HILL v. COPPLESON (November 22, 2010)

Eighteen-year-old Harold Hill was arrested in early 1992. While in custody, two detectives began questioning him about a sexual assault and murder that happened almost 2 years earlier. According to Hill, they questioned him for hours and abused him both physically and mentally. At some point, Assistant State's Attorney Rogers also began questioning Hill. Hill eventually confessed to the crime and implicated two other men. Those two men were arrested and also eventually confessed to the crime -- although one was never charged because, even though he gave a detailed confession, he was in jail at the time of the crime. In late 1994, Hill was convicted of the crime and sentenced to life in prison. Over 10 years later, Hill was exonerated through DNA testing and his conviction was vacated. Hill filed suit against the two detectives, Rogers, and the City of Chicago alleging that the defendants violated his Fifth Amendment rights by coercing the confession and that they engaged in a civil conspiracy in violation of § 1983. Judge St. Eve (N.D. Ill.) denied the individual defendants' motions for summary judgment, including Rogers' claim that he was entitled to both absolute prosecutorial immunity as well as qualified immunity. Rogers appeals.

In their opinion, Seventh Circuit Judges Ripple, Williams, and Tinder dismissed for want of jurisdiction. The Court has jurisdiction of an appeal from the denial of summary judgment on either absolute or qualified immunity grounds only if they can decide the questions presented based on undisputed facts. Here, there is a dispute in the record over the timing of Rogers' arrival at the police station. Rogers claims that he arrived only after Hill's confession -- Hill claims that he did not confess until after meeting with Rogers. Rogers' success on his absolute immunity claim depends on whether he was acting as a prosecutor or investigator. The answer to that question depends on whether probable cause existed prior to his arrival. Rogers' success on his qualified immunity claim depends on whether there is evidence that he was involved in the coerced confession. The probable cause and the coercion questions depend on the timing of Rogers' arrival at the police station and thus cannot be decided on a record of undisputed facts. Because the Court cannot resolve the question on undisputed facts, it lacks jurisdiction.