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Murphy v. City of Tulsa

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

March 13, 2018




         This matter comes before the court on the defendant City of Tulsa's Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. #175]. For the reasons discussed below, the motion is granted.

         I. Background

         On September 12, 1994, Travis Wood, the three-month-old son of Michelle Murphy, was found dead as a result of a stab wound to the chest and incised wound to the neck. The Tulsa Police Department, headed by then Chief Ron Palmer, oversaw the investigation of infant Wood's murder. That same day, Murphy made a statement to TPD detective Michael Cook.

         On September 15, 1994, Murphy was charged with murder in the first degree in the District Court in and for Tulsa County. Murphy was convicted of the charge in November of 1995 and served twenty (20) years of a sentence of life without parole. On May 30, 2014, Tulsa County District Court Judge William Kellough vacated and set aside Murphy's conviction and, on September 12, 2014, the charge against Murphy was dismissed with prejudice.

         Murphy now brings this case against the City of Tulsa pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the federal civil rights statute.[1] Murphy seeks section 1983 relief on the basis of two constitutional violations: (1) violation of Murphy's Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, and (2) violation of the Fourteenth Amendment due process clause's right to a fair trial.[2] The City moves for summary judgment in its favor.

         II. Procedural History and Evidentiary Issues

         Before considering the City's motion for summary judgment, however, the court must first address four evidentiary issues associated with Murphy's response.

         In support of its motion, the City offers eighty-three (83) material facts to which it asserts there is no dispute. These facts are divided into six categories: (1) “The Tulsa Police Department's Murder Investigation, ” fact nos. 1-28; (2) “Murphy's Confession And Probable Cause, ” fact nos. 29-36; (3) “Murphy's Confession was Given Knowingly and Voluntarily, ” fact nos. 37-46; (4) “Causation and Waiver, ” fact nos. 47-54; (5) “TPD Policies, Practices, Training, and Supervision, ” fact nos. 55-71; and (6) “The ‘Earlier' Case - LaRoye Hunter, ” fact nos. 72-83.

         Murphy's response to the motion includes over 1, 000 pages of exhibits. The City subsequently moved to strike the exhibits attached to Murphy's response, arguing that the exhibits did not comply with Local Civil Rule 56.1. In an order dated August 29, 2017, the court concluded that Murphy's response failed to comply with LCvR 56.1(c) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1) for five separate reasons. First, the court concluded that Murphy “frequently fail[ed] to ‘refer with particularity' to those portions of the record upon which she relies, ” offering as an example Murphy's collective response to the City's first twenty-eight (28) statements of undisputed material facts. In response to the City's first 28 facts, Murphy responded with the statement “[t]he investigation was woefully inadequate, not ‘thorough' or ‘constitutionally sound' as asserted . . .” and cited to 140 of her own additional statements of undisputed fact, seventeen pages of an expert report prepared on her behalf by Dr. Michael D. Lyman, and twelve pages of deposition testimony from the unnamed “scene investigator.” Second, Murphy did not use a consistent format for her references. Third, Murphy referenced missing exhibits. Fourth, Murphy occasionally referred to multi-page exhibits as a whole, without reference to page and line numbers. Finally, for some of the exhibits containing excerpts of testimony, Murphy did not identify the individual whose testimony was presented. In order to correct these identified deficiencies, the court granted Murphy additional time to file an amended response that complied with LCvR 56.1(c) and Fed.R.Civ.p. 56(c)(1). See [Doc. #279].

         Pursuant to Local Civil Rule 56.1(c):

The response brief in opposition to a motion for summary judgment (or partial summary judgment) shall begin with a section which contains a concise statement of material facts to which the party asserts genuine issues of fact exist. Each fact in dispute shall be numbered, shall refer with particularity to those portions of the record upon which the opposing party relies and, if applicable, shall state the number of the movant's facts that is disputed. All material facts set forth in the statement of the material facts of the movant shall be deemed admitted for the purpose of summary judgment unless specifically controverted by the statement of material facts of the opposing party.

