United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division
CARLTON W. REEVES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is the defendants' motion for summary judgment.
Docket No. 80. The motion has been fully briefed, and the
Court is ready to rule.
Burnett filed this action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983,
1985, and 1986 for alleged deprivation of and conspiracy to
interfere with his civil rights. He also brought state law
claims. Burnett named several entities and individuals as
defendants. Those defendants relevant to this motion are the
City of Jackson and two of its police officers, Detective
Patricia Wilder and Officer Cedric Myles, in their official
and individual capacities (collectively referred to as
“the Jackson Defendants”).
allegations have been discussed in this Court's prior
Orders, but the harms for which Burnett seeks redress stem
from his wrongful arrest, indictment, and nearly three-year
detention for alleged sexual battery, rape, kidnapping, and
armed carjacking. See Burnett v. Hinds Cty. ex rel. Bd.
of Sup'rs, No. 3:14-CV-651-CWR-FKB, 2015 WL 5785562,
at *4 (S.D.Miss. Sept. 11, 2015). Exculpatory DNA evidence
eventually caused the Hinds County District Attorney to
dismiss all charges.
Jackson Defendants now seek summary judgment on the §
1983 and state law claims. The familiar summary judgment standard
applies. See Hill v. Hinds County, Miss., No.
3:12-CV-880-CWR-FKB, 2015 WL 1014305, at *2 (S.D.Miss. Mar.
9, 2015). Each claim will be taken in turn.
Section 1983 Claims against the City of Jackson
argues that the City of Jackson failed to train its police
officers to properly identify suspects. This lack of
training, he says, led to his illegal arrest and detention
for a crime he did not commit.
municipality can be sued under § 1983 when “the
action that is alleged to be unconstitutional implements or
executes a policy statement, ordinance, regulation or
decision officially adopted and promulgated by that
body's officers.” Monell v. Dep't of Soc.
Servs. of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 690 (1978). In
other words, a plaintiff must show “(1) an official
policy (or custom), of which (2) a policymaker can be charged
with actual or constructive knowledge, and (3) a
constitutional violation whose moving force is that policy or
custom.” Valle v. City of Hous., 613 F.3d 536,
541-42 (5th Cir. 2010)
however, Burnett fails on all fronts. He has not identified a
policy; he has not connected a policy to the City of
Jackson's policymaker(s); and he has failed to show a
constitutional violation that occurred from the execution of
a city policy. A municipality can be liable for a custom of
inadequately training its police officers. Brown v. Bryan
Cty., Okla., 219 F.3d 450, 457 (5th Cir. 2000).
“Where a § 1983 plaintiff can establish that the
facts available to city policymakers put them on actual or
constructive notice that the particular [training] omission
is substantially certain to result in the violation of the
constitutional rights of their citizens, the dictates of
Monell are satisfied.” City of Canton,
Ohio v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 396 (1989). This is the
route Burnett travels to pin liability on the City of
attempts to establish inadequate training procedures by
recapping the criminal investigation that led to his arrest.
It began with Officer Fred Nelson using his cell phone to
capture still photos of the assailant from surveillance video
at the crime scene. After viewing the cell phone photographs,
Officer Cedric Myles informed Detective Patricia Wilder that
the assailant resembled Burnett, a person with whom Myles was
familiar from a previous criminal matter. Officer Myles knew
that Burnett lived near the crime scene.
contends that Officer Myles should have viewed the original
surveillance video before making the identification and not
simply relied upon the cell phone photos, which Burnett says
were of low quality.
Myles testified that as a patrolman, after reviewing the
photographs, he did all that was required of him. He drafted
and sent a supplemental report to the detective (Wilder)
tasked with investigating the case. That detective, in turn,
pursued leads. Burnett was not arrested until further
investigation resulted in the victim picking his mugshot out
of a six-person photo line-up. From this testimony, Burnett
says, “it appears that Officer Myles and other JPD
officers involved . . . suffered from a lack of training in
proper and reliable identification of suspects.” Docket
No. 112, at 9.
are a number of reasons why the Court must reject
Burnett's claim. The first is that he puts forth no
evidence-such as a training handbook, expert testimony, or
best practices-to support his criticism of the JPD's
procedures. His personal opinion alone is certainly not
enough to cast doubt on the adequacy of the police
to be actionable, the inadequate training must have caused a
violation of Burnett's constitutional rights. See
Kitchen v. Dall. Cty., Tex., 759 F.3d 468, 483 (5th Cir.
2014) (“As is well established, every Monell
claim requires ‘an underlying constitutional