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Conner v. Salaam

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

January 27, 2017



          William C. Griesbach, Chief Judge United States District Court

         Plaintiff Pierre Conner sued Detectives Marco Salaam, Shalonda Tarver, David Chavez, and Steven Caballero of the City of Milwaukee Police Department under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for allegedly violating his constitutional rights. Specifically, Conner alleges his Fifth Amendment rights were violated when he made incriminating statements during an interrogation after he unequivocally asked for counsel. Before me now are Conner's motion for leave to file a second amended complaint and the defendants' motion for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, Conner's motion will be denied, and the defendants' motion will be granted.


         The following facts are taken from the defendants' proposed findings of fact. (Defs.' Proposed Findings of Fact (DPFOF), ECF No. 41.) Because Conner did not dispute the defendants' proposed findings, the court deems them admitted. See Civil L.R. 56(b)(4) (“The Court will deem uncontroverted statements of material fact admitted solely for the purpose of deciding summary judgment.”).

         On April 2 and 3, 2009, detectives of the Milwaukee Police Department interrogated Conner regarding the death of Shavanty Jackson, who was killed during an attempted armed robbery. This case arises out of those interrogations.

         The interrogations began the evening of April 2, 2009 by Detectives Marco Salaam and Shalonda Tarver. (DPFOF at ¶ 8.) During the interrogation, Conner requested an attorney three times within a span of less than ten minutes. After his third request for an attorney, the questioning stopped and the detectives returned Conner to his jail cell. (Id. at ¶ 9.) Conner did not make any incriminating statements during this interrogation. (Id. at ¶ 8.) Early on April 3, 2009, Detective Salaam told Detective Chavez that Conner was willing to talk again, even though Conner never made a call to officers to reinitiate the conversation. (Id. at ¶ 10.) Detective Chavez brought Conner into an interrogation room and questioned him. (Id. at ¶ 11.) Detective Caballero also took part in Conner's interrogation that day. During this interrogation, Conner confessed to his involvement in the incident that caused Jackson's death. (Id.)

         On April 3, 2009, Conner was charged with felony murder contrary to Wis.Stat. § 940.03 in causing Jackson's death while attempting to commit the crime of armed robbery party to a crime. (Id. at ¶ 12.) The criminal complaint, filed on April 4, 2009, included the following factual allegations: (1) the Milwaukee Police Department's discovery of Jackson's body on March 25, 2009 and confirmation that Jackson died from a gunshot wound; (2) statements from an adult eye witness, Emerson Allen, who was at the residence when the incident occurred; (3) statements from a second adult eye witness, Robert Nash, who observed Conner and Charles Johnson approach Jackson's residence and subsequently flee from the residence after Nash heard a gunshot; and (4) Conner's confession to Detective Chavez. (Id. at ¶ 13; ECF No. 40-1.)

         After his arrest, Conner made an initial appearance on April 4, 2009. (ECF No. 40-3 at 21.) A cash bond was set based upon the probable cause statement submitted by Detective Charles Mueller. (ECF No. 40-2.) The probable cause statement and the state court commissioner's determination of bail included (1) Nash's recounting of the events; (2) a recounting of a statement from a confidential informant who overheard Conner confess to his aunt and uncle; (3) a statement from Conner's uncle indicating Conner messed up and began crying; and (4) Conner's confession. (DPFOF at ¶ 7; ECF No. 40-2.) Conner subsequently waived his preliminary hearing. (DPFOF at ¶ 14.)

         On July 14, 2009, Conner filed a motion to suppress his inculpatory statement. (Id. at ¶ 15; ECF No. 40-3.) The trial court denied the motion, concluding that Conner had never made an unequivocal request for an attorney during the interrogation. (DPFOF at ¶ 15.) Conner subsequently pled guilty to a reduced charge of attempted armed robbery with the use of force as a party to a crime contrary to Wis. Stats. §§ 943.32(1)(a) and 939.05. He was sentenced to six years in prison. (Id. at ¶ 16.)

         Conner appealed the judgment to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, claiming that the statements he made to the detectives during his interrogation should have been suppressed because he unequivocally requested counsel. State v. Conner, 2012 WI.App. 105, ¶ 1, 344 Wis.2d 233, 821 N.W.2d 267. The Court of Appeals agreed and reversed the conviction, finding that “the trial court erred as a matter of law in denying Conner's motion to suppress.” Id. Despite the reversal, on remand Conner again pled guilty to the same charge of attempted armed robbery with the use of force as a party to a crime in return for a sentencing recommendation from the State for time served. (DPFOF at ¶ 18.) He was given a reduced sentence of 47 months of initial confinement, with credit for time served of 46 months and 13 days, and 47 months of extended supervision. (Id.) Conner then brought this § 1983 action seeking damages for the 47 months he was in prison. (Am. Compl., ECF No. 33.)


         1. Plaintiff's Motion to File a Second Amended Complaint

         Conner's original pro se complaint, filed on January 5, 2015, alleged a violation of his right to have an attorney provided during a custodial interrogation after he requested such assistance. Though he referred to his claim as a violation of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel, the Court in its screening order allowing the case to proceed characterized his claim as a violation of his rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). In Miranda, the Supreme Court held that this right, along with the rights and warnings that have become synonymous with the lead petitioner's name, are essential safeguards to the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination which applies to the states through the Fourteenth. Id. at 478-79. On July 2, 2015, the Court granted Conner's motion for appointment of counsel. More than a year later, on July 25, 2016, Conner, now represented by counsel, filed a first amended complaint again alleging a violation of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel and naming two additional defendants who had been referred to as Detectives 4 and 5 in the original complaint. The amended complaint also clarified that in addition to compensation for loss of liberty for his four years in prison, Conner was also seeking damages for pain and suffering, punitive damages, and an award of attorneys fees.

         On December 19, 2016, more than two months after the defendants' motion for summary judgment was fully briefed and almost two years after the case was commenced, Conner filed a motion for leave to file a second amended complaint. The second amended complaint replaces the Sixth Amendment claim with a Fifth Amendment/Miranda claim and adds a claim that the defendants conspired to coerce Conner's confession in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The relief requested is virtually the same ...

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