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Martinez v. City of Chicago

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

August 17, 2018

Daniel Martinez, Plaintiff-Appellant,
City of Chicago, et al., Defendants-Appellees.

          Argued June 1, 2018

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 1.14-cv-00369 - Robert M. Dow, Jr., Judge.

          Before Ripple, Kanne, and Brennan, Circuit Judges.


         In 2012, Chicago Police Department officers arrested Daniel Martinez during a search of his home. They charged him with resisting arrest and obstruction of justice, but a jury acquitted him. He subsequently brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the officers had violated the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution of the United States, as made applicable to the states by the Fourteenth Amendment, when they entered and searched his home and seized him. He also alleged that the officers had committed the state tort of malicious prosecution. The jury found for the defendants on all claims. Mr. Martinez unsuccessfully sought judgment as a matter of law and a new trial. The district court entered judgment for the defendants, and Mr. Martinez now appeals. Because we believe that there was sufficient evidence to support the jury verdict and because Mr. Martinez failed to carry his burden of demonstrating the need for a new trial, we affirm the judgment of the district court.




         On January 17, 2012, two police officers, Reynaldo Nunez and Joaquin Salazar, observed a white Ford Taurus, driven by Alberto Martinez ("Alberto"), [1] run a stop sign. The officers attempted to make a traffic stop, but Alberto abandoned his vehicle and fled on foot through an alley for two blocks. On the way, he discarded a .357 revolver. Officer Nunez pursued him on foot and radioed for backup, noting that the suspect was headed to "Talman and 55th."[2] He observed Alberto enter a building, and he radioed the address-"2622 in the building"[3]-before following him inside. Officer Nunez also described Alberto as a Hispanic male with a ponytail, who was wearing a gray shirt and blue jeans. Once Officer Nunez was inside the home, he saw Vanessa Martinez ("Vanessa"), Alberto's sister, seated on a couch. He asked where the man had run, and Vanessa pointed toward the back of the residence. Officer Nunez set out in that direction but did not find Alberto. Officer Nunez stated over the radio that the suspect likely had fled to the alley. He then began searching the home cautiously, looking for Alberto.

         The building Alberto entered at 55th and Talman is, in fact, a duplex. It includes two separate residences: 2622 and 2624 West 55th. There is a single door on 55th Street; it is marked "2622."[4] The number 2624 also appears on the 55th Street side but in the corner, far from the door. There is a separate door on Talman, which appears to be marked 2624, although the photograph is not clear. Both residences were occupied by members of the Martinez family. The building has one garage and a single fence around a common backyard, as well as a single architectural style and no obvious exterior indications that it contains two separate residences.

         While Officer Nunez searched for Alberto, Officer Salazar recovered the weapon, secured the vehicle, and drove toward 55th and Talman. When Officer Salazar arrived at the house, he questioned Vanessa and learned that the suspect might be Alberto. Vanessa indicated that Alberto had long hair and drove a white Ford Taurus. Officer Salazar then transmitted the suspect's name, Alberto Martinez, over the radio. Because the building is across the street from an elementary school and it was near dismissal time, the school was placed on lockdown.

         Multiple police units responded to the radio transmissions. One of the arriving officers, Jeffrey Weber, entered the building through what he believed was a side door, but was actually the door to the separate residence, 2624 West 55th, facing Talman. He observed between ten and fifteen officers present.

         Plaintiff Daniel Martinez ("Mr. Martinez") returned home from shopping with a friend, Alex Matias. Matias testified that they noticed the police cars and that Mr. Martinez left the car to investigate. He entered through the back of the building and went toward his room. Mr. Martinez claimed, to the contrary, that he was unaware of police officers at the residence. At some point, another officer announced over the radio that the suspect was returning, entering the home through the back door.

         Mr. Martinez entered the living room and saw his niece on the couch with Officer Weber standing next to her. The curtains in the room were closed, making it somewhat dark, but the television was on, and Officer Weber was wearing his police uniform, including a coat with a police emblem. Mr. Martinez denied that he could tell that Officer Weber was in uniform, but his niece recognized the man as an officer. Officer Weber believed Mr. Martinez matched the description of the fleeing suspect, a Hispanic male with long hair pulled back. Mr. Martinez was, however, wearing a red shirt, not the gray shirt described in the radio transmissions. Officer Weber testified that he had not heard the shirt color over the radio. Mr. Martinez approached Officer Weber. He screamed expletives at the officer, demanded that he "[g]et... out/' and yelled "[w]e didn't call you."[5] Officer Weber asked his name, and Mr. Martinez responded that he was Daniel Martinez.

