United States District Court, D. Colorado
ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY
WILLIAM J. MARTÍNEZ JUDGE
action, Plaintiff Tyler Sanchez (“Sanchez”)
alleges that the various Defendants knowingly or recklessly
extracted from him a false confession to a sexual assault for
which he was unsuccessfully prosecuted, and that Defendants
are therefore liable to him under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for
malicious prosecution in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
Currently before the Court are three summary judgment motions
filed by various groups of parties, as follows: (1) a motion
filed by Defendants Joe Ryan Hartley (“Hartley”)
and Ryan Wolff (“Wolff”) (ECF No. 184); (2) a
motion filed by Defendants Heather Mykes
(“Mykes”), Mike Duffy (“Duffy”), the
Board of County Commissioners of Douglas County, and the
Douglas County Sheriff's Office (ECF No. 180); and (3) a
motion filed by Defendant Michael Dickson
(“Dickson”) (ECF No. 175). Throughout this order
the Court will refer to the individual Defendants
(i.e., all Defendants except the Board of County
Commissioners of Douglas County and the Douglas County
Sheriff's Office) collectively as “Defendants,
” unless the context requires otherwise.
reasons explained below, Defendants' motions are denied,
and this case will be set for trial to resolve significant
factual disputes that prevent the Court from applying
qualified immunity. Sanchez's counsel are also cautioned
regarding certain exaggerated characterizations of the
summary judgment record.
judgment is warranted under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
56 “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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a);
see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 248-50 (1986). A fact is “material” if,
under the relevant substantive law, it is essential to proper
disposition of the claim. Wright v. Abbott Labs.,
Inc., 259 F.3d 1226, 1231-32 (10th Cir. 2001). An issue
is “genuine” if the evidence is such that it
might lead a reasonable trier of fact to return a verdict for
the nonmoving party. Allen v. Muskogee, 119 F.3d
837, 839 (10th Cir. 1997).
analyzing a motion for summary judgment, a court must view
the evidence and all reasonable inferences therefrom in the
light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Adler v.
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 144 F.3d 664, 670 (10th Cir.
1998) (citing Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith
Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)). In addition, the
Court must resolve factual ambiguities against the moving
party, thus favoring the right to a trial. See Houston v.
Nat'l Gen. Ins. Co., 817 F.2d 83, 85 (10th Cir.
following facts are undisputed unless attributed to a party,
or otherwise noted.
The Crimes in Question
The Quarry Hill Sexual Assault
early morning of July 10, 2009, a mother residing on Quarry
Hill Drive in the Stonegate neighborhood of Parker, Colorado,
made a 911 call to the Douglas County Sheriff's Office
(“DCSO”), reporting that someone had broken into
her home through her eight-year-old daughter's second
story window and had sexually assaulted the daughter. (ECF
No. 180 at 4, ¶ 1; ECF No. 204 at 4 ¶
DCSO began to investigate, including through interviewing the
family and the child, interviewing neighbors, and gathering
fingerprints and DNA. (ECF No. 180 at 4, ¶ 2.) The young
victim of the sexual assault told investigators that the
perpetrator was a white man who appeared to be about her
father's age (her father was 40 years old) and about the
same size and build as her father (her father weighed
slightly less than 200 pounds), with brown hair parted in the
middle and no tattoos on his hands or arms. (ECF No. 204 at
4, ¶ 9.)
The Branham Drive Trespass
17, 2009 (one week later) at approximately 12:40 AM,
Defendants Wolff and Hartley (both Parker police officers)
and DCSO Deputy Jason Cirbo (not a party here), responded to
a call regarding a prowler on Branham Drive in the Stonegate
neighborhood. (Id. at 5, ¶ 11.) Wolff, Hartley,
and Cirbo learned that the caller (a homeowner in the
neighborhood) had noticed a man wearing black clothing and a
dark baseball cap in his backyard. (Id.; ECF No. 180
at 5, ¶ 5.) When the prowler spotted the homeowner
through a window, he fled, knocking over patio furniture and
jumping the back fence. (Id.)
thereafter, a Parker police officer (not a party here)
observed a car at the intersection of Lincoln Avenue and
Chambers Road in Parker. (ECF No. 204 at 5, ¶ 12; ECF
No. 205-2 at 90.) By the shortest driving route, that
intersection is just over 1 mile from the Branham Drive
address where the prowler had been reported. This intersection
can see high traffic during the daytime, but is not busy in
the middle of the night. (ECF No. 184 at 3, ¶ 6.)
reporting officer further noticed that the occupant of the
car was a white male wearing a black shirt. (Id.)
