Tatum v. Moody

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Rights § 1983
  • Date Filed: 09-17-2014
  • Case #: 10-55692; 10-55970
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Berzon for the Court; Circuit Judge Wardlaw and Senior District Judge Whyte
  • Full Text Opinion

The Fourteenth Amendment protects individuals from prolonged detention when the police, with deliberate indifference to, or in the face of a perceived risk that their actions will violate the individual’s right to be free of unjustified pretrial detention, withhold from the prosecutors information strongly indicative of the individual’s innocence.

Los Angeles Police Department (“LAPD”) detectives Steven Moody and Robert Pulido were investigating “a series of demand-note robberies.” Police arrested Michael Walker “after employees [at EB Games] identified him as the perpetrator of the robbery three days before.” Police “found no evidence of the crime or any other robbery,” however, Moody and Pulido concluded that Walker had committed the robberies. Walker was incarcerated pending trial when additional demand-note robberies occurred. Stanley Smith was arrested by the LAPD’s Robbery Homicide Division, and confessed to the robberies that occurred after Walker’s arrest. Moody and Pulido did not disclose this information to the prosecutor, but instead “falsely asserted in police reports . . . that the ‘crime spree caused by the “Demand Note Robber”’ ceased with Walker’s arrest.” During preliminary hearings, Walker’s defense counsel learned of the exculpatory evidence that was being withheld by Moody and Pulido, and they notified the prosecutor. The charges against Walker were dropped, and the district court granted “a motion for finding of factual innocence.” Walker then filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action against Moody and Pulido, in which a jury found in favor of Walker. Moody and Pulido appealed the district court’s “denial of judgment as a matter of law.” On review, the Ninth Circuit determined that Walker was “deprived [] of liberty without due process of law” because Moody and Pulido’s deliberate failure to disclose exculpatory evidence resulted in Walker’s 27-month pretrial detention. The panel held that the Fourteenth Amendment “protects [individuals] from prolonged detention when the police, with deliberate indifference to, or in the face of a perceived risk that, their actions will violate the [individual’s] right to be free of unjustified pretrial detention, withhold from the prosecutors information strongly indicative of [the individual’s] innocence.” The panel therefore affirmed the district court’s judgment. AFFIRMED.

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