United States District Court, D. Maryland
Richard D. Bennett, United States District Judge.
Sabein Burgess filed suit against, inter alia,
Defendant Gerald Goldstein and other individual officers of
the Baltimore Police Department ("BPD") alleging
various claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Article 24 of the
Maryland Declaration of Human Rights, and Maryland common
law. (ECF Nos. 1, 141.) Ultimately, as a result of either
Orders of this Court or by agreement between the parties as
to some Defendants, only four claims against one Defendant,
Mr. Goldstein, proceeded to the jury. (See ECF Nos.
56, 311, 312, 320, 333, 356.) On November 21, 2017, the jury
returned a verdict in Plaintiffs favor on all claims and
awarded him $15, 000, 000. (ECF No. 364.)
pending are two post-trial motions: the Renewed Motion of
Defendant Gerald Goldstein Under Federal Rule 50 (ECF No.
376) for Judgment as a Matter of Law and his Motion for New
Trial and/or to Alter or Amend Judgment Under Federal Rule 59
(ECF Nos. 374, 411). The parties' submissions have been
reviewed and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule
105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons set forth below, the
Defendant's Renewed Motion Under Rule 50 (ECF No. 376) is
DENIED, and the Defendant's Motion Under Rule 59 (ECF No.
411) is also DENIED.
Dyson was murdered on October 5, 1994. The BPD investigated
the crime, and Mr. Burgess, Dyson's boyfriend at the
time, was convicted by a jury in the Circuit Court for
Baltimore City on June 13, 1995. At trial, Laura Brokaw
(f/k/a Laura Shach) prosecuted the case as an Assistant
State's Attorney for Baltimore City, and Gordon Tayback
represented Mr. Burgess. The trial court sentenced Mr.
Burgess to life in prison plus 20 years. While incarcerated,
Mr. Burgess was sentenced to five years for rioting.
(Def.'s Rule 59 Mot. Ex. M, ECF No. 411-16.) To this day,
Mr. Burgess, has maintained his innocence as to Michelle
February 2014, the Circuit Court for Baltimore City granted
Mr. Burgess' Petition for Writ of Actual Innocence, which
the State of Maryland had not opposed, and Mr. Burgess was
released after having served almost twenty years in prison.
(11/17/2017 Trial Tr. at 305-306.)
Burgess filed this federal action against, inter
alia, Defendant Gerald Goldstein and other individual
officers of the Baltimore Police Department on March 23,
2015. (ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff alleges various claims under 42
U.S.C. § 1983, Article 24 of the Maryland Declaration of
Human Rights, and Maryland common law. (Id.) This
case proceeded through discovery and motions practice. As a
result of Orders of this Court or by agreement between the
parties, only five claims proceeded to trial against two
individual Defendants: Gerald Goldstein and Steven Lehman.
(See ECF Nos. 56, 311, 312, 320, 332, 333.)
Plaintiffs claims for trial included (1) violations of the
principles of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963)
in the suppression of evidence favorable to Mr. Burgess, (2)
fabrication of evidence, (3) malicious prosecution, (4)
failure to intervene, and (5) intentional infliction of
emotional distress. (Final Pretrial Order, ECF No. 332.)
close of the Plaintiffs case, this Court granted in part the
Defendants' Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law.
Specifically, this Court dismissed all claims against
Defendant Lehman, the failure to intervene claim against
Defendant Goldstein, and any claim based on Defendant
Goldstein's alleged fabrication of a gas tank test. (ECF
No. 356.) This Court ruled that the following claims would be
submitted to the jury:
1. Plaintiffs Brady-based claim that Defendant
Goldstein withheld (a) evidence that Brain Rainey was an
exculpatory witness and (b) other exculpatory information
provided by the FBI as recited in Plaintiffs Trial Exhibits
121 and 122;
2. Plaintiffs due process claim that Defendant Goldstein
fabricated a police report;
3. Plaintiffs claim that Defendant Goldstein maliciously
prosecuted Plaintiff through the suppression and/or
fabrication of evidence other than the gas tank test; and
4. Plaintiffs intentional infliction of emotional distress
(Id.) During the Conference on Jury Instructions,
this Court adjusted the description of the first claim to
include a reference to Plaintiffs Trial Exhibit 372.
(11/21/2017 Trial Tr. at 11, 179.)
November 21, 2017, the jury returned a verdict in Plaintiffs
favor on all four claims and awarded Mr. Burgess $15, 000,
000. (ECF No. 364.) Additional relevant facts regarding the
trial are discussed below.
Rule 50 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, judgment as
a matter of law should be granted against a party when that
party "has been fully heard on an issue and there is no
legally sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to
find for that party on that issue." Coryn Grp. II,
LLC v. O.C Seacrets, Inc., 868 F.Supp.2d 468, 483 (D.