The reporting officer relayed the car's license plate
number, which Wolff entered into his computer and traced to
an address on Birch Avenue in Parker (which, as they would
soon learn, was the address of Sanchez and his family). (ECF
No. 184 at 3, ¶ 7.) Wolff, Hartley, and others not
parties here, drove to the Birch Avenue address and found
Sanchez sitting in his car-the same car spotted at Lincoln
and Chambers-in the driveway. (Id. ¶ 7.)
become clear shortly, Wolff's and Hartley's encounter
with Sanchez in his driveway would lead to multiple
interrogations over the course of the next few days regarding
a number of different crimes. But, how to view the evidence
generated over that time span turns heavily on what Wolff,
Hartley, and the other Defendants allegedly must have noticed
regarding Sanchez's physical appearance and mental
functioning. The Court will therefore address that matter
before resuming the narrative.
time Wolff and Hartley first approached him, Sanchez was just
a few days shy of his nineteenth birthday. (ECF No. 204 at 2,
¶ 1.) He is a high school graduate. (ECF No. 180 at
10-11, ¶ 27.) He has red hair, and wore it in a buzz cut
as of July 2009. (ECF No. 204 at 4-5, ¶ 10.) Also as of
July 2009, he had a very thin build and weighed approximately
130 pounds. (Id.) He has easily visible tattoos on
each forearm, one reading “Sanchez” and the other
reading “Michelle” (the name of his girlfriend at
the time). (Id.)
claims that he is-and, as of July 2009, was-cognitively and
developmentally disabled. (Id. at 2, ¶ 2.) In
support, he cites from the report of a psychiatrist, Ashley
Wheeler, M.D., who evaluated him in March 2012 (a
circumstance the Court will describe below in Part II.E.3.c).
(Id. ¶¶ 2-4.) Dr. Wheeler opined that, in
July 2009, Sanchez suffered from “mixed
receptive-expressive language disorder, borderline
intellectual functioning, auditory processing deficits,
social anxiety, and submissive personality traits.”
(ECF No. 204-1 at 109.) He has, according to Dr. Wheeler,
“problems comprehending vocabulary, grammar, and
understanding abstract concepts.” (Id. at 95.)
These problems can be exacerbated by anxiety and fatigue.
(Id. at 96.)
important for present purposes, Sanchez asserts that his
“disabilities are open and obvious.” (ECF No. 204
at 3, ¶ 5.) In particular, he claims that he
presents as a significantly younger person than his actual
age. His inability to understand questions and provide
appropriate responsive information, as well as his reduced
intellectual functioning, are obvious to anyone who speaks
with him. It is obvious that he is susceptible to suggestions
made by authority figures.
(Id. (citations omitted).) In support of these
assertions, he cites the deposition testimony of his parents
and a criminal defense lawyer who later represented him.
These witnesses claim that Sanchez does not openly
communicate, has limited conversation ability, requires
questions to be simplified, and that all of this is open and
obvious- although, partly to the contrary, his criminal
defense attorney acknowledged that Sanchez “masks it
well” because “he doesn't talk about the fact
that he's got a disability. He doesn't explain to you
that he doesn't understand you. * * * He'll agree
with anything you say.” (ECF No. 204-5 at 15.)
