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Torres v. City of Los Angeles

November 13, 2008


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California R. Gary Klausner, District Judge, Presiding D.C. No. CV-05-04171-RGK.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: B. Fletcher, Circuit Judge



Argued and Submitted February 12, 2008-Pasadena, California.

Opinion Filed August 26, 2008; Opinion Withdrawn November 13, 2008

Before: Betty B. Fletcher and N. Randy Smith, Circuit Judges, and Samuel P. King,*fn1 District Judge.


The Opinion filed August 26, 2008, slip op. 11723, and appearing at ___ F.3d ___, 2008 WL 3905411 (9th Cir. Aug. 26, 2008), is withdrawn. It may not be cited as precedent by or to this court or any district court of the Ninth Circuit.

The panel has voted to deny the petition for panel rehearing. Judge N.R. Smith votes to deny the petition for rehearing en banc and Judges B. Fletcher and King so recommend.

The full court has been advised of the petition for rehearing en banc and no judge has requested a vote on whether to rehear the matter en banc. Fed. R. App. P. 35.

The petition for panel rehearing and the petition for rehearing en banc are denied.

The new Opinion is filed contemporaneously with this order. There is no change in substance.

No new petition for rehearing or rehearing en banc will be entertained.


In 2004, plaintiff Raymond Torres, who was then 16 years old, was arrested, without a warrant, on charges of murder and attempted murder. After 162 days of incarceration, Torres was released when the district attorney dismissed the charges against him. Following his release, Torres and his mother ("Plaintiffs") brought a civil rights action against the City of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Police Department ("LAPD"), and four LAPD detectives ("Defendants"), seeking damages under both federal and state law. After granting summary judgment to the City of Los Angeles and the LAPD, the district court denied two of Plaintiffs' motions in limine and, after all of the parties had presented their evidence to the jury, granted the remaining Defendants' motion for judgment as a matter of law. Plaintiffs appeal the grant of the motion for judgment as a matter of law as well as the rulings on the motions in limine. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.


The charges leading to Torres' arrest arose from a gang-related shooting in Los Angeles on August 11, 2004. On that day, Josue Santillan, a member of the Canoga Park Alabama street gang ("CPA gang"), was driving a car that contained four other passengers: Diana H., who was seated in the front right passenger seat; Joel Castaneda, who was seated in the back seat directly behind Diana; and two other persons, at least one of them male, who were also seated in the back seat.*fn2

At one point Santillan drove by a park in the Reseda area, where, according to Diana and other witnesses, the male passengers flashed gang hand signs and shouted challenges at members of the Reseda street gang who were in the park. Santillan then drove away, but the members of the Reseda gang gave chase in a car of their own. When the Reseda gang members' car pulled alongside the car driven by Santillan, Castaneda fired several rounds from a semiautomatic pistol at the Reseda gang members' car, killing the driver and wounding another passenger.

Detectives Roberts, Hickman, Park and Rains investigated the shooting. On August 25, 2004, two weeks after the shooting, Detectives Roberts and Hickman questioned Diana about the shooting. Diana identified Santillan as the driver and Castaneda as the shooter, and both were subsequently arrested. Diana also expressed her belief that all the male passengers were probably members of the CPA gang.

Detectives Roberts and Hickman asked Diana about the third male passenger who had been sitting directly behind Santillan. Diana told the detectives that she had never seen him before, that she did not know his name, and that she did not remember him well because she had not been paying attention to him. However, Diana was able to describe this third male passenger as Hispanic, 15 or 16 years old, with a complexion darker than hers, and very overweight. Diana also stated that he had some hair. She further described him as having worn a white T-shirt, blue shorts, and white tennis shoes. Detective Roberts acknowledged at trial that Diana's description was "too generic to go anywhere with it."

On September 23, 2004, six weeks after the shooting, the detectives obtained several additional pieces of information in their investigation of the third male passenger, which led them to arrest Torres that same day.

First, Detective Hickman spoke to Danny Steinberg, a school police officer assigned to El Camino High School. Previously, Steinberg had been questioned by an LAPD Juvenile Officer, Marie Lamar, about an outstanding suspect in a murder case. Officer Lamar had described the suspect as a short and heavy-set Hispanic male with a shaved head who was "dressed down gang-style."*fn3 Steinberg had informed Officer Lamar that her description matched a student at El Camino- Torres-and that Torres had recently begun hanging out with gang members at El Camino and had begun "dressing down as a gangster" and shaving his head. On September 23, Steinberg repeated the same information to Detective Hickman. There was conflicting testimony at trial, however, as to whether Steinberg also told Officer Lamar and Detective Hickman that Torres had "recently been jumped into the CPA gang," i.e., that Torres had become a member of the gang.

Second, Detectives Hickman and Roberts spoke to an official at El Camino high school, Mark Pomerantz. Pomerantz gave the detectives two color photos of Torres, one older, in which Torres is shown with short dark hair, and the other taken that morning at the detectives' request, in which Torres is shown with a shaven head. In addition, Pomerantz discussed with the detectives a group photo of six young Hispanic males-including Torres and Santillan-that Pomerantz had provided the LAPD a year earlier when it was investigating Santillan in connection with another shooting of a Reseda gang member. The group photo had been taken by a ...

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