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Donald v. Outlaw

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

June 1, 2018

WILLIE T. DONALD, Plaintiff,
BRUCE OUTLAW, et al., Defendants.


          Joseph S. Van Bokkelen United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Willie T. Donald has sued Bruce Outlaw, Carla K. Pike as special administrator of the Estate of John E. Jelks Jr., the City of Gary, and other unknown employees of the City. Each of the named defendants has filed a motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).

         A. Legal Standard

         The purpose of a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim is to test the sufficiency of the pleadings, not to decide the merits of the case. See Gibson v. Chi., 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). Rule 8(a)(2) provides that a complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief. A complaint must contain enough factual matter to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) A complaint is facially plausible if a court can reasonably infer from factual content in the pleading that the defendant is liable for the alleged wrongdoing. Id. When evaluating the sufficiency of a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court must construe it in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, accept well-pleaded facts as true, and draw all inferences in his favor. Reger Dev., LLC v. Nat'l City Bank, 592 F.3d 759, 763 (7th Cir. 2010).

         Documents attached to a motion to dismiss are considered part of the pleadings if they are referred to in the plaintiff's complaint and are central to his claim. When matters outside the pleadings are presented to the court, under Rule 12(d), the court must either convert the motion into a summary judgment motion or exclude the documents attached to the motion to dismiss. Levenstein v. Salafsky, 164 F.3d 345, 347 (7th Cir. 2006).

         B. Plaintiff's Complaint

         Plaintiff alleges that he was wrongfully convicted of murder and robbery and spent almost twenty-four years in prison for crimes he didn't commit. He claims that he was framed by City of Gary police officers Bruce Outlaw and John Jelks Jr. (“Defendant Officers”).[1] According to Plaintiff, his conviction rested solely on two false eyewitness identifications that Defendants fabricated and manipulated.

         Plaintiff's complaint concerns alleged police misconduct beginning in 1992. The complaint sets out the Defendant Officers' alleged misconduct in detail. (See Compl., ¶¶ 17-43.) The misconduct allegedly included using suggestive identification procedures and withholding from Plaintiff, his counsel, and the prosecution a report of a victim's identification as the perpetrator another individual who could not have been Plaintiff. In addition, Plaintiff claims that the Defendant Officers withheld the fact that one victim who viewed a lineup including Plaintiff told the Defendant Officers the robber was not in the lineup. Plaintiff further alleges in detail that the City of Gary allowed unconstitutional conduct on the part of its officers to flourish because of insufficient training, supervision, and discipline.

         Plaintiff's convictions were overturned on January 25, 2016, and all charges against him were dismissed on January 28, 2016, after one of the eyewitnesses came forward and told of how Defendant Officers had manipulated the identification process. Plaintiff filed this suit on January 24, 2017.

         Count I of the complaint sets out a due process claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the Defendant Officers deprived Plaintiff of his constitutional right to a fair trial, in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments and that the City's policy and practice of pursuing wrongful convictions by withholding exculpatory information, conducting unduly suggestive identification procedures, and fabricating inculpatory evidence were the moving force driving the constitutional violations. Count II alleges a conspiracy under § 1983 among the Defendant Officers and other City employees pursuant to the City's policy and practices to deprive Plaintiff of his constitutional rights. Count III alleges that the Defendant officers failed to prevent each other's violations of Plaintiff's constitutional rights. Count IV is a § 1983 claim that is labeled a malicious prosecution claim, but that Plaintiff now argues is a Fourth Amendment claim for unlawful seizure. Count V is a malicious prosecution claim brought under Indiana law. Counts VI and VII are state law claims against the Defendant Officers for intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Counts VIII and IX are state law respondeat superior and indemnification claims against the City.

         C. Discussion

         (1) Statute of Limitations

         Defendants Outlaw and Jelks Estate allege in their separate motions to dismiss that Plaintiff's claims are barred by Indiana's two-year statute of limitations for personal injury, Indiana Code § 34-11-2-4. Such a claim is an affirmative defense, which is ordinarily not appropriate for decision on a motions to dismiss. However, a statute of limitations defense may be adjudicated on a motion to dismiss if the allegations of the complaint itself set forth everything necessary to satisfy the defense. Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 579 (7th Cir. 2009). That is not the case here. In fact, it seems clear from the allegations of the complaint that most, if not all, of Plaintiff's claims did not accrue until his criminal conviction was overturned and the charges against him were dismissed in January 2016, so that the complaint filed in January 2017 is clearly timely. Because Defendants have not shown that the Plaintiff has pleaded himself out of court by alleging everything necessary to establish the statute of limitations defense, the Court denies their motions to dismiss on that ground.

         (2) Im ...

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