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Trulove v. D'Amico

United States District Court, N.D. California

February 27, 2018




         Plaintiff Jamal Trulove (“Trulove”) brings this action against defendants Maureen D'Amico, Michael E. Johnson, Carla Lee, Robert T. McMillan, and John Evans (collectively, “defendants”) for denial of his constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. section 1983, alleging fabrication of evidence; failure to disclose exculpatory evidence resulting in his prosecution, conviction, and prolonged detention; malicious prosecution; and conspiracy. Defendants move for summary judgment on all claims on the grounds that Trulove lacks evidence to support one or more elements of each claim, that defendants are entitled to qualified immunity on each claims, and that the claim for malicious prosecution is barred by the applicable statute of limitations.

         The Court has considered the papers and pleadings submitted in support of and in opposition to the motion, the admissible evidence, [1] and the arguments of the parties at the hearing on February 16, 2018. Based thereon, defendants' motion for summary judgment is Granted In Part in favor of defendant Carla Lee, and Denied In Part as to all other defendants, for the reasons stated herein.

         I. Background[2]

         Shortly before 11:00 p.m. on July 23, 2007, Seu Kuka was shot from behind and killed on a sidewalk in front of 140 Blythedale Avenue in San Francisco's Sunnydale housing projects. Although there were as many as 25 people present at the scene of the crime, only one witness came forward at the time: Priscilla Lualemaga. Lualemaga gave defendant Carla Lee a description of the suspect as a black male in his thirties, wearing a black hooded sweat shirt and black jeans. Just after the shooting, Lualemaga was transported to Ingleside Police Station by officers Lee and Phillips. Lee placed Lualemaga in a room for two hours, and directed her to look over a bulletin board of photos of dozens of mugshots and identify anyone she recognized. While there was a photo of plaintiff Trulove on the wall, she did not identify him. She was able to identify one person as Joshua Bradley, the person Kuka was chasing when he was shot. There is conflicting evidence as to whether Lualemaga identified additional people, including plaintiff's brother David Trulove, from the photographs on the wall. It is undisputed that she did not identify Jamal Trulove's photo, which was directly adjacent to Joshua Bradley's.

         Sometime around 1:00 a.m. on the night of the shooting, defendants Inspectors Johnson and D'Amico, took an audio-recorded statement from Lualemaga in which she told the inspectors about seeing Bradley's photo on the wall, and seeing the shooter in the neighborhood. She stated that she did not really get a look at the shooter, was “not sure” if the shooter hung around with Bradley, and she “[didn't] know [Bradley] at all…[didn't] even know his name.” She described the shooter “lanky, skinny, ” “a little bit darker than Joshua, ” about the same age as Joshua, and having a “fade” haircut.” Defendant D'Amico asked then Lualemaga “if we were able to identify the shooter, and . . . put his picture in a line up for you do you think you'd be able to pick him out?, ” to which Lualemaga replied, “I think so.” She did not mention the name Trulove at that time.

         The following afternoon of July 24, 2007, D'Amico went door-to-door in the Sunnydale neighborhood. She came to Lualemaga's door. The evidence is conflicting as to what D'Amico showed Lualemaga. Luelemaga recalls D'Amico showing her a single photo of someone she did not recognize. D'Amico testified that she does not recall the photograph, but believes it would have been a photo of the victim, not a suspect.

         On July 25, 2007, D'Amico and Johnson met Lualemaga and presented her with a six-person photo array. To create that photo array, Johnson had used a computer program to generate random arrays based on photos for Jamal Trulove, Joshua Bradley, David Trulove, and Israel Benson, and then selected photos from those to create his own array. The six photos in the array shown to Lualemaga included Joshua Bradley (who she had already identified from the photo wall), David Trulove, Jamal Trulove, and two others from the Sunnydale neighborhood. Johnson and D'Amico recorded some, but not all, of their conversation with Lualemaga. Lualemaga identified Joshua Bradley's photo as the person chased by Kuka, and then picked out Jamal Trulove's photo, stating that “he looks like the person that could have shot Seu [Kuka]” and “the shooter, I want to say it's him.”

