United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division
Marshall Jr. United States District Judge
In the late 1990s, someone shot and killed the manager of a
Harvest Foods in Little Rock. Police interviewed Cedrick
Simpson three times about the crime but didn't charge
him. In 2010, though, Detective Greg Siegler from the
cold-case unit reviewed the file and decided there was enough
evidence to arrest Simpson. The unit was new; and Siegler was
new to homicide investigations. It took a jury less than an
hour to acquit Simpson. Now he sues Detective Siegler and the
City of Little Rock for alleged constitutional and state law
violations in the investigation and prosecution. Siegler and
Little Rock move for summary judgment.
are the material facts - in the light most favorable to
Simpson when disputed. Anda v. Wickes Furniture Co.,
517 F.3d 526, 531 (8th Cir. 2008).
May evening in 1997, a robber forced his way into the Harvest
Foods at 17th and Main in Little Rock when the manager opened
the door for a light stocker. The robber and manager tussled.
The robber shot the manager, then left with a cash drawer and
some food stamps. A trail of loot, with a hat and bandana,
led into the neighborhood. The manger died the next day.
There was one eyewitness. He thought the robber was wearing a
hat and a bandana over his face. Detectives interviewed
several folks but didn't nail a suspect.
of the following year, 1998, Cedrick Simpson was sitting in
jail on a bond violation. He saw a "Get Out of
Jail" poster offering that relief in exchange for
information about unsolved crimes. Simpson called the number.
He didn't know who committed the Harvest Foods robbery,
but he figured that if he could get out of jail, he could go
into the neighborhood and find out who did it. Two detectives
interviewed Simpson. No. 56-13. He told them he was
at a park one evening in 1997 when some folks told him
they'd just robbed the Harvest Foods. Simpson gave the
detectives some names. They told him off the record that his
statement was no good and that he could rot in jail. (Simpson
now admits that everything in this statement was false.)
July, Simpson, still in jail, called the detectives again.
Detectives Steve Moore and Eric Knowles picked him up and
took him by the crime scene. They marched him down the street
in jail clothes and cuffs, while they followed in police
jackets. Simpson was scared. The detectives told him he was
now marked as a snitch -his family would be in danger.
Simpson, through tears, begged the detectives to take him
back to jail. He said he'd do whatever they wanted. He
then gave another statement. No. 56-12. This time he
admitted being involved. His role was originally to go into
the store, but he backed out and became the driver. He saw
Fred Yusuf, Fabian Matthews, and Korey Tatum in the store.
When they got back into the car, Tatum said he shot someone.
Detective Moore interviewed Tatum the same day. Tatum denied
involvement and was released. No. 61-10 at 3. Moore
interviewed Matthews too. Matthews also denied involvement
and said he knew Simpson to be a liar. No. 61-12 at 2.
Moore interviewed Simpson again the next day. (This was the
only interview Simpson didn't initiate.) Simpson
recanted. He confessed that the prior statements were lies
-he was working at Target the night of the shooting. Simpson
says this statement was recorded, but there's no record
of that. Regardless, there was no physical evidence or any
witness linking Simpson to the crime.
investigation continued, though unfruitfully. About two years
later, in March 2000, Moore drafted an affidavit for
Simpson's arrest, acknowledging that Simpson had changed
his story and claimed not to have been involved. No.
56-17 at 3. This affidavit was never used.
April 2010 -thirteen years after the robbery/murder and
twelve years after Simpson first called the police - the LRPD
opened a cold case unit. Detective Greg Siegler Dated: with
no homicide experience. Siegler's boss, Sergeant Durham,
told him to review the Harvest Foods file. Siegler requested
the hat and bandana from the evidence room for retesting.
But, in violation of Department protocol, that evidence had
been destroyed during the interim years. Seigler let Sergeant
Durham and the prosecutor know about the missing evidence.
Siegler nonetheless thought there was enough to arrest
Simpson without it. Sergeant Durham reviewed the file and
agreed. Siegler sent the file and a warrant affidavit to the
prosecutor's office. The prosecutor got a warrant to
arrest Simpson for capital murder. Simpson turned himself in,
spent seven hours in jail, and got released on $100, 000
bond. The case went to trial in March 2013. After
deliberating less than an hour, the jury acquitted Simpson.
Simpson has agreed to dismiss five of his claims. No. 61 at
1. The remaining claims cluster in two groups: federal law
Brady and due process claims about evidence handling
and disclosure; and state law claims for malicious
prosecution and outrage.
and Little Rock argue that Simpson can't pursue his
Brady and due process claims now because the Pulaski
County Circuit Court ruled on them in Simpson's criminal
case. There's no need to explore this complicated
estoppel point, though. The claims fail on the merits.
