPDs.
It also was revealed for the first time in the course of
these proceedings that Kinard had communicated his real
findings to Skaggs and Frank, that these findings had been
suppressed, and that subsequently his official report had
been altered and fabricated to inculpate [Bunch].
Id. ¶¶ 38-39. The Indiana Court of Appeals
reversed Bunch's conviction on March 21, 2012, finding
that “the State's failure to turn over a report
from the ATF testing of floor samples violates
Brady[.]” Id. ¶ 41; see also
Bunch v. State, 964 N.E.2d 274 (Ind.Ct.App. 2012).
Transfer to the Indiana Supreme Court was denied, and on
December 17, 2012, all charges against Bunch were dropped. In
all, Bunch spent seventeen years in prison.
Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment
is appropriate “if the movant shows that there is no
genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” In ruling on
a motion for summary judgment, the admissible evidence
presented by the non-moving party must be believed, and all
reasonable inferences must be drawn in the non-movant's
favor. Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th
Cir. 2009) (“We view the record in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable
inferences in that party's favor.”). However, a
party who bears the burden of proof on a particular issue may
not rest on its pleadings, but must show what evidence it has
that there is a genuine issue of material fact that requires
trial. Johnson v. Cambridge Indus., Inc., 325 F.3d
892, 901 (7th Cir. 2003). Finally, the non-moving party bears
the burden of specifically identifying the relevant evidence
of record, and “the court is not required to scour the
record in search of evidence to defeat a motion for summary
judgment.” Ritchie v. Glidden Co., 242 F.3d
713, 723 (7th Cir. 2001).