Kenneth Pfoser And John Onstwedder Testify In Brown's Chicken Case

Yesterday, DNA expert Kenneth Pfoser testified that DNA found on a partially eaten chicken dinner matched that of Juan Luna, who is on trial for murder in the Brown's chicken case. Pfoser works at the Northeastern Illinois Crime Lab. Also yesterday, John Onstwedder, a fingerprint expert, testified that Juan Luna's palm print matched a partial print found on a napkin recovered at the crime scene. Judge Vincent Gaughan is presiding over the trial.

Cecila Doyle Testifies In Brown's Chicken Case

Illinois State Police crime lab scientist Cecilia Doyle testified recently in the Brown's chicken murder case. Doyle testified that a DNA profile found on chicken bones came from at least one man. Doyle testified that she tested five swabs and got a mixture of DNA profiles and there was more than one contributor from the sample. Doyle also testified that the five swabs were eventually lost. The trial against Juan Luna is continuing in Cook County Circuit Court.

Seventh Circuit Hears Oral Argument In Evan Zimmerman Case

On April 10, 2007, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral argument in the case of Evan Zimmerman versus the City of Eau Claire, et al. Last year, District Judge John C. Shabaz granted summary judgment to the defendants, the City of Eau Claire, and police officers Eric Larsen, Donn Adams, Gary Foster and Todd Trapp in Zimmerman's civil rights lawsuit. In 2001, Zimmerman was charged with the murder of Kathy Thompson, a woman who was recently married and whom Zimmerman had previously dated. Thompson had been strangled. At his criminal trial, Zimmerman was convicted of murder. Zimmerman was granted a new trial due to his trial counsel's deficiencies. After a second criminal trial was commenced in April 2005, the district attorney decided to drop its prosecution of Zimmerman. Zimmerman subsequently filed a civil rights lawsuit claiming the defendants denied him due process of law by withholding exculpatory evidence. Zimmerman claimed that the defendants withheld exculpatory evidence concerning the testimony of Maureen Horne. The district court rejected this argument, stating "This argument is highly speculative. . . There is no evidence in the record that an earlier statement by Horne existed and was destroyed or that she was improperly coached by defendant Larsen. Plaintiff has failed to show that there was any statement by Horne that was exculpatory which was destroyed or suppressed by the defendants." Zimmerman also claimed that the police officers coerced testimony from witness Brice Rene. The district court rejected that argument too, stating "there is no evidence that any of Rene's statements were coerced or improperly coached. Plaintiff's attorney had the opportunity to cross examine Rene concerning his statements and the hypnosis. Rene's statements did not deny plaintiff due process." The district court also rejected Zimmerman's claim that defendant Trapp falsified plaintiff's polygraph report. Thus, the district court granted summary judgment to the defendants. At the oral argument before the Seventh Circuit, Zimmerman's attorney, Jon Loevy of Loevy & Loevy, argued that summary judgment should not have been granted and that Zimmerman was entitled to a trial. Counsel for the police officers argued that Zimmerman's arguments were based on mere speculation and there was no evidence of police misconduct. Judge Richard Posner chaired the Seventh Circuit panel that heard oral argument. A decision is expected later this year.

Alleged Victims of Police Beating at Jefferson Tap & Grille File Suit

Four men who allege they were beaten by off-duty Chicago police officers at the Jefferson Tap & Grille have filed suit against the bar. The four men are Barry Gilfand, Aaron Gilfand, Adam Mastrucci, and Scott Lowrance. The men allege that the Jefferson Tap & Grille failed to provide proper security for its patrons and "refused to intervene in the attack."

City of Chicago to Pay $8 Million to Larry Ollins and Omar Saunders

The Chicago Tribune has reported that the City of Chicago has reached an agreement to pay $8 million to Larry Ollins and Omar Saunders, two of the men who were convicted of the 1986 rape and murder of medical student Lori Roscetti. Ollins and Saunders were released from prison in 2001. Duane Roach and Eddie Harris pleaded guilty to Roscetti's rape and murder in 2004 and were each sentenced to 75 years in prison. In December 2006, the City of Chicago approved a $900,000 settlement to Marcellius Bradford, who had also been charged with Roscetti's rape and murder. And Calvin Ollins, Larry Ollins' cousin, settled with the City in 2003 for $1.5 million.

