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Humbert v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore City

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

August 7, 2017

MARLOW HUMBERT, Plaintiff - Appellant,
v.
MAYOR AND CITY COUNCIL OF BALTIMORE CITY; SHEILA DIXON, former Mayor of the City of Baltimore, in her individual capacity; BALTIMORE CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT; FREDERICK BEALEFELD, Police Commissioner Individually and as Police Commissioner, Baltimore City Police Department; DOMINICK GRIFFIN, Detective Individually and as Police Officer, Baltimore City Police Department; MICHAEL BRASSELL, Police Officer Individually and as Police Officer, Baltimore City Police Department; CINESE CALDWELL, Laboratory Technician individually and as Police Officer, Baltimore City Police Department; JOHN AND JANE DOES 1-20, Individually and as currently unknown Police Officers, Baltimore City Police Department; RICHARD AND JANE ROES 1-20, Individually and as currently unknown Baltimore City Police Department Supervisors, Defendants - Appellees, and CHRIS JONES, Detective Sergeant Individually and as Police Officer, Baltimore City Police Department; MARTIN O'MALLEY, Individually and as Governor of the State of Maryland and former Mayor of the City of Baltimore; KEITH MERRYMAN, Detective Individually and as Police Officer, Baltimore City Police Department; CAPRICE SMITH, Detective Individually and as Police Officer, Baltimore City Police Department, Defendants. MARLOW HUMBERT, Plaintiff - Appellant,
v.
BALTIMORE CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT; FREDERICK BEALEFELD, Police Commissioner Individually and as Police Commissioner, Baltimore City Police Department; SHEILA DIXON, former Mayor of the City of Baltimore, in her individual capacity; MAYOR AND CITY COUNCIL OF BALTIMORE CITY, Defendants - Appellees, and MICHAEL BRASSELL, Police Officer Individually and as Police Officer, Baltimore City Police Department; CINESE CALDWELL, Laboratory Technician individually and as Police Officer, Baltimore City Police Department; DOMINICK GRIFFIN, Detective Individually and as Police Officer, Baltimore City Police Department; JOHN AND JANE DOES, Individually and as currently unknown Police Officers, Baltimore City Police Department; KEITH MERRYMAN, Detective Individually and as Police Officer, Baltimore City Police Department; MARTIN O'MALLEY, Individually and as Governor of the State of Maryland and former Mayor of the City of Baltimore; RICHARD AND JANE ROES 1-20; CHRIS JONES, Detective Sergeant Individually and as Police Officer, Baltimore City Police Department; CAPRICE SMITH, Detective Individually and as Police Officer, Baltimore CityPolice Department, Defendants.

          Argued: January 25, 2017

         Appeals from the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, at Baltimore. William D. Quarles, Jr., District Judge. (1:11-cv-00440-WDQ)

         ARGUED:

          Charles Henry Edwards, IV, LAW OFFICE OF BARRY GLAZER, LLP, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellant.

          Suzanne Sangree, BALTIMORE CITY DEPARTMENT OF LAW, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellees.

         ON BRIEF:

          George Nilson, City Solicitor, Kara Lynch, Assistant Solicitor, Colin Glynn, Assistant Solicitor, BALTIMORE CITY DEPARTMENT OF LAW, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellees.

          Before GREGORY, Chief Judge, and THACKER and HARRIS, Circuit Judges.

          GREGORY, Chief Judge:

         For over a year, Appellant Marlow Humbert languished in pretrial solitary confinement, charged with committing a heinous act of sexual assault. The questionable investigatory strategies of Baltimore City Police Department ("BPD") officers led to Humbert's unlawful arrest. Afterwards, the officers failed to inform the State's Attorney that the victim could not positively identify Humbert and that DNA reports excluded him as a suspect. Once the prosecutor obtained this information, he dropped the charges and Humbert was finally freed. Humbert then initiated a suit against the officers who caused his arrest and the government officials he believed sanctioned the deprivation of his liberty.

         A jury determined that the officers violated Humbert's constitutional rights and awarded him $2.3 million in compensatory and punitive damages. The district court, however, struck the damages award, concluding that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity because they had probable cause to arrest Humbert. On appeal, Humbert maintains that the district court erred in its probable cause analysis by misinterpreting the evidence and misapplying the law. As explained below, we reverse the district court's judgment and remand with instructions to reinstate the jury verdict.

         I.

         We begin with a summary of the relevant evidence presented at trial, viewed in the light most favorable to Humbert. Buckley v. Mukasey, 538 F.3d 306, 321 (4th Cir. 2008). On April 29, 2008, a woman (the "victim") was raped in her home in the Charles Village neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland. When Detective Dominic Griffin and Sergeant Chris Jones arrived at the scene, the victim described her attacker as a 5'7", African-American male in his late 30s to early 40s who was fairly well-spoken. The victim testified that Jones repeatedly asked whether the assailant was homeless, but Jones testified that he did not recall asking this question. Griffin then transported the victim to the hospital for a physical exam, during which her clothing was collected and physical evidence was retrieved from her body.