Court will frequently return to Sanchez's disability, and
its allegedly open and obvious nature, in the Analysis
section (Part III). For present purposes, it is enough to
keep the allegation in mind as it relates to the events
The Various Interviews and Interrogations
Wolff's and Hartley's Interaction with Sanchez in
Wolff and Hartley approached Sanchez sitting in his car, they
noticed that he “appeared very nervous and was
sweating.” (ECF No. 204 at 7, ¶ 16.) He was also
wearing black pants and a black McDonald's shirt. (ECF
No. 205-8 at 3.) Wolff and Hartley then began interviewing
Sanchez and reportedly learned that he had just worked the
late shift at McDonald's. (Id.) When inquiring
about whether Sanchez had stopped anywhere on his way home
from McDonalds, the officers-according to
Sanchez-“repeatedly suggested to Mr. Sanchez specific
details about the Branham Drive trespass, ” after which
Sanchez “allegedly admitted to [that] trespass by going
along with Defendants' suggestions.” (ECF No. 204
at 7, ¶ 18.) Sanchez does not concede that he actually
admitted the trespass, and in fact accuses Wolff and Hartley
of fabricating most of the details of this interview, which
was not video- or audio-recorded. (ECF No. 200 at 2, ¶
middle of this interview, Sanchez's mother, Cynthia,
exited the home. (ECF No. 204 at 7, ¶ 19.) According to
her deposition testimony, one of the police officers (she
does not remember which one) told her that she could not
approach Sanchez and so, she says, “I yelled out, I
told him, He doesn't understand all of this, you know.
And they wouldn't let me-they just-I had to yell
something out like that.” (ECF No. 204-3 at
on what Wolff and Hartley claim to be Sanchez's responses
to their questions, Sanchez was arrested for criminal
trespass, and transported to the Douglas County Jail. (ECF
No. 204 at 8, ¶ 21.)
Sanchez's Interview with Wolff and Hartley at the
at about 2:20 AM on July 17, 2009, Wolff and Hartley
interviewed Sanchez for about two hours in what was known as
the “DUI room” of the Douglas County Jail.
(Id. ¶ 23.) The DUI room has video surveillance
cameras, without audio, but the Douglas County Jail preserves
surveillance video for only thirty days, and the video of
this interview was not preserved before being overwritten in
the normal course. (Id. at 12, ¶ 35; ECF No.
210 at 6, ¶ 35; ECF No. 214 at 10, ¶ 35.) Sanchez
attempts to pin blame for this on Wolff and Hartley, alleging
that they “permitted the tape to be destroyed.”
(ECF No. 204 at 12, ¶ 35.) Sanchez's cited evidence
does not actually support this claim (see id.), but
Wolff and Hartley cite no evidence that they could not have
ensured preservation of the video. At his deposition, Wolff
stated that, at the time, he “was not actively thinking
that [the interview] was being recorded” and therefore
took no action to preserve the surveillance video. (ECF No.
204-14 at 41.)
the parties agree that Wolff and Hartley not only asked about
the Branham Drive trespass, but also about the Quarry Hill
sexual assault a week earlier (which occurred in the same
general neighborhood) and various other burglaries and
trespasses then being investigated by DCSO. (ECF No. 204 at
8-10, ¶¶ 24, 29.) Wolff and Hartley mostly asked
yes or no questions, including frequent questions where
Sanchez was asked whether he remembered various details of
the crimes in question, such as whether he remembered being
in a backyard in the Stonegate neighborhood, or fleeing
through a second-story window at the Quarry Hill address.
(Id. at 9, ¶ 27.)
the facts that Sanchez eventually confirmed were facts that
Wolff and Hartley had supplied to him. (Id.)
Moreover, although they had no DNA evidence, Wolff and
Hartley coyly asked Sanchez “if there would be any
reason that his DNA would be located on a tree and screen [at
the Quarry Hill address] and [Sanchez] stated yes because he
climbed a tree [and removed a screen to get into the
house].” (ECF No. 205-10 at 4.) And, concerning the Branham
Drive trespass, Sanchez agreed with a suggestion from Wolff
and Hartley that he fled the backyard when the back porch
light came on, although the homeowner had never reported to
police that he had turned on a porch light. (ECF No. 204 at
9, ¶ 27.) By the end of the interrogation, Sanchez had
confessed to the Branham Drive trespass, and also to breaking
into the Quarry Hill address on the morning of the sexual
assault, although he denied sexually assaulting the girl.