LCvR 56.1(c) (emphasis added). The local rule is consistent with statements of the Tenth Circuit interpreting Fed.R.Civ.p. 56, and meant to further the purposes of Rule 56. The Tenth Circuit has stated that “on a motion for summary judgment, ‘it is the responding party's burden to ensure that the factual dispute is portrayed with particularity, without . . . depending on the trial court to conduct its own search of the record.'” Cross v. Home Depot, 390 F.3d 1283, 1290 (10th Cir. 2004) (quoting Downes v. Beach, 587 F.2d 469, 472 (10th Cir. 1978)). This court “is not required to comb through Plaintiffs' evidence to determine the bases for a claim that a factual dispute exists.” Bootenhoff v. Hormel Foods Corp., No. CIV-11-1368-D, 2014 WL 3810329, at *2 n.3 (W.D. Okla. Aug. 1, 2014) (citing Mitchell v. City of Moore, Okla., 218 F.3d 1190, 1199 (10th Cir. 2000))[3]; see also Espinoza v. Coca-Cola Enters., Inc., 167 F. App'x 743, 746 (10th Cir. 2006) (“[W]here the nonmovant failed to support his case with adequate specificity, we will not fault the court for not searching the record on its own to make his case for him (nor will we take on that role of advocacy.”)); Boldridge v. Tyson Foods, Inc., No. 05-4055-SAC, 2007 WL 1299197, at *2 (D. Kan. May 2, 2007) (“It is not this court's task to comb through Plaintiff's submissions in an effort to link alleged facts to his arguments or to construct Plaintiff's arguments for him.”) (quoting Barcikowski v. Sun Microsystems, Inc., 420 F.Supp.2d 1163, 1179 (D. Colo. 2006)); Lucas v. Office of Colo. State Pub. Def., No. 15-CV-00713-CBS, 2016 WL 9632933, at *5 (D. Colo. Aug. 25, 2016) (“The Court has no obligation to scour the record in search of evidence to support any factual assertions, and where inadequate record citations have been made, the court has ignored them.”).

         Due to a change in Murphy's counsel, the court granted Murphy an additional extension to file her amended response. See [Doc. #335]. The amended response lists 197 additional material facts and again appends over 1, 000 pages of exhibits which Murphy asserts preclude summary judgment. However, the amended response fails to correct several of the deficiencies previously identified by this court and, for the four following reasons, the court is persuaded that portions of Murphy's amended response do not comply with LCvR 56.1(c) and Fed.R.Civ.p. 56(c)(1).

         First, Murphy again fails to “refer with particularity” to those portions of the record on which she relies. By way of example, Murphy did not correct all of the insufficiencies specifically identified by this court in its August 29, 2017 order regarding Murphy's opposition to the City's first twenty-eight undisputed material facts.

         As previously mentioned, City fact nos. 1-28 relate to TPD's investigation of the murder of infant Wood. Murphy purports to specifically dispute only eight (8) of these facts. Rather, at the outset of Murphy's section stating the material facts to which she asserts a genuine issue of fact exists, Murphy again includes the following:

1-28. The investigation was woefully inadequate, not “thorough” or “constitutionally sound” as asserted on p. 31 citing these facts. See Plaintiff Facts ## 15, 21, 22, 24-103 and 142-195. See also, Plt. Ex. 178, Expert Report of Michael Lyman, pp. 107-124; Plt. Exh. 148, Transcript of Noordyke, p. 16, ll. 22-24, p. 23, ll. 1-3, p. 25, ll. 2-12, l. [sic] 26, ll. 2-6, p. 27, ll. 7-12, p. 31, ll. 3-16, p. 40, ll. 2-7, p. 46, ll. 4-15, p. 52, ll. 4-8, p. 65, ll. 1-24, p. 69, ll. 3-8, p. 29, ll. 7-12.[4]

[Doc. #338');">338');">338');">338, p. 1 (internal footnote omitted)]. Murphy explains that “Fact ##” refers to Murphy's additional material facts to which she asserts there is no dispute. [Doc. #338');">338');">338');">338, p. 1 n.1].

         Although, unlike in her original response, Murphy identifies the scene investigator as TPD officer Noordyke and includes specific page and line references, Murphy again broadly refers to 135 of her own statements of additional undisputed material facts-each of which references one or more exhibits-as well as 17 pages of Dr. Lyman's expert report, and 13 pages of Noordyke's testimony. Similarly, Murphy cites only her own statements of additional undisputed material facts to dispute the following undisputed material facts offered by the City: 20, 23, 25, 27, 37, 38[5], and 67. As previously discussed by this court, this practice requires the court to first find the referenced statements of undisputed material fact in a separate section of Murphy's response, look to the exhibits referenced in that later section, and comb through the record to find the relevant material in support of Murphy's proposition. The court is not persuaded that this burdensome procedure satisfies the particularity requirement of LCvR 56.1(c).