Md. 2012) (citation omitted). Rule 50 permits a litigant to
renew its motion for judgment as a matter of law even after
judgment has been entered. Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(b). In considering
a motion under Rule 50, the court views the evidence in the
light most favorable to the non-movant, Gregg v.
Ham, 678 F.3d 333, 341 (4th Or. 2012), gives that party
the benefit of all reasonable inferences from the evidence,
Whalen v. Roanoke Cnty. Bd. of Supervisors, 769 F.2d
221, 224 (4th Cir. 1985), and asks whether there is
"substantial evidence in the record to support the
jury's findings, " Anderson v. Russell, 247
F.3d 125, 129 (4th Cir. 2001) (citation omitted). However,
"the court may not make credibility determinations or
weigh the evidence." Reeves v. Sanderson
Plumbing, 530 U.S. 133, 150-51 (2000) (quoting
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255
litigant may also challenge a jury verdict and/or judgment
under Rule 59 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, but it
is an "extraordinary remedy which should be used
sparingly." See Pacific Ins. Co. v. American Nat.
Fire Ins. Co., 148 F.3d 396, 403 (4th Cir. 1998). First,
under Rule 59(a)(1)(A), a court may grant a new trial on all
or some issues "for any reason for which a new trial has
heretofore been granted in an action at law in federal
court." Fed.R.Civ.P. 59. In the Fourth Circuit, a court
"must set aside the verdict and grant a new trial[ ] if
... (1) the verdict is against the clear weight of the
evidence, or (2) is based upon evidence which is false, or
(3) will result in a miscarriage of justice, even though
there may be substantial evidence which would prevent the
direction of a verdict." Knussman v. Maryland,
272 F.3d 625, 639 (4th Cir. 2001) (citation omitted). Unlike
a motion under Rule 50, when considering a motion for a new
trial under Rule 59, "a trial judge may weigh the
evidence and consider the credibility of the witnesses."
Poynter by Poynter v. Ratcliff, 874 F.2d 219, 223
(4th Cir. 1989); see also McCollum v. McDaniel, 136
F.Supp.2d 472, 475 (D. Md. 2001).
under Rule 59(e), a litigant may seek to alter or amend a
judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 59. While Rule 59(e) does not provide
a standard itself, the United States Court of Appeals for the
Fourth Circuit has recognized "three grounds for
amending an earlier judgment: (1) to accommodate an
intervening change in controlling law; (2) to account for new
evidence not available at trial; or (3) to correct a clear
error of law or prevent manifest injustice." Pac.
Ins. Co., 148 F.3d at 403. To be clearly erroneous, the
earlier decision cannot be "just maybe or probably
wrong; it must. . . strike [the Court] as wrong with the
force of a five-week old, unrefrigerated dead fish."
TFWS, Inc. v. Franchot, 572 F.3d 186, 194 (4th Cir.
2009) (quoting Bellsouth Telesensor v. Info. Sys. &
Networks Corp., Nos. 92-2355, 92-2437, 1995 WL 520978 at
*5 n.6 (4th Cir. Sept. 5, 1995)). Whether to alter or amend a
judgment under Rule 59(e) is within the sound discretion of
the district court. See, e.g., Bogart v. Chapell,
396 F.3d 548, 555 (4th Cir. 2005).
Rule 50 Motion
Rule 50, the Defendant asks this Court to grant judgment
notwithstanding the verdict because the jury's findings
on each claim were not supported by "substantial
evidence in the record." Anderson, 247 F.3d at
asserts that this Court should grant judgment notwithstanding
the verdict "as to Burgess' Brady-based
claims related to Brian Rainey" and "as to Mr.
Burgess's Brady-based claims related to
communications with the FBI." (Def.'s Rule 50 Mem.
5, 15.) A Brady-based withholding claim against a
police officer requires that the plaintiff show that
"(1) the evidence at issue was favorable to him; (2) the
Officers suppressed the evidence in bad faith; and (3)
prejudice ensued." Owens v. Baltimore City
State's Attorneys Office, 767 F.3d 379, 396-97(4th
Cir. 2014). A police officer generally "suppresses"
evidence by not disclosing it to the prosecutor, id.
at 396, but suppression does not occur when a criminal
defendant is already aware of the exculpatory information.
See Barnes v. Thompson, 58 F.3d 971, 675-76 (4th
Cir. 1995); Stockton v. Murray, 41 F.3d 920, 927
(4th Cir. 1994).
Owens, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals adopted
the "bad faith" requirement as espoused in Judge
Wilkinson's concurring opinion in Jean v.