         When she returned home, the victim, an experienced and well-trained artist, sketched the assailant attempting to capture his "very distinct features." J.A. 508. Her sketch was discarded, however, because BPD procedure required that an officer complete the composite sketch. The next day, the victim met with an officer to generate the composite, but it looked generic and she attempted to redraw portions of it. The victim testified that at some point either during or after completing the sketch, Jones showed her a photo on his cellphone of a man he identified as her attacker. Jones testified that he did not show "anybody a photo of anything, " J.A. 622, but later stated that if he had shown her a photo, "it would have been to tell her what features to have drawn on the composite, " J.A. 654. The officers created a "wanted" poster using the composite sketch and the victim's physical description of the assailant and disseminated it throughout the community and to every police district in the city. They then began to receive tips regarding people who resembled the sketch and description.

          On May 5, 2008, Detective Caprice Smith showed the victim both a photo array of six individuals and a photobook with about forty-five black-and-white and color printouts of potential suspects, but the victim did not identify anyone. The victim informed Smith that the photos were of poor quality and distorted and that she could not identify a person of color using a black-and-white printout. On May 7, 2008-eight days after the attack- an officer stopped Humbert a couple of blocks from the victim's home and took a picture of him because he resembled the wanted poster. Humbert also informed the officer that he was homeless.

         The following evening, Jones, Smith, and Griffin drove to the victim's home to show her another photobook, which included Humbert's picture. Upon seeing Humbert's photo-the second in the book-the victim became very emotional and started crying. She jabbed the photo, said "that's him, " and attempted to push the photobook away. J.A. 470. The victim testified that Humbert had some facial features similar to her attacker, which triggered her emotional response, and Humbert's photo looked like the picture Jones showed her several days prior. The victim wrote "that's him" on the back of the photo and signed her name. She then informed Smith and Griffin that she could not positively identify Humbert as her assailant because she needed to see him in a physical lineup and hear his voice. The officers assured her that they were following BPD procedure and left her home.[1]

         Six hours later, after making two attempts to locate Humbert at outdated addresses, the officers generated a second "wanted" flyer indicating that Humbert was wanted for rape and disseminated it to various BPD districts. Smith also applied for an arrest warrant stating that the victim positively identified Humbert as her attacker.[2]Finding probable cause to support the application, a court commissioner issued the arrest warrant. In the early morning of May 10, 2008, while Humbert was at work, an officer approached him with the wanted flyer and asked whether he was the man on the flyer. Humbert initially said yes, then saw the word "rape" and said, "that's not me." J.A. 570. The officer arrested Humbert and transported him to a police station. Humbert was later transferred to a single cell where he remained for nearly fifteen months.

         Upon learning of Humbert's arrest, the victim contacted Jones to tell him that she could not positively identify Humbert as her attacker. When she went to Humbert's arraignment on June 23, 2008, she did not recognize Humbert. The victim again informed Jones that she was not positive whether Humbert was her attacker, but because Jones assured her that the officers had DNA evidence, she agreed to testify against him. The victim later met with Assistant State's Attorney Joakim Tan to discuss the case, and during her monthly conversations with Tan, she agreed to testify so long as there was DNA evidence.

         Throughout Humbert's extensive detention, the officers requested several DNA samples and received reports excluding him as the source of DNA found on the victim and her clothing. They received the first report on June 2, 2008, and the last report on December 15, 2008. Though the officers testified that prosecutors generally obtain DNA reports directly from the crime lab, they stated that if they had the reports, they should have given them to Tan. In fact, on May 12, 2008-two days after Humbert's arrest- Tan sent the officers a memorandum requesting that any and all information received by the BPD in connection with Humbert's case be immediately delivered to his office. On June 23, 2008, at Humbert's arraignment, Tan informed the court that he heard, but had not confirmed, that Humbert's DNA did not match any found on the victim. Tan declared that he needed the DNA reports for confirmation, but he did not receive them until May 11, 2009. Tan then informed the victim that there was no DNA evidence connecting Humbert to her attack, and he learned for the first time that the victim could not identify Humbert and she refused to testify. On July 30, 2009, Tan entered a nolle prosequi as to Humbert's charges, and Humbert was finally released about fifteen months after his arrest.

         II.

         On February 17, 2011, Humbert initiated this action against officers Jones, Smith, and Griffin (hereinafter, the "Officers"), and several other state and local officials, alleging various violations of state law and the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[3] As relevant to this appeal, Humbert asserted against the Officers claims for malicious prosecution under § 1983 and for violations of Articles 24 and 26 of Maryland's Declaration of Rights. Humbert alleged, among other things, that the Officers improperly influenced the victim to identify him as her attacker and that they arrested him without probable cause by submitting a materially false arrest warrant application. Humbert further alleged that, after his arrest, the Officers obtained DNA reports excluding him as the attacker, but intentionally failed to furnish the reports to Tan or inform Tan of the victim's inability to positively identify him until the eve of his criminal trial.

         After the district court denied the Officers' motion for summary judgment as to these claims, the parties proceeded to trial.[4] The jury returned verdict sheets with several factual findings.

         The jury found that Humbert had not proven that:

A. …[A] reasonable officer, in [the Officers'] place, would not have believed that he closely matched the description of the attacker given by the victim.
B. …[A] reasonable officer, in [the Officers'] place, would not have believed that he closely resembled the composite sketch completed by the victim.
C. …[W]hen he was stopped by an officer he was not within blocks of the location where the victim's assault took place.
D. …[His last known] address given to the officer when he was stopped was less than two miles away from the location where he was stopped.
E. …[The Officers] reasonably believed that when [Humbert] was stopped by an officer he was not wearing a stocking cap ...

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