United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
E.K. PRATTER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Thomas-the plaintiff-was convicted of the 1990 murder of
Domingo Martinez. Twenty-four years later, the plaintiff was
exonerated. In 2017, he sued the City of Philadelphia and
Martin Devlin and Paul Worrell, the detectives who allegedly
fabricated evidence against him.
the defendants now move for summary judgment. First, they
argue that the malicious prosecution and fabrication of
evidence claims against the detectives must be dismissed
because the plaintiffs original convictions were not
"favorably terminated," and because the plaintiff
has not described evidence from which a reasonable jury could
conclude that the detectives violated the plaintiffs
constitutional rights. The defendants also argue that the
plaintiffs claims against the City must be dismissed for
failing to meet the requirements of Monell v. Dep 't
of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978). The Court denies
the defendants' motion for summary judgment in its
morning of November 13, 1990, Domingo Martinez was murdered
after making a large cash withdrawal from a North
Philadelphia bank. As the 78-year-old drove from the bank to
his payday-lending business, another driver side-swiped his
car. At least one man emerged from the initiating car, shot
Mr. Martinez, pulled him from his car, and left him to die in
the street. The killer drove away in Mr. Martinez's car,
followed by the assailing car.
case was investigated by Detectives Devlin and Worrell of the
Philadelphia Police Department. Four years later, two pairs
of brothers were convicted for the murder: the plaintiff and
Mustafa Thomas, along with John Stallworth and William
Stallworth. The plaintiff was 16 years old at the time of the
plaintiffs trial in 1994, the Stallworth brothers testified
that they, the Thomas brothers, and two other individuals
planned the murder at the Abbotsford Homes housing project.
They testified that they coordinated the attack on Mr.
Martinez in two separate cars, one gray and one blue.
Evidence from Mr. Martinez's Car
Following the murder, the police recovered Mr. Martinez's
car. An officer not involved in this lawsuit took photos of
the car and recovered a "sample of white paint"
"from the left front fender." Ex. 26 to Plaintiffs
Counterstatement of Facts ¶ 16:11-26:14. The officer did not find
any blue paint on the victim's car. Id. at
18:6-19:10.  The color of the paint is important
because John Stallworth later testified that the assailing
car was blue.
people witnessed the murder of Mr. Martinez. All four
eyewitnesses stated that the assailing car was a Chevrolet
Nova or a Buick Skylark. See Plaintiffs Exs. 4, 6,
22, and 23. One stated that the assailing car was gray, and
the others reported that it was red and white. See
Id. None said anything about a blue car. See
Id. All agreed that the shooter was about six feet tall.
See Id. All agreed that there were no more than
three assailants. See id.
detectives did not follow up with the eyewitnesses after
taking their initial statements.
Oliver Walthour and the Chevy Nova Traffic Stop
days after the Martinez murder, Philadelphia police officers
stopped a gray Chevrolet Nova six blocks from the crime
scene. See Plaintiffs Ex. 35. Three men-Oliver
Walthour, Lloyd Hicks, and Bobby Harris-were in the car, and
the officers recovered a gun from the vehicle. See
Plaintiffs Ex. 36. Detectives Devlin and Worrell interrogated
the three men, and all three admitted that they knew-or at
least knew of-Mr. Martinez. See Plaintiffs Exs. 37,
38, and 39.
Walthour told the detectives that the gray Nova belonged to
Mr. Hicks. See Plaintiffs Ex. 35. Mr. Walthour
suggested that Mr. Hicks' cousin-John Lewis-may have
murdered Mr. Martinez because Mr. Lewis had access to the car
and because, the day after the murder, he saw Mr. Lewis
"flashing around a lot of money." See Id.
Mr. Walthour told the detectives that he asked Mr. Lewis
where he got the money, and Mr. Lewis said that he
"robbed this old Puerto Rican guy between 7th
and Tioga and Sedgley." See Id. Mr. Walthour
also told the detectives that Mr. Lewis told him that
"they followed [the Puerto Rican man] in a car and they
hit the dude's car." Id.
Walthour later told Detective Devlin that his original
statement was false. See Plaintiffs Ex. 37. Mr.
Walthour claimed that he blamed Mr. Lewis for the murder
because he was afraid Detective Devlin was going to charge
him [Mr. Walthour] for the murder and that he only knew facts
about the murder because his uncle told him. See
Plaintiffs Exs. 37, 40.
months later, three men robbed and murdered a store
owner-Rene Cardona-two blocks from the scene of Mr.
Martinez's murder. On April 5, 1991, Mr. Walthour
confessed to participating in the robbery and murder of Mr.
Cardona. See Plaintiffs Ex. 51.
before May 1, 1991, the Police Department's Homicide
Division conducted "a review of incidents similar to the
Martinez murder." See Plaintiffs Ex. 54. During
this review, the Homicide Division identified Mr.
