In June 1992, after being held in custody for about two years, plaintiff was acquitted of the murder of Mecca, and on October 5, 1992, plaintiff brought the instant action. Id.
I. The Standard for Summary Judgment
Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that summary judgment "shall be rendered forthwith 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 a judgment as a matter of law." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986); Lang v. Retirement Living Pub. Co., 949 F.2d 576, 580 (2d Cir. 1991). Summary judgment "is appropriate only 'after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.'" Thornton v. Syracuse Sav. Bank, 961 F.2d 1042, 1046 (2d Cir. 1992) (quoting Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322); accord Irvin Indus., Inc. v. Goodyear Aerospace Corp., 974 F.2d 241, 245 (2d Cir. 1992).
"In deciding whether to grant summary judgment all inferences drawn from the materials submitted to the trial court are viewed in a light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. The nonmovant's allegations are taken as true and it receives the benefit of the doubt when its assertions conflict with those of the movant." Cruden v. Bank of New York, 957 F.2d 961, 975 (2d Cir. 1992). "Only when no reasonable trier of fact could find in favor of the nonmoving party should summary judgment be granted." Id.; accord Taggart v. Time, Inc., 924 F.2d 43, 46 (2d Cir. 1991); see also Lang, 949 F.2d at 580 ("In determining how a reasonable jury would decide, the court must resolve all ambiguities and draw all inferences against the moving party."); Binder v. Long Island Lighting Co., 933 F.2d 187, 191 (2d Cir. 1991) ("Viewing the evidence produced in the light most favorable to the nonmovant, if a rational trier could not find for the nonmovant, then there is no genuine issue of material fact and entry of summary judgment is appropriate.").
The substantive law governing the case will identify those facts that are material, and "only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment. Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. "The judge's function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Id., 477 U.S. at 249.
The party seeking summary judgment "bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion," and identifying which materials "it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. Once a motion for summary judgment properly is made, however, the burden then shifts to the nonmoving party, which "'must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250 (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)); accord Brass v. American Film Technologies, Inc., 987 F.2d 142 (2d Cir. 1993). "The mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48 (emphasis in original). "Conclusory allegations will not suffice to create a genuine issue. There must be more than a 'scintilla of evidence,' and more than 'some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.'" Delaware & Hudson Ry. Co. v. Conrail, 902 F.2d 174, 178 (2d Cir. 1990) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252, and Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538, 106 S. Ct. 1348 (1986)), cert. denied, 111 S. Ct. 2041 (1991). "The non-movant cannot escape summary judgment merely by vaguely asserting the existence of some unspecified disputed material facts, or defeat the motion through mere speculation or conjecture." Western World Ins. Co. v. Stack Oil, Inc., 922 F.2d 118, 121 (2d Cir. 1990) (citations and quotation omitted); see also Gnazzo v. G.D. Searle & Co., 973 F.2d 136, 138 (2d Cir. 1992) (the court must "consider the record in the light most favorable to the non-movant. However, the non-movant may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of [her] pleading, but must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.") (quotation and citations omitted). The Court draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party only after determining that such inferences are reasonable, considering all the evidence presented. See, e.g., Apex Oil Co. v. Di Mauro, 822 F.2d 246, 252 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 977 (1987).
II. False Arrest
The elements of a § 1983 action for false arrest are substantially the same as the elements of a false arrest claim under New York law. See Hygh v. Jacobs, 961 F.2d 359, 366 (2d Cir. 1992). In New York, in order for a plaintiff to succeed on an action for false arrest, he must demonstrate that a defendant was acting under color of law and that: "1) a defendant intended to confine the plaintiff, 2) plaintiff was conscious of the confinement and did not consent to it, and 3) the confinement was not otherwise privileged." Reid v. New York, 736 F. Supp. 21, 24 (E.D.N.Y. 1990).
In the instant action, only the third element is in dispute.