         Second, Murphy fails to properly address many of the City's assertions of undisputed material fact. Murphy purports to dispute City fact nos. 22, 46, 52, 53[6], 56, 57, 63, 72, 73, and 80, but includes only argument and no reference to any portion of the evidentiary record upon which Murphy relies. It is well established that “argument of counsel is not evidence, and cannot provide a proper basis to deny summary judgment.” Pinkerton v. Colo. Dep't of Transp., 563 F.3d 1052, 1061 (10th Cir. 2009). See also Bones v. Honeywell Int'l, Inc., 366 F.3d 869, 875 (10th Cir. 2004) (“To defeat a motion for summary judgment, evidence, including testimony, must be based on more than mere speculation, conjecture, or surmise.”).

         Third, although Murphy has remedied most of the deficiencies from her prior brief with regard to missing exhibits, one deficiency remains. In opposition to the City's undisputed material fact no. 13, Murphy refers to Exhibit 15, which was not provided to the court.

         Finally, Murphy does not purport to specifically dispute fact nos. 1-10, 12, 14, 16-19, 21, 24, 26, 28, 31, 33-36, 40-45, 48-51, 54, 64-66, 69, 74-79, and 81-83.[7]

         To the extent that Murphy identifies a numbered material fact of the City relative to which she cites with particularity to the evidentiary record to demonstrate a dispute as required by LCvR 56.1(c), the court will consider the issue for purposes of the City's motion for summary judgment. The court will not “seach[] through the record on plaintiff's behalf, however, to compile the relevant facts.” Stallings v. Werner Enters., 598 F.Supp.2d 1203, 1210 (D. Kan. 2009). To do so would require the court to comb through the record, essentially charting Murphy's arguments for her, in a manner not required by the Tenth Circuit. Thus, the court concludes that Murphy fails to properly address the following facts, and the court will consider them undisputed for purposes of the City's motion for summary judgment: 1-10, 12-14, 16-28, 31, 33-38, 40-46, 48-54, 56-57, 63-67, 69, and 72-83.

         III. Summary Judgment Standard

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), “[t]he court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” A fact is “material” if it “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute is “genuine” “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. “Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted.” Id. Further, the nonmoving party “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986).

         In considering a motion for summary judgment, “[t]he evidence and reasonable inferences drawn from the evidence are viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” Stover v. Martinez, 382 F.3d 1064, 1070 (10th Cir. 2004). “A ‘judge's function' at summary judgment is not ‘to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Tolan v. Cotton, 34 S.Ct. 1861');">134 S.Ct. 1861, 1866 (2014) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249). Summary judgment is appropriate only “where ‘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 a judgment as a matter of law.” Stover, 382 F.3d at 1070 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.p. 56(c)).

         IV. Undisputed Material Facts

         The court finds the following facts regarding the investigation, trial, conviction, and release of Murphy:

         At approximately 6:15 a.m., on Monday, September 12, 1994, EMSA and officers from the Tulsa Police Department (“TPD”) arrived on scene at Michelle Murphy's apartment in response to a 911 call regarding the stabbing death of a baby. Officer BK Smith and Officer Gary Neece were among the first to arrive. They were directed to the back door of the apartment, where Smith observed Murphy's three-month old son, Travis Wood, dead, lying in a pool of blood. [CSOMF at ¶ 1]. Smith and Neece entered Murphy's apartment through the back door to search for additional victims. They exited the apartment and set up a perimeter to protect the crime scene. Smith then guarded the back door of Murphy's apartment until he was relieved by a day shift officer. [CSOMF at ¶ 2]. Ultimately, nine uniformed TPD officers and four detectives, including Det. Doug Noordyke, Scene Investigator, assisted in investigating the homicide of Travis Wood. [CSOMF at ¶ 3].

         TPD officers immediately separated the witnesses. Murphy and her neighbors, Christina Carter and Christona Lowther, were each placed in separate patrol cars. [CSOMF at ¶ 4]. TPD officers and detectives obtained written and recorded statements from Carter, Lowther, and William Green. [CSOMF at ¶ 5]. TPD officers and detectives also interviewed Murphy's other neighbors, James Fields, Kathy Evans, Steve Mann, LaDonna Summer, William Lee, Kevin Washington, Mike Jarnagan, Pat Jarnagan, and the security guard for the apartment complex. They also interviewed the probation officer of one of Murphy's acquaintances. [CSOMF at ¶ 6]. 911 calls had been made by Lee and Lowther. As part of the investigation, TPD officers obtained copies of these calls. [CSOMF at ¶ 8].