Cardona's murder as a crime having "some
similarities" to the Martinez murder. Id.
Therefore, on May 1, 1991, Detective Devlin interrogated Mr.
Walthour again. See Id. This time, Mr. Walthour told
Detective Devlin a different story, claiming that he heard
"Shawn" and "T-Bop" from
"7th and Butler" killed Mr.
Martinez. Plaintiffs Ex. 55.
Devlin and Worrell did nothing with this information.
Plaintiffs Ex. 20 at 43:6-44:1; 151:22-155:20.
Nathaniel Stallworth 's First Statement
February 8, 1992, two detectives not involved in this lawsuit
interrogated Nathaniel Stallworth, John and William
Stallworths' cousin. See Plaintiffs Ex. 75.
Nathaniel Stallworth told these detectives that the
plaintiff, Mustafa Thomas, John Stallworth, and William
Stallworth participated in the robbery/murder of Mr.
Martinez. Id. Nathaniel Stallworth also stated that
two friends of Mustafa Thomas who he did not know
participated in the crime. Id. After being shown
photographs by detectives, Nathaniel Stallworth identified an
individual named Raynard Hardy as one of the participants.
John Stallworth's First Statement
October 27, 1992, Detectives Devlin and Worrell interrogated
John Stallworth. See Plaintiffs Ex. 81. John
Stallworth told the detectives that he, the plaintiff,
Mustafa Thomas, William Stallworth, and two other
individuals-"Nasir" and Louis Gay-followed Mr.
Martinez from the bank in two cars (one blue and one gray),
and that the plaintiff blocked Mr. Martinez's route of
escape while Mustafa Thomas shot and robbed Mr. Martinez.
Devlin and Worrell soon learned that Mr. Gay could not have
participated in the crime because he was incarcerated on the
day of the murder. See Plaintiffs Ex. 7 at 75:4-8;
Plaintiffs Ex. 83.
sworn declaration, John Stallworth now claims that, during
the October 1992 interrogation, he was handcuffed to a metal
chair and repeatedly questioned about the Martinez murder.
Plaintiffs Ex. 80. He claims that the detectives told him
that they knew he was not the shooter, that they really
wanted Mustafa Thomas, and that he would be free to leave as
soon as he told the detectives what they wanted to hear.
Id. John Stallworth further claims that the
detectives hit him with a phone book and squeezed his
testicles. Id. He claims that he told the officers
what they wanted to hear to end the abuse and that he had no
personal knowledge about the Martinez murder. Id.
Nathaniel Stallworth 's Second Statement
John Stallworth named "Nasir" and Mr. Gay as
participants in the murder, Detectives Devlin and Worrell
interrogated Nathaniel Stallworth again. Nathaniel Stallworth
changed his story. This time, he stated that Raynard
Hardy-who he positively identified as a participant of the
crime in his initial interview- "could [have been] one
of the guys in the cars" who participated in the murder
and added that "Nas"-who he did not previously
identify-was a participant. Plaintiffs Ex. 88.
Detectives Devlin and Worrell Learn that the Plaintiff May
Have Appeared at the Youth Study Center on the Morning of the
November 1992, the detectives learned that the plaintiff had
been arrested and charged with attempted theft of a
motorcycle the day before the Martinez murder. See
Plaintiffs Ex. 19 at 193:10-18; Plaintiffs Ex. 90. The
detectives gained access to the plaintiff s juvenile file and
found and photographed a subpoena issued by the Youth Study
Center that was purportedly signed by the plaintiff on the
day of the murder. Plaintiffs Ex. 95. The detectives did not
conduct any investigation of this potential alibi.
Nathaniel Stallworth Recants His Previous
Stallworth's preliminary hearing for the Martinez murder
in December 1992, Nathaniel Stallworth recanted his previous
statements. See Plaintiffs Ex. 76 at 8-30. He
testified that the first group of detectives told him that
they would let him out of jail to see his girlfriend deliver
a baby if he told them what they wanted to hear. Id.
The Harry James Murder
December 1992, Harry James, an elderly business man, was
robbed and murdered at his speakeasy. In January 1993,
Christopher Dinwiddie, an eyewitness, told Detective Jeff
Pirree that he observed the plaintiff stand "in the
vestibule [of the speakeasy] with a long shotgun" while
the plaintiffs father robbed and murdered Mr. James. Ex. 10
to Defendants' Mot. Sum. J. In February 1993, Mr.
Dinwiddie again told Detective Pirree that the plaintiff
"stood inside by the front door with the shotgun"
while the plaintiffs father robbed and murdered Mr. James.
See Ex. 12 to Defendants' Mot. Sum. J.
an arrest warrant was issued for the plaintiff in connection
to the James murder. Ex. 14 to Defendants' Mot. Sum. J.
The plaintiff turned himself in two days later. See Ex. 16 to
Defendants' Mot. Sum. J.
