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Civil Rights – Due process – fabricating evidence


Civil Rights – Due process – fabricating evidence


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U.S. Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit


Civil Rights – Due process – fabricating evidence

Where the plaintiff was released after arrest and found not guilty, he cannot sue police officers on a theory that the officers violated his due process rights by attempting to frame him.

“Subsequent to his acquittal by a jury on burglary charges, Omar Saunders-El sued members of the Rockford, Illinois police department, alleging that they planted his blood at the crime scene in an attempt to frame him. His complaint included a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim—contending that by fabricating evidence, the officers offended his due process rights—and Illinois state law claims for malicious prosecution and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The district court granted summary judgment for the officers on the federal claim and dismissed the state law claims without prejudice to refiling in state court. In the district court’s view, fabricating evidence does not violate a defendant’s due process rights and cannot support a § 1983 action; such an allegation must instead be brought as a state law claim for malicious prosecution, the district court reasoned. That holding is mistaken. A criminal defendant’s due process rights may be violated—actionable by way of 42 U.S.C. § 1983—when the evidence against him is fabricated. However, due process is not implicated when, as here, the defendant is released on bond following his arrest and acquitted at trial. And this rule cannot be circumvented, as Saunders-El attempts to do, simply by reframing such an allegation as a Brady claim—that is, by alleging that the police officers who supposedly fabricated the evidence failed to reveal their misconduct to the prosecution. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the district court, but on other grounds.”


14-1570 Saunders-El v. Rohde

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Western Division, Kapala, J., Flaum, J.

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