Collins, 221 F.3d 656, 660 (4th Cir. 2000) (Wilkinson,
C.J., concurring). Owens, 767 F.3d at 396 n.6.
According to Judge Wilkinson, "bad faith" means
that the police officer(s) "intentionally withheld the
evidence for the purpose of depriving the plaintiff of the
use of that evidence during his criminal trial."
Jean, 221 F.3d at 663. Relevant considerations
include: (a) the officer's actual knowledge of "the
significance of the withheld evidence"; (b) the
"nature of the withheld material, that would negate any
negligent or innocent explanation for the actions on the part
of the police"; and (c) the "concealment,
doctoring, or destruction" of evidence. Id. at
Defendant's separate requests for judgment on specific
pieces of withheld evidence, the jury evaluated a single,
unified withholding claim. This Court therefore need not
decide whether the evidence of every piece of
allegedly withheld evidence was independently sufficient
under Rule 50. Rather, the Defendant's withholding of one
piece of evidence may support a Brady claim as long
as there is "substantial evidence" to satisfy the
elements of the cause of the action. Anderson, 247
F.3d at 129.
Rainey's Eyewitness Account
Rainey, Michelle Dyson's son, testified at trial that he
had seen his mother arguing with two men in the entryway of
his home shortly before his mother was shot. He was
interviewed by police on the night of his mother's
murder, and when asked if his mother's boyfriend was
involved, Rainey testified that he told police officers that
Mr: Burgess was not involved. (11/17/17 Trial Tr. at
Defendant asserts that "there is no evidence" that
Mr. Goldstein was ever made aware of Brian Rainey's
exculpatory eyewitness account. (Def.'s Rule 50 Mem.
6-8.) This argument is without merit. First, Defendant
Goldstein, the lead detective on the Dyson homicide
investigation,  admitted that he would have seen the
children had they been there while he was on the scene.
(11/15/17 Trial Tr. at 95-96.) Second, Goldstein testified
that he arrived on the scene at 10:45 p.m. (11/13/17 p.m.
Trial Tr. at 15.) Third, Officer John Skinner testified that
the children left the scene at 11:23 p.m. (11/17/17 Trial Tr.
at 174-175.) Fourth, Officer Robert Patton testified that a
lead detective would normally "talk to the children that
were present in a home on the night of a murder."
(See 11/8/17 Trial Tr. at 125-126.) These four
pieces of evidence support a reasonable inference to be drawn
by the jury that - despite his denials - Goldstein
interviewed Brian Rainey himself. Alternatively, Goldstein
testified that if any other officer on the scene had
interviewed Rainey, the officer would have shared that
information with him. (11/13/17 p.m. Trial Tr. at 20.)
Additionally, Defendant Goldstein does not deny having
possession of Detective Lehmann's note indicating
"Child Bryan ? a witne[ss]." (Pl.'s Trial Ex.
372) Again, the evidence supports a reasonable inference
that, even if Goldstein did not interview Rainey himself, he
would have been made aware that Brian Rainey was a witness
with exculpatory information.
Defendant next asserts that there is "no evidence"
that the information in the "Child Bryan" note was
withheld from the Office of the State's Attorney or from
defense counsel Gordon Tayback. (Def.'s Rule 50 Mem.
9-13.) Defendant Goldstein points to his own testimony about
his file-sharing practices, the parties' stipulation that
"the complete contents of the Prosecutorial File are
unknown" (Joint Trial Ex. 503), and to Laura
Brokaw's notes saying, "brother - back room by
himself. . . Sabein - told mother to go to basement"
(Def s Ex. 99). The Defendant therefore contends that
"no party can establish, in total, what was ever in the
possession of [the prosecution]." (Def.'s Rule 50
Mem. 10.) The Defendant misses the mark for several reasons.
First, Defendant's logic assumes that documents are the
only method of proof available to the Plaintiff. The
Plaintiff, however, elicited testimony from Ms. Brokaw that
Brian Rainey's name means nothing to her and that she
doesn't remember the Dyson children having anything to do
with the murder trial. (11/16/17 Trial Tr. at 215-216.) She
also testified that Mr. Tayback was a good, diligent attorney
who would have followed up on any exculpatory lead disclosed
to him. (Id. at 196-198.) Second, Brokaw's note
indicating that a "brother" may have heard
"Sabein - [tell] mother to go to basement" is
inculpatory, not exculpatory. Given that the evidence
supports a reasonable inference that Defendant Goldstein knew
Brian Rainey's account was exculpatory, the
inculpatory nature of the Brokaw note actually
supports an inference that Defendant Goldstein withheld the
true content of Rainey's eyewitness account from both Ms.
