7th Circuit Court of Appeals
Case Name: Deon Patrick v. City of Chicago, et al.,
Case No.: 18-2759
Officials: SYKES, Chief Judge, and BAUER and ROVNER, Circuit Judges.
Focus: Jury Instructions
Deon Patrick was convicted of double murder in 1995 and sentenced to life in prison. The convictions were vacated in 2014 and Patrick was released. The Cook County Circuit Court issued a certificate of innocence, see 735 ILL. COMP. STAT. 5/2-702, and Patrick then filed suit for wrongful conviction against seven Chicago police officers and two prosecutors who investigated and prosecuted him. He alleged several constitutional claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state-law claims for malicious prosecution and civil conspiracy. The City of Chicago, also a defendant, stipulated to liability if any of its officers were found responsible for violating Patrick’s rights. A jury exonerated the prosecutors and one officer but found six officers liable and awarded more than $13 million in compensatory damages and punitive damages in varying amounts.
The defendants raise several errors on appeal. First, they claim that the district judge should have dismissed the case as a sanction for Patrick’s acknowledged perjury during discovery. Second, they challenge the judge’s decision to admit the certificate of innocence at trial, arguing that it was unfairly prejudicial, either alone or in combination with certain statements by Patrick’s lawyer during closing argument. Finally, they point to an error in the jury instruction on Patrick’s due-process claim.
We affirm. The judge’s ruling on the sanctions question was a reasonable exercise of his discretion, and it was not improper to admit the certificate of innocence into evidence at trial. The jury instruction contained an error, but it was harmless under the circumstances of this case.