William Hurt, Deadra Hurt, and Andrea Hurt, Plaintiffs-Appellees,
Matthew Wise, et al., Defendants-Appellants.
November 8, 2017
from the United States District Court for the Southern
District of Indiana, Evansville Division. No. 3:14-cv-00092 -
Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge.
Wood, Chief Judge, and Flaum and Hamilton, Circuit Judges.
Deadra, and William Hurt were all arrested after their uncle,
Marcus Golike, was found dead on the banks of the Ohio River.
The arrests came after Deadra and William
"confessed" that they, with some help from Andrea,
murdered Golike. But one by one, each was absolved. Andrea
was never criminally charged. The charges against Deadra were
dropped after four months. And while the state prosecuted
William, he was not convicted on any charge.
the criminal proceedings behind them, Andrea, Deadra, and
William filed a civil suit against the officers and
detectives involved in their arrests and prosecutions. Their
claims focus on the interrogations of Deadra and William, the
decisions to arrest all three plaintiffs, and the alleged
fabrication of evidence by the police. All defendants filed
motions for summary judgment on the basis of qualified
immunity. For the most part, the district court denied the
motions. The defendants challenge those rulings in this
interlocutory appeal. We conclude that with minor exceptions
the district court correctly assessed the situation.
2012 a male body washed up on the Kentucky side of the Ohio
River. A state medical examiner's autopsy revealed that
the hyoid bone in the neck of the deceased, plus a rib, had
been fractured. There were no other visible injuries. She
concluded that the injuries were consistent with asphyxia by
Jones and Matthew Wise of the Kentucky State Police
("KSP") initially took the investigatory reins.
They found two items in the front pocket of the man's
pants: a letter, enclosed in a plastic bag, from the Social
Security Administration addressed to Marcus Golike, and a
folded baseball cap. The police soon confirmed that the body
was indeed that of Golike, a resident of Evansville, Indiana.
At that point the Evansville Police Department
("EPD") and EPD detective Jeff Vantlin assumed
primary responsibility for the investigation. Jones and Wise
continued to assist.
Evansville detectives learned that Golike had last been seen
at the home of Debbie Hurt, Golike's foster sister and
Andrea's, Deadra's, and William's mother. Vantlin
went to Debbie's home, where he spoke separately with
Debbie and William. At the time, William was 18 years old.
told Vantlin that Golike had been at her house the night
before his body was found. She had made dinner for him, but
went to bed before he left. She recalled that it was a
Saturday night, and that William and Golike had stayed up
playing chess. Vantlin next spoke with William, who
corroborated the basic facts, but at first said that the
events Debbie described had taken place a few days earlier,
on Thursday. When confronted with the discrepancy in dates,
William agreed that Debbie might have been correct. Vantlin
also observed that William's hand was swollen and freshly
scratched. William explained that the swelling was the result
of having punched a tree, and that he sustained the scratches
while scooping ice cream at work. Vantlin later visited the
ice cream store where William worked and verified the
existence of the exposed rods on which William said he had
scraped his hand.
later, Jones, Vantlin, and Wise returned to the Hurts'
home, where Jones interviewed William. Jones suspected that
William knew more about Golike's death than he was
admitting, and so he accused William of not being
forthcoming. When asked, William expressed doubts about his
ability to pass a polygraph, but he said that he was willing
same day, the officers visited Golike's brother and
informed him that Golike's body had been found in the
river. The brother immediately asked, "Is it verified he
was killed, other than jumping off a bridge? Because he has
been on that bridge three times before threatening to kill
himself." Golike had been diagnosed with paranoid
schizophrenia and had been released from prison just days
before his death. In prison, he had been on suicide watch. It
is not clear when the detectives learned of Golike's full
the officers were interviewing Golike's brother, Debbie
called Vantlin and said that Harley Wade, a foster son who
had moved in with her not long before, had recently choked
her to the point of nearly losing consciousness. She wondered
if Harley might be involved in Golike's death. The
officers wanted to interrogate Harley, but they dropped that
idea when they learned that Harley was a ward of the state
and could not be questioned without an attorney present.
