shirt in his cell. Efforts to revive Williams failed, and he was pronounced dead soon afterward. An autopsy showed the cause of death to be suicide, and found Williams to have been intoxicated.
Sourbeer, who was admittedly intoxicated while in jail, told the police that he heard a gagging noise coming from the adjoining cell. Sourbeer could not see decedent, but supposed him to be in distress. In order to call help, Sourbeer banged loudly on the bars of his cell but no one appeared. Sourbeer did not call out, however. Sourbeer also testified that between 30-45 minutes later, an officer came into the cellblock, yelled "holy shit," ran into the next cell, and pulled out decedent's body.
In ruling on this motion for summary judgment, I must resolve all inferences to be drawn from the facts in favor of plaintiff, the non-moving party. Continental Insurance Co. v. Bodie, 682 F.2d 436, 438 (3d Cir. 1982). And I may grant summary judgment here only if it is established that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Small v. Seldows Stationery, 617 F.2d 992, 994 (3d Cir. 1980). But once the moving party has supplied sufficient affidavits in support of its motion, summary judgment should be granted unless the opposing party responds by setting forth specific facts demonstrating that there is a genuinely disputed factual issue. Fireman's Insurance Co. v. DuFresne, 676 F.2d 965, 969 (3d Cir. 1982). These facts must be set forth in affidavits or other exhibits, made upon personal knowledge; Rule 56 "does not allow a party resisting the motion to rely merely upon bare assertions, conclusory allegations or suspicions." Id.
Plaintiff has brought this action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the police department and officers violated her brother's constitutional rights. Specifically, she claims the following: that his rights under the fourth and fourteenth amendments were infringed by an arrest without probable cause; that his eighth amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment was violated; that he was deprived of life without due process; and that defendants conspired to violate his civil rights. In any action brought under section 1983, "the initial inquiry must focus on whether the two essential elements to a § 1983 action are present: (1) whether the conduct complained of was committed by a person acting under color of state law; and (2) whether this conduct deprived a person of rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States." Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 535, 68 L. Ed. 2d 420, 101 S. Ct. 1908 (1981). There is no question that the officers here acted under color of state law. But I find that plaintiff has failed to demonstrate any infringement of a constitutional right sufficient to state a claim under section 1983.
A. Probable Cause
Plaintiff contends that her brother's arrest was constitutionally deficient in two respects: first, there was no probable cause for his initial detention; and second, the ultra-violet light test was an illegal search. In order to evaluate these allegations, I must apply the federal standards concerning investigatory stops and probable cause for arrest.
As the Supreme Court has said, the fourth amendment "is not, of course, a guarantee against all searches and seizures, but only against unreasonable searches and seizures." United States v. Sharpe, 470 U.S. 675, 105 S. Ct. 1568, 1573, 84 L. Ed. 2d 605 (1985) (emphasis in original). I must, therefore, consider the reasonableness of Officer Gatchell's actions. And I must go through a two-step analysis, reviewing Gatchell's conduct when he first detained the group for questioning and then when he arrested Williams.
1. Investigatory Stop
When Gatchell first questioned the group, he knew that the attendant had identified them as the only persons in the garage (to his knowledge) at the time when the fire alarm was pulled. Based on that information, Gatchell made a brief, investigatory stop. He asked the men about the fire alarm, and each individual jokingly admitted that he had triggered it. No one denied pulling the alarm, and no one objected to the inquiry. By all accounts, this questioning took no more than a few minutes.
The investigatory stop was proper if "the officer's action was justified at its inception, and . . . it was reasonably related in scope to the circumstances which justified the interference in the first place." Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 20, 20 L. Ed. 2d 889, 88 S. Ct. 1868 (1968). Under the first prong of this test, less than probable cause is required to justify an investigatory stop: "It is well established that an investigatory stop short of an arrest is valid if based upon a reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot." United States v. Rickus, 737 F.2d 360, 365 (3d Cir. 1984). This is so because an investigatory stop is regarded as decidedly less intrusive than an arrest. In this situation, Gatchell stopped the group only after the attendant had made an eyewitness identification of them as the only ones present at the time of the alarm. Such information does not inevitably implicate the men, but it does constitute "specific and articulable facts which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant that intrusion" -- i.e., the stop. Terry, 392 U.S. at 21. Furthermore, by acknowledging (albeit kiddingly) that they had pulled the alarm, the men gave Gatchell a reason for continuing to question them.
Under the second part of the Terry test, the stop must be brief and less sweeping than a full-scale interrogation. In attempting to fashion the guidelines for a permissible stop, the Supreme Court recently approved a twenty-minute detention where the police had acted diligently:
In assessing whether a detention is too long in duration to be justified as an investigative stop, we consider it appropriate to examine whether the police diligently pursued a means of investigation that was likely to confirm or dispel their suspicions quickly, during which time it was necessary to detain the defendant.