Brady claim, Simpson contends that Siegler
should've given the prosecutor several items allegedly
clearing Simpson as a suspect: the hat and bandana; a photo
lineup; a fingerprint comparison; and a footprint image. No.
1 at 6-7. But Sielger couldn't have turned over most of
this evidence -he didn't have it. Compare Helmig v.
Fowler, ___F.3d ___, 2016 WL 3675475, at *3
(8th Cir. 11 July 2016). The hat and bandana had been
destroyed in 2007, three years before Siegler got the file in
2010; Siegler's file didn't have a photo lineup shown
to a witness; and there were no shoe prints in there either.
No. 61-4 at 19, 120-125, 131* The record's not clear on
why the fingerprint comparison wasn't turned over; but
there's been no showing that it-or any other evidence
-was withheld in bad faith. White v. McKinley, 519
F.3d 806, 814 (8th Cir. 2008).
of all this, Simpson's acquittal throws a shadow on his
Brady claim. Livers v. Schenck, 700 F.3d
340, 359 (8th Cir. 2012); Jackson v. City of Peoria,
Illinois, ___F.3d ___, 2016 WL 3125228, at *1
(7th Cir. 3 June 2016). It's true that Simpson sat in
jail for seven hours and had to pay about $10, 000 to get
out. No. 61-6 at 29-30. But the Eighth Circuit
hasn't blessed a "fair indictment" or
"fair pretrial detention" angle to Brady.
Livers, 700 F.3d at 359-60. Another court, which has
recognized this right, requires the acquitted person to show
that "the decision to go to trial would have been
altered by the desired disclosure" - for example, that
the prosecutor wouldn't have filed charges or that the
trial court would've dismissed them. Mosley v. City
of Chicago, 614 F.3d 391, 397 (7th Cir. 2010) (quotation
omitted). Simpson hasn't shown any of this. There's
no reason to think the undisclosed evidence would've
stopped this prosecution-Simpson admits that it'd be
speculation 'All deposition citations are to deposition
pagination. to say so. No. 61-6 at 107. And Siegler's
file already showed a lack of physical evidence or witness
identification tying Simpson to the crime. (This is
unsurprising if Simpson was charged only as the driver.) Yet
the prosecutor chose to proceed solely on Simpson's
statements - admittedly conflicting-about the crime.
There's no reason to think the Circuit Court would've
dismissed the charge either: Simpson asked that Court many
times to do so, and it repeatedly said no. No. 56-26; 56-27;
56-28 & 56-29. Finally, Siegler is entitled to qualified
immunity in any event, because the post-acquittal
Brady right Simpson asserts wasn't clearly
established in 2010. Livers, 700 F.3d at 360.
general due process claim about evidence destruction fails
too. The standard is bad faith. Briscoe v. County of St.
Louis, Missouri,690 F.3d 1004, 1013 (8th Cir. 2012).
And Simpson hasn't presented evidence from which it could
reasonably be inferred. The hat and bandana shouldn't
have been destroyed. No. 61-4 at 29, 40. But the unrebutted
explanation was negligence -"a clerical error or
something of that nature." No. 61-4 at 29-30. Siegler
thinks someone probably checked the wrong box on an
evidence-retention form. No. 61-4 at 29-30. And the evidence
was destroyed in 2007, while the case was cold. No. 61-4 at
39. Likewise the supposed recording of Simpson's third
statement. There's a dispute about whether it existed,
but no material dispute about whether it was destroyed in bad
faith. (The receipt Simpson cites to prove the
recording's existence doesn't do so - it shows that a
statement was filed before 9:00 a.m. on 20 July 1998; Simpson
wasn't checked out for the third interview until 9:50
a.m. that day. No. 61-17 at 2-3.) Simpson's
Brady and due process claims against Little Rock
fare no better. There's no evidence that LRPD had a
practice of not disclosing evidence. Marksmeier v.
Davie,622 F.3d 896, 902-03 (8th Cir. 2010). Nor is
there a sufficient showing that LRPD failed to train its
employees to handle evidence. Detective Siegler testified
that destroying evidence would violate Department protocol;
what happened here was a slip-up, and that doesn't
establish deliberate indifference. No. 61-4 at 29-30, 40;
Larkin v. St. Louis Housing Authority Development
Corporation,355 F.3d 1114, 1117 (8th ...