Instead, they switched their attention back to William and
asked Debbie to bring William to the station for questioning.
complied with this request. Once William was at the station,
Jones and Vantlin took him to an interrogation room, where
they read the Miranda warnings and William signed a
waiver of his rights. The two officers grilled him for
roughly four hours. The interrogation took place in two
parts: a one-hour session, punctuated by a 40-minute break,
and then a two-and-a-half hour session. The entire
interrogation was video-recorded.
the first hour, William repeatedly gave a consistent account
of what happened the Saturday night before Golike's
death. He told the police that after he and Golike played
chess, Golike left the house and William never saw him again.
But each time, Jones and Vantlin told William that he was a
liar. They insisted that they knew William was involved in
Golike's death, that they already had enough information
to put him in jail, that William was not "telling [Jones
and Vantlin] what [they] need to hear, " and that his
continuing to tell the same story could not change their
minds. All the while, Jones and Vantlin introduced details
about the suspected crime. For example, they asked William
about what may have happened at the river, whether Golike was
wearing a hat, whether Golike had been tied up, whether
Harley was the primary culprit, and whether Golike had been
choked. William became visibly upset during parts of the
interrogation, crying and hitting himself on the head.
the break, Jones and Vantlin asked William if he had done any
"soul-searching." William said that he had, and he
again offered the same account he already had provided
several times. Jones and Vantlin brushed it aside, calling
William a liar and repeating that he was not telling them
"what [they] need to hear." Jones told William that
he needed to tell the truth, and he made it clear what he
meant by that: "we're [i.e., Jones and
Vantlin] the ones that determine if you're lying or not.
So far, we've both determined you're lying."
Jones added that if William did not tell the "truth,
" he faced a fate "worse than prison."
eventually broke. He "confessed" that he, Andrea,
Deadra, and Harley were responsible for Golike's death.
He told Jones and Vantlin that after the chess game, he got
in the family van with his siblings. As they drove along,
they spotted Golike by the roadside. They stopped and got out
of the car, and Harley started joking around with Golike. But
Harley got out of control (for unexplained reasons) and
started punching and choking Golike. William said that he got
a few punches and kicks in as well. They then tied Golike up
in bed sheets and put him in the van. Deadra drove to Dress
Plaza, Evansville, where they dumped Golike's body into
the Ohio River. On the way back from the river, they stopped
at the Kangaroo, a convenience store, to buy some snacks
using Golike's debit card.
"confession" was replete with easily verified and
contemporaneous evidence of inaccuracy and unreliability.
When William offered any detail about the death, he prefaced
it with phrases such as "I'm drawing clues together,
" "the way you're telling me, " "like
you were saying, " or "from what you've told
me." At other times, he responded to the officers'
questions by guessing until they signified that they were
satisfied. Finally, at the conclusion of the interrogation,
William asked Jones, "Was I getting close to most of the
facts of what actually happened?" Jones said he did not
know, and William again asked, "Was I close to it?"
Instead of following up, Jones left the room.
critical "facts" that William offered were facially
impossible. For example, if William's account of where he
and his siblings had dumped Golike's body-Dress Plaza-was
true, the body would have had to float upstream four
to six miles to have arrived at the location where it was
found. There was no physical evidence that Golike had been
beaten or tied up, and it later turned out that Golike's
debit card was not, and could not have been, used at the
Kangaroo, because there was only $0.08 in the account at the
provided only three facts that were even potentially
original. Of the three, two could just as easily have been
common-sense guesses: which pocket Golike's hat was in
when his body was found, and how Harley might have used his
thumbs to strangle Golike. The third "fact" is
actually nothing of the sort. William at one point said that
Golike's hat had been "folded" in Golike's
pocket-evidently the right answer-but at other times he says
it was "shoved" in the pocket. (We wonder how many
teenaged boys observe the difference between folding and
was arrested following his interrogation. The only
source of probable cause to arrest him was the confession,
and so everything turns on it. Deadra, who was 19 at the
time, was also arrested following William's
"confession, " after Jones, Vantlin, Wise, and a
now-deceased EPD detective interrogated her the same night.