         Trulove offers evidence, denied by defendants, that on the night of the murder a third party, Oliver Barcenas, witnessed an interaction in Ingleside Police Station in which an unidentified plainclothes police officer questioned a Samoan woman about the murder in his presence, while he was handcuffed to a bench in the police station. According Barcenas, with a second uniformed, female police officer standing by, the plainclothes officer pointed to a clipboard and asked the Samoan woman, “Are you sure it wasn't J Trulove?” Barcenas wasn't sure about the first name, but knew it started with a J. The Samoan woman responded, “No, I don't know, ” and plainclothes officer appeared frustrated.

         On the night of the murder, defendant Evans, of the Crime Scene Investigations Unit, took photographs of the location of the shell casings at the scene. Evans created a report thereafter including a diagram of the casings relative to Kuka's body. The diagram showed the shell casings in a relatively straight line to the east and downhill of where Kuka's body was found.

         Nearly ten months later, in June 2008, two officers, including defendant McMillan conducted a traffic stop. Latisha Meadows was a passenger in the car, and her husband was the driver. Also in the car were Meadows' father and her seven-year-old son. The officers found that Meadows had a stolen 9mm handgun in her pants, along with cocaine and heroin in the car. Meadows' husband was on probation and had an active gun possession case. Meadows and her husband were handcuffed and taken to Bayview Police Station. Meadows stated that she witnessed a murder in the Sunnydale projects and that she could give a statement to the homicide detectives. While still in custody, several hours later, she gave a statement to defendants Johnson and McMillan. Some of the details of the statement matched those provided by Lualemaga, including that that Kuka knocked into the shooter just before the shooting happened, that Kuka was shot in the back, and the location of the shooter. However, the statement contradicted facts known to the officers about the shooting, including the time of day and how light it was outside. Meadows chose the same photo of Jamal Trulove out of the same six-photo array that Lualemaga had been shown. She was released from custody thereafter and not charged for any crimes in connection with the detention. Her husband was not prosecuted.

         After this second identification, in August 2008, Johnson prepared an affidavit for an arrest warrant for Jamal Trulove. Trulove was arrested on October 27, 2008, and the prosecution then proceeded against him. At Trulove's preliminary hearing and trial, the prosecution based its entire case on Lualemaga's identification of him as the shooter and never called Meadows to testify at any proceeding against Trulove.

         In 2010, a San Francisco Superior Court jury convicted Trulove of the murder of Seu Kuka. He was sentenced to a term of 50 years to life in prison. Trulove's conviction was reversed on appeal. The San Francisco District Attorney elected to retry the case in 2015. That second jury acquitted Trulove. Trulove spent six years in prison prior to his acquittal.

         II. Applicable Legal Standards

         A. Standards Applicable to Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment is appropriate when “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support that assertion by . . . citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits, or declarations, stipulations . . . admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials, ” or by “showing that materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.” Id. 56(c)(1)(A), (B). Thus, summary judgment is mandated “against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). A moving party defendant bears the burden of specifying the basis for the motion and the elements of the causes of action upon which the plaintiff will be unable to establish a genuine issue of material fact. Id. at 323. The burden then shifts to the plaintiff to establish the existence of material fact. Id. A material fact is any factual issue that may affect the outcome of the case under the governing substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         In the summary judgment context, the court construes all disputed facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Ellison v. Robertson, 357 F.3d 1072, 1075 (9th Cir. 2004). If the plaintiff “produces direct evidence of a material fact, the court may not assess the credibility of this evidence nor weigh against it any conflicting evidence presented by” defendants. Mayes v. WinCo Holdings, Inc., 846 F.3d 1274, 1277 (9th Cir. 2017). “[C]redibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from facts are jury functions, not those of a judge.” George v. Edholm, 752 F.3d 1206, 1214 (9th Cir. 2014) (alteration in original) (quotation omitted). Thus “where evidence is genuinely disputed on a particular issue- such as by conflicting testimony-that ...

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