Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Murphy v. City of Tulsa

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

February 1, 2018

MICHELLE DAWN MURPHY, Plaintiff,
v.
THE CITY OF TULSA, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          GREGORY K. FRIZZELL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the court on the “Motion in Limine Number Sixteen: To Exclude Any Reference to the LaRoye Hunter Case” [Doc. #226] of defendant the City of Tulsa. For the reasons discussed below, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Background

         In her First Amended Complaint, Ms. Murphy alleges she was wrongfully convicted for the murder of her infant son, Travis Wood. Her conviction was vacated by an agreed order entered in state district court in 2014. She served twenty years of a sentence of life without parole.

         Ms. Murphy now asserts a claim for relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of her right to a fair trial under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment on seven (7) enumerated grounds, including deficiencies in the Tulsa Police Department's (“TPD”) training, supervision, and policies and procedures, and of her right not to incriminate herself under the Fifth Amendment based on her interrogation by detective Mike Cook. In support, Ms. Murphy alleges, in part, as follows:

Approximately five years earlier, Cook interrogated an [sic] 17 year old in a murder case, threatening and yelling at him (hereafter the “Earlier Case”). This interrogation produced a confession, even though the 17 year old had been interrogated earlier that day by other police officers and denied any involvement in 32 pages of transcribed statement. After 40 minutes in Cook's hands, he confessed. Cook denied, but the judge believed, Cook threatened the juvenile and used racial slurs and obscenities in the unrecorded portion of Cook's interrogation alone with the juvenile. Associate District Judge Bill Beasley suppressed the confession in 1994, noting how infrequently he did that. The Tulsa World ran a story on 8-31-94 concerning Judge Beasley's suppression of the confession, reciting the facts set forth just above. When the charge was dismissed, on 9-1-90, the Tulsa World ran another story reciting the same reasons for suppression of the confession. With the publication of those two articles, alone, the Final Policymaker for the TPD had constructive notice of Cook's improper interrogation techniques.
***
Cook's actions in the Earlier Case involved lying to the court about the methods he used to obtain a confession in a homicide case. The Final Policymaker thereby knew he had an officer on his hands who would do anything to frame a person in a homicide case, not just lie in court. A police officer who lies in court and obtains confessions by Unconstitutional methods, by definition, has pronounced proclivities for the pusillanimous pursuit of power. In short, he is a power maniac. And if immediate termination is not required, then the closest possible supervision, extensive training, and thorough policies are required if that officer is allowed to work on homicide cases in the future. Cook being allowed to proceed in Michelle's case, and do the same thing he did in the earlier case, is a ratification and endorsement of Cook's conduct, without more.
***
After the Earlier Case, in light of Cook lying under oath in court, trying to frame someone in a murder case, and usage of techniques for interrogation long since banned by the United States Supreme Court, the need for action concerning Cook serving in the future as investigator, lead investigator or interrogator was “so obvious, and the inadequacy so likely to result in the violation of Constitutional rights, that the [Chief of Police and the Head of the Homicide Bureau] can reasonably be said to have been deliberately indifferent to the need.”
***
The Earlier Case put the Final Policymaker on notice that TPD needed policies, training and supervision, on a general basis, to prevent its interrogators from engaging in the conduct described by the suspect in the Earlier Case. That case also put TPD on notice of the necessity of videotaping or audio taping the entirety of an interrogation, at least in a first degree murder or other types of homicide cases, given their possible punishments. The Final Policymaker's failure to take action to put in place adequate policies, training and supervision, at least in first degree murder or other types of homicide cases was deliberately indifferent to the need to have same.

[Doc. #36, ¶¶ 58, 246, 390, and 403]. The “Earlier Case” refers to State of Oklahoma v. LaRoye C. Hunter, III, Tulsa County Case No. CF-1989-5196. (“Hunter Case”). In 1989, LaRoye Hunter was charged with Murder, First Degree and Arson, First Degree in the District Court of Tulsa County. [Doc. #175-50].[1] At the time he was charged, Mr. Hunter was seventeen (17) years old. Mr. Cook participated in Mr. Hunter's interrogation, and was present when Mr. Hunter confessed. However, Mr. Hunter's confession was subsequently suppressed, and the charges against Mr. Hunter were dropped. Prior to the charges being dropped, Mr. Hunter was represented by then-Tulsa County Public Defender Loretta Radford.

         II. Analysis

         The City of Tulsa moves to exclude “any evidence or mention of” the Hunter Case, arguing that no admissible evidence exists as to the reason behind the suppression of Hunter's confession and, therefore, the Hunter Case is irrelevant to the issues presented in this matter. In response, Ms. Murphy cites deposition testimony taken in this case of Ms. Radford, together with newspaper articles dated August 1, 1990 from the Tulsa World and Tulsa Tribune, and argues that these items are admissible for five separate reasons: (1) impeachment of Mr. Cook (subsection II.B., II.C., II.E., and II.H.); (2) to demonstrate Mr. Cook's reputation among his associates and community as to his character pursuant to Fed.R.Evid. 803(21) (subsection II.D.); (3) to refresh Mr. Cook's recollection (subsection II.F.); (4) impeachment of retired Tulsa Police Office Ken Mackinson (subsection II.G.); and (5) as evidence of the absence of policies, training and supervision and the presence of deliberate indifference (subsection II.A.).[2] In reply, the City again asserts that the Hunter Case is factually distinct from Ms. Murphy's case, and therefore irrelevant, and that the proffered evidentiary items are hearsay and speculative.

         A. Hearsay Objection

         The court will first consider whether the newspaper articles are hearsay. Federal Rule of Evidence 801 defines “hearsay” as a statement that “the declarant dos not make while testifying at the current trial or hearing, ” and which is offered into evidence “to prove the truth of the matter asserted in the statement.” The court agrees that “[g]enerally, newspaper articles are inadmissible hearsay.” Reynolds v. City of Poteet, No. 12-CV-1112-DAE, 2014 WL 1355560, at *7 (W.D. Tex. Apr. 4, 2014). However, the court must examine the “Statements in Ancient Documents” exception to the rule against hearsay.

         Federal Rule of Evidence 803 recognizes twenty-four categories of statements which are not excluded by the rule against hearsay, regardless of the availability of the witness. Pursuant to subsection (16), entitled Statements in Ancient Documents, “[a] statement in a document that was prepared before January 1, 1998, and whose authenticity is established, ” is not excluded by the hearsay rule.

         Here, the newspaper articles were prepared before January 1, 1998. Further, pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 902(6), newspapers and periodicals are self-authenticating. Because the newspaper articles were prepared before January 1, 1998 and their authenticity is established, the newspaper articles ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.