         Allen assigned the homicide investigation to Det. Corporal Mike Cook, a 20-year TPD veteran and a 13-year homicide detective. At the time, Cook had investigated hundreds of homicide cases. [CSOMF at ¶ 7]. Allen also assigned Noordyke, a 13-year TPD veteran, as the crime scene investigator. Noordyke's training included police academy training in crime scene processing, evidence recovery, and fingerprinting. He also attended specialized schools in blood stain pattern analysis and latent print examinations and had received training with senior SIU officers regarding crime scene processing. At the time of the Murphy investigation, Noordyke had processed hundreds of crime scenes. [CSOMF at ¶ 9].

         When Noordyke arrived at the scene, it had been taped off and preserved. His first duties were to document the scene with video, photographs, sketches, and narrative report. He also recovered physical evidence and processed the scene for prints. [CSOMF at ¶ 10].[8] There were no signs of forced entry into the apartment.[9] [CSOMF at ¶ 11]. Noordyke collected the sheet/drape that separated the kitchen from the living room because it was stained with what appeared to be blood. He also obtained samples from what appeared to be blood on the outside of the front screen door and near the body of the baby. [CSOMF at ¶ 12]. Noordyke recovered seven knives from Murphy's apartment, including a 9-inch dagger in the closet and a large knife with a 7 ¼-inch blade found between the couch cushions. [CSOMF at ¶ 13]. The agent from the Medical Examiner's office arrived at the scene, examined the victim and found a “stab wound just below the neck and a deep large laceration across the throat that was close to being a full decapitation of the infant.” [CSOMF at ¶ 14]. In addition to obtaining latent prints, video, and crime scene photographs, Noordyke collected 25 separate pieces of evidence on September 12, 1994. [CSOMF at ¶ 15]. Throughout the course of its investigation, TPD generated 232 pages of TRACIS documents. The investigation included: securing the crime scene; canvassing the area for potential witnesses; separating the witnesses at the scene; obtaining witness statements; documenting the crime scene with video, photographs and diagrams; obtaining and processing evidence; obtaining DNA evidence and evidence from the Medical Examiner's office; having detectives re-visit the scene; and interviewing Murphy and obtaining her tape-recorded confession. [CSOMF at ¶ 25].

         Officer Gary Otterstrom was assigned to sit with Murphy in his patrol car until the detectives arrived. While Murphy was seated in the passenger seat of the patrol car, she stepped out of the vehicle several times to speak with neighbors and smoke cigarettes. [CSOMF at ¶ 23]. Allen, the on-scene supervisor, instructed Otterstrom to obtain a written search waiver from Murphy so that she could give permission for the officers to search her residence for evidence. At 7:17 a.m., September 12, 1994, Allen witnessed Otterstrom read Murphy her Miranda warnings from a card and then observed Murphy willingly sign a Consent to Search form for her apartment. [CSOMF at ¶ 24].

         Cook arrived at the crime scene between 7:30 and 8:00 a.m. As the detective assigned to the case, he was responsible for interviewing the witnesses and putting together the reports. [CSOMF at ¶ 16]. At approximately 8:40-8:45 a.m., Cook went to the detective division to talk to Murphy. [CSOMF at ¶ 17]. Cook interviewed Harold Eugene Wood (Murphy's common-law husband and infant Wood's father) and took a tape-recorded statement of Murphy. [CSOMF at ¶ 18]. Cook subsequently arrested Murphy. [CSOMF at ¶ 31]. After obtaining Murphy's recorded statement, Cook interviewed Murphy's neighbors, William Lee and LaDonna Summer. [CSOMF at ¶ 19]. Cook also took a recorded statement of Scottie Dale Ritchie, a close friend of Harold Eugene Wood, and obtained copies of recorded conversations between Murphy and Earl Peck while she was in jail after her arrest. [CSOMF at ¶¶ 26 and 28]. Cook prepared a prosecution report for the Tulsa County District Attorney's Office, which identified each witness and summarized their testimony. [CSOMF at ¶ 27].

         Cook and Noordyke returned to the scene two additional times. First, they went back to Murphy's apartment at night, on September 19, 1994, to see the field of view from the front door and front window as well as from the back door and the back window. They checked the view during the daylight hours and returned after dark. They specifically wanted to see if they could view where the body was on the floor, from outside the back window, looking through the mini blinds as fourteen-year old William Lee had described to police. This line of sight was confirmed. [CSOMF at ¶ 20]. In March of 1995, Cook and Noordyke were called back out to Murphy's apartment because the maintenance supervisor reported a possible break-in. The detectives discovered a box from Murphy's closet had been overturned onto her bed and a maroon-handled knife was next to overturned boxes on Murphy's bed. [CSOMF at ¶ 21].