(Id. at 9-11, ¶¶ 27-28, 32; ECF No. 184 at
5, ¶ 15.) He also confessed to certain other burglaries
and trespasses, including incidents where-as with Quarry
Hill-Sanchez bore no obvious resemblance to the perpetrators
as described by the various victims. (ECF No. 204 at 10,
AM or thereabouts, Deputy Cirbo drafted and signed a
Statement in Support of Warrantless Arrest and a Misdemeanor
Summons and Complaint, both related to the Branham Drive
trespass. (Id. at 13, ¶ 37.) Sanchez says that
Deputy Cirbo “relied solely on Hartley and Wolff's
representations” to draft these documents
(id.), and Hartley and Wolff concede that Cirbo
“relied, in large part, upon [them] for the information
included therein” (ECF No. 214 at 11, ¶ 37). Both
documents generally repeated the statements Wolff and Hartley
had coaxed out of Sanchez. (See ECF Nos. 205-1,
205-8.) They contain no mention of anything that might cast
doubt on Sanchez's reliability, such as his demeanor,
disabilities, suggestibility, allegedly suspected
intoxication, etc. Sanchez claims that Wolff and Hartley
intentionally omitted any such details from the information
conveyed to Cirbo. (ECF No. 204 at 13, ¶ 37.)
Statement in Support of Warrantless Arrest reports the
evidence against Sanchez (apart from his black clothing and
alleged profuse sweating when first approached in his
driveway) as follows:
Officers Hartley and Wolff spoke with Tyler Sanchez and were
told by Tyler Sanchez that he had not been in the area [of
the Branham Drive trespass] but had been on Cherrywood Drive
visiting a friend but then changed his story and told them
that he had in fact jumped the fence into the backyard at
[the Branham Drive address] because he wanted to sit down but
could not give a reason why he wanted, or needed, to sit down
in that particular yard. Tyler Sanchez had said that he had
been on his way home from work at McDonald's.
(ECF No. 205-8 at 3 (capitalization normalized).) As for the
Quarry Hill sexual assault, Hartley wrote a progress report
in which he recounted Sanchez's alleged confession as
• He was asked if he remembered breaking into a house in
Stonegate about a week and a half ago near the Stonegate
• He stated that he remembered breaking into that house.
• He was asked how he got in and he stated that he did
• He was asked if he entered ground level or second
level or if he had to climb up the house.
• He stated that he had to climb a little bit to get in
but did not remember where he climbed up at.
• He was asked if after entering the house he went into
a room that was occupied by a person.
• He stated that he remembered seeing someone while in
the house and being startled and jumping out a window.
• When asked if the window was low or high he stated
that the window was high.
• When asked who started [sic] him [and] he
stated that he did not remember.
• He was asked specifically if it could have been a
little girl and he stated that it could have been.
No. 205-10 at 4.) Following this itemized list, the progress
report continues as follows:
Detective Wolff then questioned Tyler about his honesty in
the crimes that he had confessed to during the interview. . .
. Detective Wolff asked Tyler if he was only confessing to
involvement in these crimes because he thought that it was
what the Detectives wanted to hear or because he was actually
involved. Tyler stated it was because he remembered being
involved in the incidents. Detective Wolff then asked if he
remembered being startled by a little girl in one of the
burglaries in Stonegate and he again indicated that he did.
Detective Wolff asked specifically if he remembered fondling
the little girl before he jumped out the window and ran away
and Tyler stated he did not remember that.
(Id. at 4-5.)
Sanchez's First Interview with Duffy and Mykes
Mykes and Duffy (both DCSO detectives at the time) were the
“co-lead” investigators on the Quarry Hill sexual
assault case. (ECF No. 204 at 14, ¶ 40.) Not long after
Wolff and Hartley finished interrogating Sanchez, they
reported Sanchez's alleged confession regarding Quarry
Hill to a DCSO officer, who relayed it to Mykes and Duffy.
(Id.) Mykes and Duffy then went to the Douglas
County Jail to interview Sanchez. (ECF No. 204-8 at
that date, both Mykes and Duffy had completed a forty-hour
Crisis Intervention Team (“CIT”) training course.
(ECF No. 204 at 15, ¶ 43 (evidence cited); ECF No.