She too was read the Miranda warnings and signed
away her rights. Her interrogation lasted nearly two hours
and was also recorded.
interrogation followed the same script as William's.
Sobbing for much of the time, Deadra denied involvement in
Golike's death. She was immediately accused of lying.
Wise told her that her story "ain't gonna
work." Jones added that William already had implicated
her, and he fed her the details of William's
"confession." Jones told Deadra that unless she
talked, her whole family was going to jail. For Deadra, he
envisioned "at least 25 to 50" years "behind
bars." He continued that the only way she was going to
save anyone in her family was to tell the truth. If she did
not, Jones told her, she was "going to hang."
struggled to satisfy the officers. She said at one point
"I don't know what I'm supposed to tell
you." On multiple occasions Vantlin answered that
question for her: tell the same story that William did. Like
William, Deadra eventually repeated the facts that the
detectives had fed her and guessed at answers until she
placated them. She finally succeeded in doing so, telling the
officers that she drove the van that the siblings used to
take Golike to the river. Shortly after "confessing,
" however, Deadra appeared ready to back-track. At that
point, Jones abruptly ended the interrogation and said,
"Now you're starting to recant your story, so what
we're going to do is we're going to stop. We've
got enough. We're just going to stop the interview. Okay?
Because now you're trying to recant your story, trying to
add things into it."
on William's and Deadra's interrogations, the
detectives also arrested Andrea, who was 16 at the time. She
was interrogated, but because all defendants, some in the
district court and the rest on appeal, concede that she was
arrested prior to her interrogation, her experience is not
decisive for any of the issues on appeal. It appears that
Harley was also indicted, but the charges against him were
dismissed at the same time as those against Deadra. He is not
a party to this case.
the interrogations, the detectives followed up in a few minor
ways. EPD detective Jack Spencer filed a report four days
after the sessions with Deadra and William; in it, he claimed
to have taken William to identify the location where
Golike's body was dumped in the river. William denies
that this ever happened. Vantlin looked into Golike's
bank statements and learned that the last charge on
Golike's debit card was made two days prior to his
disappearance. That was when he learned that the balance in
the account was a meager $0.08. This information undermined
William's "confession" insofar as it revealed
that no one (including William) did or even could have used
Golike's debit card to make any purchases at the Kangaroo
on the night in question. Vantlin also met with the clerk who
was working at the store that night. The police summary of
the interview says that the clerk confidently identified
Andrea and Deadra in a photo array, and that she said Harley
and a fourth male (not William) looked familiar. But that
summary omitted the most important details. In a declaration
submitted to the district court, the clerk said that she also
told police that she did not remember any of the
identified people having come into the store and that she may
have recognized the faces from watching the news. Several
months later, EPD officers William Arbaugh and Jason Pagett
filed a police report asserting that William had made
incriminating statements to them when he was being
transported after his interrogation. William says that this
too was fabricated.
was held for seven days before being released without
charges. Deadra and William were both charged with murder,
among other crimes. Deadra remained in jail for four months,
at which point the state court granted a motion to suppress
her "confession" and charges against her were
dropped. William stayed in jail for eight months before his
trial. The jury did not convict him on a single count.
this series of events, Andrea, Deadra, and William filed a
14-count federal complaint alleging multiple constitutional
and state-law violations. The complaint named as defendants
Jones and Wise ("the KSP Defendants"), Arbaugh,
Pagett, Spencer, and Vantlin ("the EPD
Defendants"), and the state medical examiner. Each set
of defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, seeking
qualified immunity or outright dismissal of the case. The
district court granted the state medical examiner's
motion in full, and it granted the other defendants'
motions on all state-law grounds. The district court also
granted summary judgment in favor of those of the individual
EPD Defendants and KSP Defendants who were not personally
involved in the allegedly unconstitutional conduct. Finally,
it found that material factual disputes precluded qualified
immunity for most of the Hurts' federal claims. That left
the following claims:
• Andrea's, Deadra' s, and William's Fourth
Amendment false arrest claims against Jones, ...