         Pursuant to 22 O.S. § 285, Murphy's preliminary hearing was held on November 14 and 15, 1994 before the Honorable J. Peter Messler. Private counsel represented Murphy. [CSOMF at ¶ 33]. At the preliminary hearing, the State presented nine witnesses including William Lee and officers Smith and Otterstrom. Cook did not testify and Murphy's taped confession was not offered into evidence. [CSOMF at ¶ 34]. At the end of the two-day preliminary hearing, Judge Messler denied Murphy's demurrer; found probable cause existed that first-degree murder had been committed; and found probable cause existed that Murphy committed the crime. He bound Murphy over for trial for first-degree murder. [CSOMF at ¶ 35].

         At a separate proceeding before the trial, on November 9, 1995, Judge E.R. (Ned) Turnbull conducted a Jackson v. Denno hearing to determine whether Murphy's statement was voluntary. Murphy was represented by counsel at this hearing. [CSOMF at ¶ 37]. At the Jackson v. Denno hearing, Cook testified regarding Murphy's statement. The notification of rights waiver was admitted without objection as State's exhibit 1. [CSOMF at ¶ 38]. Cook testified that he did not coerce Murphy in any way with any kind of punishment or promise; he did not threaten her in any way, with either physical force or mental intimidation; and he did not promise anything to get her to talk. Cook also described the manner in which he read Murphy her Miranda rights and obtained the rights waiver.[10] [CSOMF at ¶ 39]. Murphy testified that Cook never hit her and never used any kind of physical force against her; she never told Cook she needed to see a physician; and that she understood her rights and waived them by signing and initialing the waiver of rights. [CSOMF at ¶ 40]. At the conclusion of the Jackson v. Denno hearing, Judge Turnbull found that the State had shown by a preponderance of the evidence that Murphy's statement to Cook was voluntary and that Murphy was properly read her rights. Thus, Judge Turnbull overruled Murphy's motion to suppress her statements. [Doc. #175-32, p. 63:1-6].

         During Murphy's criminal trial, which began on November 16, 1995, Murphy's taped statement to Cook was played for the jury, copies of the transcript of the statement were given to the jurors, and the statement was admitted into evidence. [CSOMF at ¶ 41]. Jury Instruction No. 16 given by the trial court defined “voluntary confession” and instructed that:

A “voluntary confession” is a statement, freely and knowingly made by a person who is not under arrest or in custody, to a police officer or any other person which admits facts that tend to establish the commission of an offense. Such confession is freely and knowingly made when the person voluntarily states his involvement with the alleged crime or reveals details of it, without threats, pressure, coercion, or duress from any police officer or police agent.
The state has offered evidence that a confession was made by the defendant to Michael Cook on September 12, 1994 [sic] if you find that the defendant made the alleged confession, and made it freely and voluntarily, you may take it into consideration with all the other facts in evidence and give it whatever weight and credit you find it deserves. However, if you find that the confession was induced by coercion or by a promise of immunity or a lesser punishment than might otherwise be inflicted, or that the confession was made under threat of violence or force, you should disregard the confession in arriving at your verdict.

[Doc. #175-34, p. 2].

         In November of 1995, the jury convicted Murphy of first-degree murder and sentenced her to life without parole. With separate appellate counsel, Murphy appealed her conviction to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, and the court found no error in Murphy's conviction. [CSOMF at ¶¶ 45-46; Doc. #175-35]. On September 5, 2013, Murphy filed an Application for Post-Conviction Relief. [CSOMF at ¶ 47; Doc. #97-21]. On May 29, 2014, then-Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris filed a motion to confess the application for post-conviction relief. [CSOMF at ¶ 49; Doc. #175-1]. On May 30, 2014, Tulsa County District Judge William C. Kellough vacated Murphy's judgment and sentence. [CSOMF at ¶ 50; Doc. #175-36]. After vacating Murphy's conviction, Judge Kellough retained jurisdiction to re-try Murphy. Judge Kellough set an appearance bond and ordered her to reappear on June 24, 2014 at 9:00 a.m. for a status conference. [CSOMF at ¶ 51; Doc. #175-36]. Rather than retry Murphy, the State of Oklahoma filed a Motion to Dismiss the case with prejudice. [CSOMF at ¶ 51; Doc. #175-53].

         The court finds the following facts regarding the Tulsa Police Department's ...

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