HOLLAND v. CITY OF CHICAGO (June 23, 2011)

In 1997, Dana Holland was convicted of sexually assaulting Dionne Stanley. At Holland's trial, Stanley positively identified Holland. She also described how she met him at a bar the night before and the particulars of the assault. Five years later, a DNA test established Holland’s innocence. His conviction was vacated. He brought suit against the City of Chicago and two police officers for Brady violations and state law malicious prosecution. At her deposition, Stanley testified that she committed perjury in her trial testimony. She testified that she told the police officers on the scene three times that Holland was not her assaulter. She stated that she identified him at the scene only after the police pointed out all the evidence against him and told her she could go home if she identified him. She also testified that she told the Assistant State's Attorney shortly before trial that Holland did not do it. Judge Zagel (N.D. Ill.) granted summary judgment to the defendants.

In their opinion, Judges Flaum, Manion, and Evans affirmed. The Court first addressed the malicious prosecution claim. Among other things, a plaintiff must prove the absence of probable cause and the presence of malice in order to prevail on a malicious prosecution claim. In testing for probable cause, one must look at the time when the charges were filed, not the time of arrest. The Court recited the "ample" evidence of probable cause; including the facts that he was found with clothing matching that of the assailant, that his wallet was in the clothing, and that he had no alibi. The Court noted that probable cause existed even without Stanley’s identification. Although the presence of probable clause itself defeats Holland's case, the Court also noted that he had no proof of malice. The Court turned to the Brady argument. A police officer can be liable under Brady if he withholds exculpatory evidence and the evidence is material. The materiality test is that there must be a reasonable probability that the proceeding would have turned out differently had the evidence been disclosed. The evidence Holland takes issue with is the police officer's failure to disclose the "pressure" they put on Stanley to identify him. They Court identified several reasons to reject the Brady claim. First, Holland's attorney had the opportunity to cross-examine Stanley at trial. Second, the Court thought it unlikely, given Stanley's explanation that she did not identify him because she was afraid and the significant physical evidence, that the outcome would have been different. Third, Stanley was a particularly strong eyewitness at trial because of her lengthy, and initially friendly, encounter with Holland.