204-20 at 14 (Mykes completed CIT training in 2005, and Duffy
did so in 2006).) DCSO's Rule 30(b)(6) deposition witness
testified that CIT training is not aimed at teaching officers
how to conduct criminal investigative interviews with
potentially disabled persons, but is instead aimed at helping
officers (among other things) to
ask information-gathering questions to try to assess
what's going on, what might be going on situationally in
the person's life to have them in crisis, what else is
going on in terms of drug use, alcohol use, medical issues,
other mental health issues, those types of questions, to try
to get an assessment of what's going on, what's
driving the crisis, and what can we do to help resolve it.
(ECF No. 212-7 at 7-8.) In that context, officers going
through CIT training are educated on how to recognize persons
with cognitive disabilities, and are also informed that some
of these persons are likely to respond to officers by telling
them what they think the officers want to hear, meaning that
leading questions should be avoided. (ECF No. 204 at 15,
¶ 43 (evidence cited).)
to their interview with Sanchez, Mykes and Duffy reviewed
Wolff's and Hartley's written progress reports
regarding the interrogation earlier that morning, and they
spoke with Wolff and Hartley, although the precise scope of
the conversation is unclear. (ECF No. 204 at 14, ¶¶
40-41.) As noted above, Duffy remembers Wolff and Hartley
stating a general concern that Sanchez might be under the
influence of alcohol or drugs. (Id. ¶ 41.) Just
before the interview, however, and apparently in Mykes's
presence, detention officers required Sanchez to take a
breathalyzer test, which showed a breath alcohol level of
zero. (ECF No. 204-8 at 18.)
interview itself began at about 7:35 AM in a dedicated
interview room with an active audiovisual recording system.
(See ECF No. 180-1 (video recording of the
interrogation); see also ECF No. 205-23
(transcript).) Sanchez had by that time been awake since the
previous morning with very little sleep. (ECF No. 204 at 17,
¶ 50.) This fatigue is obvious in the video recording,
as Sanchez yawns frequently, sometimes speaks with his eyes
closed, and occasionally rests his head on his hands or on
the table. (See generally ECF No. 180-1; see
also ECF No. 204 at 17, ¶ 54.) Moreover, Sanchez
frequently expressed to Mykes and Duffy how tired he was, and
he informed them that he had slept for only about two hours
over the last two days. (Id.) “Mykes and Duffy
[additionally] observed that Sanchez was extremely anxious
and his legs frequently shook.” (Id.) Mykes
and Duffy also recognized that Sanchez did not match the
description of the Quarry Hill sex assault perpetrator.
(Id. at 17, ¶ 51.)
beginning of the interrogation, Sanchez timidly attempted to
explain his alleged disability to the detectives through the
following exchange between himself and Mykes:
Q. Any alcohol on board? Anything like that? Drugs?
A. No. That's what they thought when I talked to them
Q. The reason I'm asking is you seem-
A. 'Cause I usually get hesitated [sic] when I
talk to these kind of people.
Q. Any reason why?
A. When I talk to these kind of people like police officers
A. -all these.
Q. That I understand. When is the last time you had something
(ECF No. 205-23 at 9-10.) With Mykes's change of subject,
Sanchez made no more effort to raise the topic. Soon after,
however, Mykes asked him if he had “any kind of medical
conditions that we need to be concerned about, ” to
which Sanchez answered, “No.” (Id. at
also made an early effort to explain that he felt coerced by
Wolff and Hartley to confess to crimes he did not commit.
This came out when Duffy began questioning Sanchez about the
route by which he drove home from McDonald's earlier that
Q. How come the different road today, or last night
[sic], excuse me?
A. I don't know. I decided it would be quicker.
A. Somehow, someone got my license plate then somehow I
stopped [somewhere else on the way home from McDonald's],
which I didn't. I know that for a fact.
A. I'm telling 100 percent honest truth right now.
Q. Okay. Do you remember telling them you stopped?
A. I didn't stop.
Q. Okay. Do you remember telling the other detectives that?
A. I had to tell them-
Q. Because they were different-
A. I had to-
Q. Okay. Go ahead.
A. I had to tell them a different story because they
were[n't] being-they were being like cooperative
[sic] saying I was lying, saying the same story I
said first to you.