While an arrest without a warrant is presumed unlawful, the arresting officer can show legal justification by proving the arrest was based on probable cause. Id. In other words, defendants can defeat a constitutional claim for false arrest by demonstrating that there was probable cause for the arrest. See, e.g., Reid, 736 F. Supp. at 24; Alberts v. New York, 549 F. Supp. 227, 231 (S.D.N.Y. 1982). Probable cause exists where officers "have knowledge or reasonably trustworthy information sufficient to warrant a person of reasonable caution in the belief that an offense has been committed by the person to be arrested." Golino v. New Haven, 950 F.2d 864, 870 (2d Cir. 1991), cert. denied, 112 S. Ct. 3032 (1992). Whether an offense was committed is not an issue in contention in the instant motion. Thus, the first question for this Court to consider is whether Morgan had probable cause to believe that Dukes committed the offense.
A. Probable Cause
It should preliminarily be noted that the validity of an arrest does not depend upon an ultimate finding of guilt or innocence. See Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S. 547, 555, 18 L. Ed. 2d 288, 87 S. Ct. 1213 (1967). Rather, the soundness of the arrest hinges on the existence of probable cause at the time the arrest was made. "Probable cause can exist even where it is based on mistaken information, so long as the arresting officer acted reasonably and in good faith in relying on that information." Bernard v. United States, 25 F.3d 98, 102 (2d Cir. 1994) (citation omitted). Probable cause is evaluated under an objective standard. See Lindsey v. Loughlin, 616 F. Supp. 449, 451 (E.D.N.Y. 1985).
Defendants maintain that the arrest of Dukes was legally justified due to Haynes' eye-witness identification of Dukes as the person who shot Mecca. Plaintiff concedes that, without more, identification by a witness may provide the necessary justification for the arrest of a suspect. Plaintiff Mem. at 9. Plaintiff contends, however, that when all the facts and circumstances that were within the knowledge of Morgan at the time of his arrest of Dukes are considered, there was insufficient probable cause to make the arrest.
Plaintiff proceeds to argue "that within two hours of the arrest, Detective Morgan was informed by Sydney Dukes, the father of Marvel Dukes, that he would bring witnesses to exonerate Marvel Dukes." Plaintiff Mem. at 10-11. Even if the "basis of the arrest could have dissipated" subsequent to the arrest, as plaintiff argues occurred,
such an occurrence does not eliminate the probable cause that existed at the time of the arrest. Plaintiff acknowledges both that he was taken into custody between 12:00 and 12:30 p.m. on July 27, 1990 and that, at that time, Morgan only had available to him Haynes' identification.
Moreover, plaintiff concedes that such information, without more, is sufficient to establish probable cause. Consequently, although plaintiff's dissipation argument will have to be considered with regard to his claim for malicious prosecution, it does not impact the probable cause that justified Morgan's arrest of Dukes.
"Where there is no dispute as to the information the defendants had prior to the arrest, the issue of probable cause is for the court to decide as a matter of law." Jenkins v. City of New York, 91 Civ. 3539 (RLC), slip op. at 9 (S.D.N.Y. June 15, 1993). In-person identifications by a witness are sufficient to make out probable cause for arrest. See, e.g., id.; Miloslavsky v. AES Engineering Soc'y., Inc., 808 F. Supp. 351, 355 (S.D.N.Y. 1992), aff'd, 993 F.2d 1534 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 126 L. Ed. 2d 37, 114 S. Ct. 68 (1993). This Court finds that probable cause existed for plaintiff's arrest. Consequently, no further inquiry into plaintiff's false arrest claim is necessary. Defendants' motion for summary judgment on plaintiff's claim for false arrest must be granted.
III. Malicious Prosecution
Although section 1983 provides the federal claim, the elements of the underlying malicious prosecution tort are borrowed from state law. See Cook v. Sheldon, 41 F.3d 73, 79 (2d Cir. 1994). The elements of a malicious prosecution claim under New York law are:
(1) the defendant commenced or continued a criminal proceeding against plaintiff, (2) the proceeding terminated in plaintiff's favor, (3) there was no probable cause for the criminal proceeding, and (4) the defendant initiated the criminal proceeding out of malice.