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Harris v. City of Greenwood

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Greenville Division

July 3, 2014

GLORIA HARRIS Plaintiff,
v.
THE CITY OF GREENWOOD, BRANDON CHILD, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY, WALTER HAWKINS, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY, AND JOHN DOES 1-10 Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

S. ALLAN ALEXANDER, Magistrate Judge.

Defendants[1] the City of Greenwood, Mississippi and Officer Brandon Childs have filed a motion for summary judgment. After carefully considering the motion, response, reply, exhibits, and supporting and opposing authority, the court finds that the motion should be granted.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

The events which led to the filing of this action are terrible. Plaintiff Gloria Harris claims that she was raped by defendant Walter Hawkins while Hawkins was employed and on duty as Greenwood police officer in November 2012. On November 17, 2012, Harris telephoned the Greenwood Police Department after she and her boyfriend got into an altercation. Officers responded to the call, and the boyfriend left without incident. At 9:00 p.m. that evening, Harris and three friends went to a club in Cruger, Mississippi where she remained until closing. When she returned home from the club around 2:00 a.m., she found her back door jammed. Suspecting that her boyfriend had returned and was waiting for her inside, Harris telephoned police for assistance. In response, Hawkins, a full time officer, and Childs, a reserve officer, were dispatched to plaintiff's home. Upon arriving, Harris explained her concerns, and Hawkins and Childs searched the home with weapons drawn. The officers found no intruders and advised Harris that they would return later to check on her.

Hawkins and Childs then resumed their patrol and pulled over a vehicle for performing an illegal turn. After patrolling for some period of time Hawkins and Childs returned to plaintiff's home. Hawkins advised Childs to remain in the vehicle while he checked on Harris. Hawkins knocked on plaintiff's door and advised her that he was a police officer. Harris let Hawkins in and closed and locked the door behind him. According to plaintiff, Hawkins then instructed

her to remove her clothes and get on the bed. She got on the bed out of fear because he had a gun in the holster on his hip. He pulled his pants down but did not remove his holster. He subsequently raped her. She said the rape lasted about five minutes. Hawkins returned to the car and drove away.

After Hawkins left, Harris ran to her neighbor's house to call the police to inform them that she was raped by an officer and requested that the officers return to her house. Dispatch instructed Hawkins to return to her home where he found plaintiff and her friends waiting. The officers exited their car and Hawkins proceeded to Harris's front door while Childs remained in the yard. Plaintiff identified Hawkins as the officer who raped her. Plaintiff claims that Hawkins offered her forty dollars to remain quiet, but there is no corroboration of this statement. Two women told Childs that plaintiff said an officer raped her. Childs joined Hawkins and plaintiff at the door and asked plaintiff to repeat her allegations. Childs then questioned Hawkins about the truthfulness of the allegations, and Hawkins replied that he did not know what Harris was talking about. Childs then called Officer Tasha Granderson with the Greenwood Police Department for assistance, and other officers arrived shortly thereafter.

Harris was taken to the hospital where a rape kit was performed, and the DNA tested was confirmed to be Hawkins. The Greenwood Police Department conducted an internal investigation, and the Leflore County Sheriff's Department conducted the criminal investigation. Hawkins was immediately placed on administrative leave with pay, and the day following receipt of the Mississippi Crime Lab Report that confirmed that Hawkins' DNA was found on plaintiff, Hawkins was placed on administrative leave without pay. Eight days later, Hawkins resigned from the Greenwood Police Department. Defendants believe that Hawkins accepted a plea bargain to the criminal charges that resulted in no jail time.

Harris has filed suit against Hawkins, Childs and the city of Greenwood seeking recovery for injuries Harris sustained as a result of the above events. In her Complaint, plaintiff asserts federal claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง1983 alleging that (1) Childs is liable for failing to prevent the sexual assault and (2) Greenwood is liable for failing to train, supervise or properly hire or screen its police officers, including Childs and Hawkins. Plaintiff also asserts state law claims of (3) violation of the Mississippi Tort Claims Act (MTCA); (4) false imprisonment; (5) assault and battery; and (6) intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The defendant has moved for summary judgment, and the motion is fully briefed and ripe for review.

II. Standard of Review

A party is entitled to summary judgment "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). On a motion for summary judgment, the movant has the initial burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). If the movant makes such a showing, the burden then shifts to the non-movant to "go beyond the pleadings and by... affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, ' designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Id. at 324 (quoting FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c), (e)). Before finding that no genuine issue for trial exists, the court must first be satisfied that no rational trier of fact could find for the non-movant. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

"[T]he issue of fact must be genuine.' When the moving party has carried its burden under Rule 56(c), its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Id. at 586; see also Kovacic v. Villarreal, 628 F.3d 209 (5th Cir. 2010). "Conclusory statements, speculation, and unsubstantiated assertions cannot defeat a motion for summary judgment." RSR Corp. v. International Ins. Co., 612 F.3d 851, 857 (5th Cir. 2010). Where a party opposes summary judgment on a claim or defense on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial, and when the moving party can show a complete failure of proof on an essential element of the claim or defense, then all other issues become immaterial, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Further, self-serving "affidavit or deposition testimony setting forth ultimate or conclusory facts and conclusions of law are insufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment." Clark v. America's Favorite Chicken Co., 110 F.3d 295, 297 (5th Cir. 1997); see also Jackson v. Cal-Western Packaging Corp., 602 F.3d 374 (5th Cir. 2010).

The court must render summary judgment in favor of the moving party if "there is no legally sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to find for that party on that issue." Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Products, Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 135 (2000). The Supreme Court has cautioned, however, that the ruling court must not encroach upon the functions of the jury. As the Court stated in Reeves,

... the court must review all of the evidence in the record, drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, but making no credibility determinations or weighing any evidence. The latter functions, along with the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts, are for the jury, not the court. Thus, although the court should review the record as a whole, it ...

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