         Officer Weber repeatedly ordered Mr. Martinez to the ground or to put his hands behind his back, and Mr. Martinez refused. Instead, at one point, Mr. Martinez walked toward the door and appeared to be attempting to open it. Officer Weber tried to detain Mr. Martinez so that Officer Nunez could come and make an identification, but Mr. Martinez pulled his arms away. Officer Weber called for assistance, and Officer Chavez came to the door. Officer Chavez's account confirmed that Mr. Martinez was flailing his arms to avoid Officer Weber. His testimony also confirmed that Mr. Martinez appeared to match the description of the suspect. Together, Officers Weber and Chavez took down Mr. Martinez and put him in handcuffs.

         After Mr. Martinez was arrested, he saw Officer Allyson Bogdalek seated inside a police vehicle. According to Mr. Martinez's deposition testimony, he heard Officer Bogdalek say, "That's not him. That's Danny."[6] At trial, he added that he further heard her say, "Lock him up anyways."[7]Matias, the friend who had been shopping with Mr. Martinez, claimed that he heard Officer Bogdalek say, "Take him anyways. I don't care."[8] Outside of the house, Officer Nunez identified Mr. Martinez as Danny, not Alberto. Officers Chavez and Weber nevertheless decided to arrest Danny for "resisting and obstructing."[9] Officer Chavez learned, once they were at the station, that Mr. Martinez had a pending civil rights action against Officers Weber and Bogdalek.[10]

         Ultimately, Officers Chavez and Weber each filed two criminal complaints against Mr. Martinez, for resisting arrest and obstructing justice. With respect to resisting, both officers cited his pulling away from the officers when they attempted to put him in handcuffs. With respect to obstruction, both officers claimed that Mr. Martinez had attempted to block access to a room they wanted to enter to search for a fleeing suspect. The arrest report for the incident included a check-box for resisting that was marked "no." Officer Weber testified at Mr. Martinez's criminal trial on the resulting charges. In his testimony, he indicated that the language regarding blocking a room was in error, but that Mr. Martinez's conduct hindered the investigation of the original suspect because the officers were delayed in ascertaining his identity and in their continued search. Mr. Martinez was acquitted on all charges.


         Mr. Martinez brought this action against Officers Weber, Chavez, and Bogdalek, and their employer, the City of Chicago, in 2014. The case was tried to a jury, which returned a verdict for the defendants on all counts. Mr. Martinez moved for a judgment as a matter of law and for a new trial under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 50(b) and 59, respectively.[11] The defendants moved for costs.

         In a comprehensive order, the district court denied Mr. Martinez's motions and awarded $9, 902.78 in costs to the defendants. With respect to his Rule 50 motion, the court concluded that evidence supported the jury's verdict on the unlawful entry and search claim because Alberto's flight had created an exigent need to enter the home and because the officers reasonably believed that the home was a single residence. On the unlawful seizure and false arrest claims, the court concluded that, although Mr. Martinez gave a different name and was wearing a different color shirt, other objective factors gave the officers reason to believe he was the fleeing suspect, including that he came into the house, was a Hispanic male with long hair pulled back, had the same last name as the suspect and was found close to the place where Alberto had last been seen. This evidence was sufficient to permit the jury to conclude that the officers had probable cause to believe that Mr. Martinez was a fleeing suspect. The court also determined that there was sufficient evidence to arrest Mr. Martinez for resisting and obstructing. Finally, on his claim for malicious prosecution, the court agreed with the defendants that errors in the charges were negligent but did not show malice.

         The district court then ruled on Mr. Martinez's Rule 59 motion. The court noted that the jury had to sort out "testimony that was riddled with inconsistencies" and had reached a reasonable conclusion in light of the evidence.[12]The court also rejected Mr. Martinez's claim that the defendants' closing statement, which referenced a gunman in the proximity of a school, was unfairly prejudicial. Specifically, the court rejected the challenge as waived because Mr. Martinez had not objected to such a reference at trial. The court further rejected challenges to several jury instructions as well as his argument that our cases have ...

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