A. Then saying-
Q. What was the story you told them?
A. The second-
Q. The second time[.]
A. That I stopped and all this, saying I went into
somebody's backyard, which I didn't, and I
trespassed, which I'm going to be charged. And that's
why I'm here, you know?
A. Which I didn't trespass. And that's-
Q. But did you tell them that you'd went in that
A. Unfortunately I had to. Now I can't do nothing about
Q. Did you mention seeing anything when you were in that
backyard[, ] why you were there? No?
Q. You didn't tell them why you were there?
A. I said something like I jumped the fence to-I don't- I
A. And somehow, they got-somehow they got DNA fingerprints
from-I don't know. It's just-I give up.
Q. Okay. Let's get off last night a little bit, okay?
(Id. at 23-26.) Duffy then attempted to steer the
interrogation toward his and Mykes's main interest, the
Quarry Hill sexual assault:
Q. You had talked a little bit about some other stuff that
had been happening in this neighborhood and other
neighborhoods. Do you remember that part of the conversation?
That had been happening previous weeks, months? Can you tell
me what you told them about those other incidents[, ] about
A. The-God, I'm too tired. Are you talking about breaking
into houses and-
Q. Uh huh.
A. -which, telling me I broke into a house a week and a half
ago, which I didn't. I mean, I don't-I can't even
speak right now.
Q. How come?
A. I'm just so tired.
(Id. at 26-27.)
there, Mykes and Duffy returned to seeking details about the
Branham Drive trespass, and also asked about any other
similar crimes (without suggesting details), which elicited a
confession from Sanchez to some petty thefts from cars, to
breaking and entering on occasion with a friend named Brian,
to an apparent incident of joyriding with the same friend
(discussed in the interview as “carjacking”), and
to an underage drinking misdemeanor already on his criminal
record from a few months earlier. (Id. at 27-53.)
When pressed for details about breaking and entering,
however, Sanchez generally had no memory, prompting the
following exchange between him and Duffy:
Q. Tyler, one of the things that's really obvious here
today is if it's something you know we already know
about, like your previous arrest, or just general subject,
man, you can just sit there and rattle off and talk to us
like nothing-like nothing else.
A. I know, but I'm tired.
Q. But when we talk to you about what we're really here
about, then you're tired.
A. I know-I was-
Q. It's time to start talking partner, okay?
A. I was saying-
Q. Do you need-do we want to take a quick break and take a
deep breath and sip your Coke for a minute and come back and
we'll start fresh and we'll really get into this?
Does that sound like a good idea to you? Kind of give you a
minute to collect your thoughts and we'll just
start-we'll just let you sit there and tell us the story,
All right. Just take a minute. We'll step out for just a
minute. We'll give you a minute, okay?
A. This still happened the last time [with] the other two
Q. Well, I'm not going to be-you know, obviously
we're not yelling at you. We're not threatening you,
but it is-I'm telling you right now, from our
observations and we're both seeing it, that when you want
to talk to us, you can and you're not tired and
you're able to just tell us the story and this, that and
the other, okay?
(Id. at 54-55.)
interrogation then ceased for a few minutes. After the break,
Mykes and Duffy continued to try and elicit details about the
times that Sanchez and “Brian” had allegedly
broken and entered into others' houses, prompting Sanchez
to state that he and Brian had done so on perhaps five
occasions and had stolen things like jewelry and prescription
drugs. (Id. at 59-71.) Mykes and Duffy then
transitioned to (in Mykes's words) “the one that I
really want to talk about . . . . Tell me about last Friday
[alluding to the Quarry Hill sexual assault].”
(Id. at 73.) Sanchez denied “get[ting] into a
house that wasn't [his]” on the previous Friday.
(Id. at 74.) That led to the
Q [M]. . . . Is there reason that we might have your DNA in a
house on Friday?
A. A house where?
Q [M]. In the Stonegate area?
A. Why this?
Q [D]. It's a simple question, Tyler. Is your DNA going
to be in a house in Stonegate on Friday?
A. You mean, it was Friday night?
Q [M]. Friday morning. Thursday night to Friday morning.
Sun goes down on Thursday. Comes back up Friday. In between
those two times. Here's ...