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.
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