Brokaw and Mr. Tayback.
final argument regarding the Rainey evidence is that there is
"no evidence" that any withholding was done in bad
faith. (Def.'s Rule 50 Mem. 13.) In response, Plaintiff
notes that bad faith may be established by "the nature
of the withheld material that would negate any negligent or
innocent explanation for the actions of the part of the
police." Jean, 221 F.3d at 663. Beyond the
clearly exculpatory nature of Rainey's eyewitness
account, Plaintiff argues that ten additional pieces of
evidence support an inference of bad faith. Defendant
responds by challenging Plaintiffs characterization of
testimony, but he also asks this Court to weigh
"contradictory" evidence when considering the
evidence identified by the Plaintiff. (Reply 25-32.)
jury was instructed (11/21/17 Trial Tr. at 180), "bad
faith" simply means that the police officer(s)
"intentionally withheld the evidence for the purpose of
depriving the plaintiff of the use of that evidence during
his criminal trial." Jean, 221 F.3d at 663. In
this case, there was substantial evidence from which the jury
could conclude that Defendant Goldstein withheld the
explicitly exculpatory testimony of Brain Rainey, the
victim's son. The nature of this evidence negates any
innocent explanation for the Defendant's withholding.
Jean, 221 F.3d at 663. Furthermore, the
Defendant's statement that the Dyson murder
"wasn't a whodunnit" (11/13/17 p.m. Trial Tr.
at 63-65) and his apparent failure to investigate Detective
Patton's information about Howard Rice's confession
to killing Ms. Dyson (see 11/8/17 Trial Tr. at
146-47) also support a reasonable inference that he was
intentionally depriving Mr. Burgess of material exculpatory
information in seeking - and later protecting - Mr.
Burgess' conviction. The evidence related to Brian
Rainey's eyewitness account, by itself, was sufficient to
support the jury's verdict on the Brady-based withholding
jury's verdict on the withholding claim was also
supported by evidence of FBI communications before Mr.
Burgess' criminal trial. (See Pl.'s Exhibits
G, H, Plaintiffs Trial Exhibits 121 and 122, respectively.)
The first memo indicates that, according to the FBI's
sources, "[t]hree subjects were involved in the murder
of Michelle Dyson, " two black males and black female,
and "Dyson was killed because of drug related problems.
She may have blown a package or drugs and/or a money
package." (Pl.'s Trial Ex. 121.) The first memo
further provides that "Dyson's babysitter [redacted]
knows the details of the motives for the murder and preceding
threats, " and a name-redacted barber at Hair Dimension,
Sinclair Lane Shopping Center, who fathered children with the
victim is a "drug underworld player" and
"knows a lot about the background of Dyson's
killers." (Id.) The first FBI memo states that
the information above was "furnished to Det. [Redacted]
and Det. [Redacted] of the BPD-Homicide Unit (410) 396-2116.
Det. [Redacted] is die case detective and he advised that the
information appeared to be accurate and resulted in leads on
the case." (Id.) The second FBI memo states,
"[Redacted] was a babysitter for Michelle Dyson.
[Redacted] witnessed numerous events and heard numerous
conversations between the victim and others, which directly
relate to the motive for the victim's murder."
(Pl.'s Trial Ex. 122.) The second FBI memo concludes,
"On 11/8/94, after 2130 hours, det. [Redacted], the case
detective BPD Homicide Unit (410) 396-2116 was provided with
the above-stated information." (Id.)
Defendant argues that (a) Mr. Goldstein never received this
FBI information; (b) there is "no evidence" that
the information contained in these FBI documents was withheld
from the prosecutor or from Mr. Tayback; and (c) there is
"no evidence" of bad faith. On each point, there is
ample evidence for the jury to conclude otherwise. The fact
that Goldstein was the lead detective on the Dyson case
(11/13/17 a.m. Trial Tr. at 7-8; 11/16/17 Trial Tr. at
105-108) gives rise to a reasonable inference that he was the
"case detective" who assessed the information in
the memo, which focuses entirely on Michelle Dyson's
murder. His status as the lead detective would also mean that
even if another officer received this information
(e.g., even if Goldstein could not be directly
reached at (410) 396-2116), that officer would have shared it
with Goldstein. (See 11/8/17 Trial Tr. at 146-47.)
Goldstein's own notes closely track information in the
FBI memos, such as die identity of Troy Williams as an
"old boyfriend" who "works at 'Hair
Dimension' Sinclair Lane Shopping Center" and the
reference to a "babysitter" for Michelle Dyson.
(See Pl.'s Trial Ex. 10 at BPD 002674; Pl.'s
Trial Exhibits 121 and 122; Resp. 21.) The Defendant's
argument that his notes contain more information
[i.e., last names, addresses, and phone numbers)
than the memo ignores that the memo memorializes the.
prior furnishing of information, not of the
memo itself. ...