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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit decides one Indiana case today, involving a reality television program filmed in Indy

In Carlton Hart v. Chrristen Mannina, et al (SD Ind., Lawrence), a 31-page opinion, Judge Hamilton writes:

Allowing a reality television program to film an ongoing murder investigation is a recipe for trouble. It is easy to imagine a detective with a looming television deadline cutting a corner to ensure that a suspect is arrested in time for the final episode. Without an arrest, the show has no resolution to satisfy the audience.

The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) participated in this sort of reality television program called The Shift. The film crew followed a team of homicide detectives as they investigated a deadly home invasion in November 2008. Two victims were shot. One was killed; the other survived. Police eventually arrested plaintiff Carlton Hart, and his arrest was the centerpiece for the final episode of the program’s first season. As it turned out, though, Hart was the wrong man. After he had spent nearly two years in jail awaiting trial, the charges were dismissed and Hart was released. The audience of The Shift was none the wiser.

Hart filed this lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against several detectives in their individual capacities and against the City of Indianapolis alleging a variety of constitutional violations. The core of his complaint is that he was arrested without probable cause and that the lead detective on the case made false or misleading statements in her probable cause affidavit for his arrest. The district court granted defendants’ motion for partial judgment on the pleadings on two claims and, after discovery, defendants’ motion for summary judgment on the remaining claims.

There are many troubling aspects of IMPD’s investigation, and this case should warn police departments about having their detectives moonlight as television stars. But on this record, we must affirm. Even the troubling aspects of the investigation do not add up to evidence of a violation of Hart’s constitutional rights. A reasonable trier of fact could not find that police lacked probable cause to arrest him. Nor could a reasonable jury find that the lead detective, defendant Christine Mannina, made false or misleading statements in her probable cause affidavit. Four surviving witnesses from the home invasion separately identified Hart as one of the men who attacked them. None of the police had any reason to doubt these identifications when they arrested Hart. * * *

We find no abuse of discretion here. In a thorough written order, the district court explained that Hart’s motion focused on the failure by defense counsel to respond to the October 2012 deficiency letter in writing but did not explain adequately the substance of the parties’ continuing discovery dispute. By the time Hart actually filed the motion in July 2013 (seven months after the letter was sent), defendants had diligently provided discovery and answered Hart’s numerous written discovery requests. The court also found that Hart had failed to specify the discovery items that were still outstanding at the time the motion was filed. Hart has demonstrated neither an abuse of discretion nor actual and substantial prejudice. The judgment of the district court is AFFIRMED.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on August 18, 2015 10:32 AM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions