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Rashid v. Morini

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

January 17, 2017

ABDULLAH SABOOR RASHID, Plaintiff,
v.
DETECTIVE DAWN MORINI, et al., Defendants.

          INITIAL REVIEW ORDER

          Stefan R. Underhill United States District Judge

         The plaintiff, Abdullah Saboor Rashid, was incarcerated at the Willard-Cybulski Correctional Institution when he filed this action. He now resides in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. He has filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Windsor Locks Police Department, Detective Dawn Morini, Officer John Doe 1, Detective John Doe 2, Criminologist 1, Criminologist 2 and the Connecticut State Forensic Laboratory. For the reasons set forth below, I dismiss Rashid's complaint in part.

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, I must review prisoner civil complaints and dismiss any portion of the complaint that is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. Although detailed allegations are not required, the complaint must include sufficient facts to afford the defendants fair notice of the claims and grounds upon which they are based and to demonstrate a plausible right to relief. See Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007). Conclusory allegations are not sufficient. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. Nevertheless, it is well-established that “[p]ro se complaints ‘must be construed liberally and interpreted to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest.'” Sykes v. Bank of Am., 723 F.3d 399, 403 (2d Cir. 2013) (quoting Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 474 (2d Cir. 2006)); see also Tracy v. Freshwater, 623 F.3d 90. 101-02 (2d Cir. 2010) (discussing special rules of solicitude for pro se litigants).

         In August 2014, Windsor Locks police officers arrested Rashid in the driveway of his residence on burglary charges. Officer John Doe 1 searched and seized two towels from Rashid's car without a warrant. The Officer falsely stated in his report that Rashid had consented to the search. In addition, the report listed additional items as having been seized from the car including sixteen pillow cases and one face cloth.

         Detective Morini stated in her report that she had seized two towels from the crime scene at the Candlewood Suites in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. She initially submitted one towel and a pillow case from another crime to the forensic crime lab to be tested for DNA evidence. The following day, she submitted the other towel that she had seized from the Candlewood Suites for testing. Rashid claims that Detective Morini tampered with evidence and broke the chain of custody with regard to the submission of evidence to the crime lab.

         When Rashid was at the Enfield Superior Court in connection with the criminal charges filed against him, he consented to Detective Morini's request for a sample of his DNA. Morini indicated that the police had a videotape of Rashid linking him to the burglaries. She also indicated that the crime lab had “a forensic D.N.A. hit matching [his] DNA profile from a brown stain” on one of the towels that she had submitted for testing.

         The reports prepared by Criminologist 1 and Criminologist 2 indicated that Rashid's DNA was on evidence submitted for testing, but did not identify the evidence or where on that piece of evidence the DNA was located. Rashid claims that the failure to include this information “subverted the fairness of the fact finding process” and could lead to a wrongful conviction.” Compl., Doc. No. 1, at 8. Rashid also suggests that the testing done by the criminologists revealed exculpatory evidence that they failed to disclose in their reports.

         A year after Rashid had been arrested and confined in prison, Detective John Doe 2 filed burglary charges against him based on the forensic lab's finding that his DNA was detected after testing a blood-like stain on evidence seized from a crime scene in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. Rashid claims that Detective John Doe 2 consulted with Detective Morini before filing criminal charges. Rashid states that the police falsely charged him with a total of seven counts of burglary, six counts of larceny and one count of criminal mischief. Rashid was unable to post the cash bond imposed by the judge.

         It took twenty months to resolve the criminal charges against Rashid. During that time, the prosecutor offered Rashid a plea deal of three years to serve and two years of special parole. After Rashid requested an investigation into the possibility that Detective Morini had tampered with evidence, the prosecutor nolled all of the charges him.

         On June 1, 2015, before the criminal charges were nolled, Rashid suffered two strokes. Rashid is still participating in physical and occupational therapy in order to learn to walk, run and write again.

         Rashid claims that his detention on criminal charges was unlawful and without probable cause. He seeks monetary damages and a declaratory judgment.

         I. Windsor Locks Police Department

         A municipal police department is not an independent legal entity and is not subject to suit under section 1983. See Rose v. City of Waterbury, 2013 WL 1187049, at *9 (D. Conn. Mar. 21, 2013) (Bryant, J.) (noting that courts within Connecticut have determined that state statutes do not include “provision[s] establishing municipal departments, including police departments, as legal entities separate and apart from the municipality they serve, or providing that they have the capacity to sue or be sued . . . it is the municipality itself which possesses the capacity to sue and be sued”) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Furthermore, a police department is not a person amenable to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Nicholson v. Lenczewski, 356 F.Supp.2d 157, 164 (D. Conn. 2005) (collecting cases). Thus, I dismiss any claims against the Windsor Locks Police Department for lack of an arguable legal basis. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1).

         II. Connecticut State ...


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