Judge Lefkow's Motion In Limine Rulings In Cornelius Ware v. City of Chicago

A February 12, 2007 post on this blog reports on the City's $5 million plus settlement with the family of Cornelius Ware. Below is a summary of Judge Lefkow's motion in limine rulings in the case: (1) Plaintiff's motion in limine to bifurcate liability and damages at trial - GRANTED. (2) Plaintiff's motion in limine to bar certain references to facts not known at the time of the shooting - GRANTED. (3) Plaintiff's motion in limine to exclude certain expert opinions of Vincent DiMaio - GRANTED. (4) Plaintiff's motion in limine to bar any reference to the fact that Cornelius Ware was previously the victim of gun violence - GRANTED. (5) Plaintiff's motion in limine to bar the medical examiner from providing undisclosed opinion testimony - GRANTED. (6)(7) Plaintiff's motion in limine to bar any references to tatoos on Cornelius Ware's body and Plaintiff's motion in limine to bar references to any allegations that plaintiff or any other witness was ever in a gang - GRANTED. (8) Plaintiff's motion in limine to bar references to certain irrelevant subjects: (A) plaintiff's prior attorneys - GRANTED; (B) accidental shooting - EXCLUDED until further order of the court; (C) purported shootings in nearby park - GRANTED. (9) Plaintiff's motion in limine to bar undisclosed witnesses from testifying at trial - GRANTED. (10) Plaintiff's motion in limine to bar references to Cook County Adult Probation Department "Investigative Report" - GRANTED. (11) Plaintiff's motion in limine to bar references to IDOC records - GRANTED. (12) Plaintiff's motion in limine to bar references to Cornelius Ware's prior arrests and conviction - GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. (1) Defendants' motion to bar medical examiner's death certificate and use of the term "homicide" - GRANTED. (2) Defendants' motion to bar evidence of violation of Chicago Police Department Orders, Rules and Regulations - DENIED. (3) Defendants' motion to bar evidence of prior lawsuit and/or citizen complaints against defendants and any non-defendant police witnesses - GRANTED. (4) Defendants' motion to bar testimony or evidence suggesting that the defendants may be indemnified for compensatory damages - Ruling is RESERVED. (5) Defendants' motion to bar Fraternal Order of Police Disclaimer in Official Reports - DENIED. (6) Defendants' motion to bar evidence or argument suggesting a "code of silence" among police officers - Ruling is RESERVED. (7) Defendants' motion to bar evidence and argument regarding other events concerning allegations of police misconduct - GRANTED. (8) Defendants' motion to bar evidence and argument regarding Monell Claims - GRANTED. (9) Defendants' motion to bar evidence and argument that plaintiff has independent claims for relief or damages - GRANTED. (10) Defendants' motion to exclude witnesses - GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

Jury Rules In Favor Of Chicago Police In Porch Shooting Case

A state court jury returned a quick verdict in favor of Chicago police officers who shot and killed 39-year old Joseph Zagar on May 3, 2004. The officers shot Zagar after he refused to put down what the police thought was a gun but turned out to be a large battery pack. The case was defended by Thomas Samson of the City of Chicago Corporation Counsel's Office. Judge Elrod presided over the trial. More to follow.

Appellate Court Expunges Stanley Howard's Arrest Records

The Illinois State Appellate Court has issued an opinion reversing the circuit court of cook county's denial of Stanley Howard's petition to expunge records of his arrest for a crime for which he was pardoned by Governor Ryan. Howard was arrested on November 1, 1984 by Chicago police officers for a number of crimes, including murder, attempted robbery, and kidnapping. Howard was tried for the various crimes and was found guilty of the attempted robbery and murder charges and was sentenced to death. In post conviction proceedings, Howard claimed his confession at trial on the murder charge resulted from police torture. On January 10, 2003, prior to resolution of his post conviction claim, Howard received a full pardon from Governor Ryan based on innocence. Howard subsequently petitioned to expunge the record of his arrest for his murder conviction under subsection 5(c) of the Criminal Identification Act (20 ILCS 2630/5(c)). The State objected to Howard's request, contending the Criminal Identification Act did not permit expungement of arrest records when the petitioner had other convictions.  The circuit court denied Howard's petition for expungement. On appeal, the court reversed, finding that the legislature intended for the wrongfully convicted to receive automatic expungements.

Judge Andersen Dismisses Excessive Force Claim Against The Town Of Cicero

In a Memorandum, Opinion and Order dated March 15, 2007, Northern District of Illinois Judge Wayne R. Andersen has dismissed plaintiff Rodolfo Sanchez's excessive force claim against the Town of Cicero. The court noted that "in order to successfully plead a cause of action against a municipality under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the plaintiff must allege unconstitutional conduct by a municipal employee that was perpetrated according to a municipal 'policy' or 'custom' and which directly caused plaintiff's injury," citing Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978). In dismissing the excessive force claim against the Town of Cicero, the court stated: "The plaintiff's first amended complaint fails to meet the pleading requirements for a section 1983 claim against a municipality. Plaintiffs have failed to allege that the unconstitutional conduct of the municipal police officers was perpetrated according to any policy or custom of the Town of Cicero. There are no allegations as to an express policy of the Town of Cicero endorsing excessive force by the police. There are also no allegations that use of excessive force is a widespread practice within the Town of Cicero police department amounting to a well-settled custom. Finally, plaintiffs have not alleged their unconstitutional deprivations were a result of the conduct of an individual with final policymaking authority in the Town of Cicero." The full opinion can be found at 2007 WL 844588. The Town of Cicero was represented by Kevin Horan and James Novy of the law firm of Rock Fusco, LLC.

Seventh Circuit Affirms Dismissal Of False Arrest Claim

Plaintiff Prince Foryoh alleged that on July 10, 2001 the police stopped his car without reason and arrested him using excessive force. Foryoh was released a few hours later and criminal charges were filed but later dismissed. Plaintiff filed suit on May 18, 2005 under 42 USC 1983 against Regina Hannah-Porter, one of the arresting officers. The Seventh Circuit held that plaintiff's claim for wrongful arrest accrued when he was released from custody on July 10, 2001, citing the Supreme Court's recent decision in Wallace v. Kato. The court also held that plaintiff's claims based on excessive force and unlawful search accrued a few hours earlier the same day, as soon as plaintiff sustained injury for those alleged wrongs. The court confirmed that the time limit for Section 1983 claims in Illinois is two years, not the five-year residual statute of limitations that plaintiff had argued should apply.