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Franklin v. ST. Louis County Board of Police Commissioners

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

July 13, 2015

PAULETTA FRANKLIN, Plaintiff,
v.
ST. LOUIS COUNTY BOARD OF POLICE COMMISSIONERS, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

SHIRLEY PADMORE MENSAH, Magistrate Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants Robert Vogel, Robert Morley, John Blake and St. Louis County Board of Police Commissioners (collectively, "Defendants"). (Doc. 11). The claims against Board were dismissed after the filing of the instant motion. (Doc. 24). The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1). (Doc. 14). For the following reasons, the Court will grant Defendants' motion.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND[1]

On August 14, 2009, at approximately 2:30 a.m., St. Louis County police officer Robert Vogel ("Detective Vogel") responded to a hospital call about a female victim. The victim reported that she had been physically and sexually assaulted by a man, later identified as Kenneth Roberts ("Roberts"), in the basement of a house at a particular address in St. Louis County. Among other things, the victim told Detective Vogel that Roberts held a knife to her throat, that he hit her over the head with a liquor bottle when she tried to flee, and that she accidentally dropped her purse and cell phone in the house. The victim also explained that Roberts' grandmother (the plaintiff in this action) had been upstairs in the house sleeping, but had come down to the basement upon hearing a commotion, at which point the victim was able to escape.

At approximately 3:30 a.m., Detective Vogel went to the address reported by the victim, accompanied by several other officers. When Detective Vogel knocked on the door, Plaintiff Pauletta Franklin ("Plaintiff") came to the door but did not initially open it. At that point, the officers discovered blood on the storm door on the outside of the house, which was the door through which the victim said she had escaped. Detective Vogel saw a person matching the assailant's description through a window in the door and asked Plaintiff to open the door. Although Plaintiff initially walked away, she eventually opened the door and Roberts came outside, where he was handcuffed and detained. Detective Vogel and other officers entered Plaintiff's residence and searched the basement.[2] There they discovered, inter alia, broken glass consistent with the victim's account of being hit over the head with a bottle and what appeared to be blood droplets and smears. The officers did not search Plaintiff's entire house, and they did not find the victim's purse or cell phone.

Later that same day, Detective Vogel presented the facts about what had happened to an assistant prosecuting attorney, who told Detective Vogel that there was enough evidence to support a warrant to search the rest of the house for the victim's purse and cell phone. Detective Vogel believed that there was a fair probability that the victim's purse and cell phone were still in Plaintiff's home. Detective Vogel gave the information necessary for the search warrant application to St. Louis County police officer Robert Morley ("Detective Morley"), and Detective Morley prepared and signed it. The statements in the search warrant were accurate and were consistent with the information that Detective Vogel conveyed to Detective Morley. Detective Morley believed that everything in the search warrant was true and that there was a fair probability that the victim's purse and cell phone would be found at Plaintiff's house. The Honorable James R. Hartenbach issued a search warrant at 2:50 p.m. directing St. Louis County police to search Plaintiff's residence for the victim's cell phone and purse.

The St. Louis County tactical operations team, supervised by St. Louis County police officer John Blake ("Sergeant Blake"), executed the search warrant later that same afternoon. At the briefing prior to the execution of the warrant, the team was informed that Roberts was in custody and that an elderly woman would probably be in the house, so they should give her more time to get to the door because of her age. Upon arriving at Plaintiff's residence, the tactical operations unit knocked on the front door and announced their identity and purpose multiple times. After waiting about thirty seconds, Sergeant Blake gave the order to force entry and the tactical operations unit broke through the door.[3] Plaintiff did not call out on her way to the door to let the officers know she was coming. When the team gained entry, Plaintiff was right at the door.

II. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On August 14, 2014, Plaintiff filed a Petition in the Twenty-First Judicial Circuit, State of Missouri, against the St. Louis County Board of Police Commissioners ("Board"), Detective Vogel, Detective Morley, and Sergeant Blake, alleging that her Fourth Amendment rights were violated during the searches of her home on August 19, 2009. (Doc. 4). Defendants removed the case to this Court on September 11, 2014. (Doc. 1). In her Petition, Plaintiff alleged four counts under 42 U.S.C. § 1983: (I) Unlawful Entry and Search of Residence (against Board and Detective Vogel); (II) Unlawful Procurement of a Search Warrant (against Detective Vogel, Detective Morley, and Board); (III) Unlawful Use of Force to Obtain Entry Into Residence (against Sergeant Blake and Board); and (IV) Failure to Train or Supervise (against Board). (Doc. 4). This Court granted Board's motion to dismiss all of the claims against it. (Doc. 24).

Defendants filed the instant Motion for Summary Judgment on October 16, 2014. (Doc. 11).[4] Under the Court's Case Management Order, Plaintiff's opposition to the Motion for Summary Judgment was due by December 15, 2014. (Doc. 17). After Plaintiff failed to meet this deadline, the Court issued another order on January 26, 2015 requiring Plaintiff to file a response to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment by February 6, 2015. (Doc. 21). Plaintiff did not file any response to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.[5]

III. LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment shall be granted "if the movant shows that 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); Hill v. Walker, 737 F.3d 1209, 1216 (8th Cir. 2013). The movant "bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion" and must identify "those portions of [the record]... which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the movant does so, the nonmovant must respond by submitting evidentiary materials that set out specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 324. "On a motion for summary judgment, facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party only if there is a genuine dispute as to those facts.'" Ricci v. DeStefano, 557 U.S. 557, 586 (2009) (quoting Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007)) (internal quotations omitted).

IV. DISCUSSION

Three claims remain pending for resolution in this case. In Count I, Plaintiff alleges that Detective Vogel and other unnamed officers violated her Fourth Amendment rights by entering and searching her home without a warrant. In Count II, Plaintiff alleges that Detectives Vogel and Morley violated her Fourth Amendment rights by unlawfully procuring a search warrant for her home, in that the officers knowingly withheld from the judge issuing the warrant the fact that they each knew there was no more evidence to be found at Plaintiff's house. In Count III, Plaintiff alleges that Sergeant Blake violated her Fourth Amendment rights by unlawfully using force to obtain entry into her ...


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