March 1993, at the plaintiffs preliminary hearing for the
James murder, a different eyewitness testified that the
plaintiff was not at the speakeasy when Mr. James was killed.
Plaintiffs Ex. 97 at 16-18. Mr. Dinwiddie also recanted his
previous statements and testified that the plaintiff was not
at the speakeasy that night. Id. at
71. Detectives Devlin and Worrell attended
this hearing. See Plaintiffs Ex. 99.
John Stallworth 's Second Statement
6, 1993, John Stallworth pleaded guilty to third-degree
murder for his claimed involvement in the robbery and murder
of Mr. Martinez and agreed to testify against the plaintiff,
Mustafa Thomas, and William Stallworth to avoid the death
penalty. See Plaintiffs Ex. 80. He gave a second
statement to Detectives Devlin and Worrell in which he
eliminated Mr. Gay from the story and instead claimed that an
unknown man participated in the murder of Mr. Martinez.
Plaintiffs Ex. 101.
The Detectives Submit an Affidavit of Probable Cause for the
27, 1993, the detectives submitted an affidavit of probable
cause for the plaintiffs arrest for the Martinez murder.
Plaintiffs Ex. 104. The only information in the affidavit
connecting the plaintiff to the murder was:
• John Stallworth's first statement in which he
claimed that six people, including the plaintiff, Mustafa
Thomas, John Stallworth, and William Stallworth, murdered Mr.
• Nathaniel Stallworth's identification of the
plaintiff, Mustafa Thomas, John Stallworth, and William
Stallworth as participants in the murder.
See Id. The detectives omitted from their affidavit
the following information:
• Nathaniel Stallworth gave two conflicting statements
and then later recanted both statements during John
Stallworth's preliminary hearing;
• John Stallworth's original statement included at
least one lie, that Mr. Gay-who was in prison at the
time-participated in the murder;
• Contrary to John Stallworth's story, none of the
four eyewitnesses saw two cars, a blue car, or six
participants in the murder;
• Police officers found white, not blue, paint on Mr.
• Evidence indicating that the plaintiff may have been
at the Youth Study Center at the time of the murder; and
• Information concerning Mr. Walthour and the traffic
stop of the gray Chevy Nova.
William Stallworth's Guilty Plea
the detectives arrested William Stallworth for the Martinez
murder. William Stallworth pleaded guilty and made a
statement to the police, confirming John Stallworth's
second statement. See Plaintiffs Ex. 107. He stated
that he, John Stallworth, the plaintiff, Mustafa Thomas,
Nasir, and an unknown man drove in two cars, one blue and one
gray, to rob and murder Mr. Martinez. Id.
sworn declaration, William Stallworth now many years later
claims that he was coerced into providing false testimony by
the detectives. See Plaintiffs Ex. 106. He claims
that he falsely testified because he knew he would likely be
convicted of murder either way, and because the detectives
told him he would get a deal if he agreed to tell the same
story as John Stallworth. Id. He further claims that
the detectives told him that if he did not agree, John
Stallworth was not going to get his deal and would face the
death penalty. Id.
December 1994, the plaintiff was convicted of second-degree
murder, among other offenses, for his alleged involvement in
the robbery and murder of Mr. Martinez. Plaintiffs Ex. 109 at
20. The only witnesses who connected the plaintiff to the
murder were John and William Stallworth. There was no
forensic evidence linking Shaurn Thomas to the murder of Mr.
The CRU Vacates the Plaintiffs Conviction and Decides Not to
Retry the Case
January 2017, BJ Graham-Rubin and Andrew Wellbrock, Assistant
District Attorneys in the Conviction Review Unit
("CRU"), began to investigate the plaintiffs claim
Graham-Rubin investigated the plaintiffs Youth Study Center
alibi. After reviewing documents and speaking to employees at
the Center, she concluded that the plaintiff "most
likely" had his intake interview at the Center on the
morning of November 13, 1990. Plaintiffs Ex. 17 at 6.
April 2017, Ms. Graham-Rubin and Mr. Wellbrock interviewed
William Stallworth. See Plaintiffs Ex. 113. William
Stallworth told them that he was not involved in the murder
and that he did not believe that the plaintiff was either.
Id. Mr. Wellbrock believed William Stallworth, but
Ms. Graham-Rubin did not. Plaintiffs Ex.*57 at 94:9-13.
2017, the CRU received the homicide file for the Martinez
murder. Mr. Wellbrock discovered the statements from Messrs.
Walthour, Hicks, and Harris. Plaintiffs Ex. 57 at
65:15-66:13. Mr. Wellbrock concluded that these statements
were significant because "it was information that
discussed alternate suspects that were identified
contemporaneously with the murder" and "the
alternate suspect was driving a car that fit the description
of the eyewitness." Id. at 66:9-17.
on this information, the CRU and the Acting District
Attorney, Kathleen Martin, decided to vacate and dismiss the
case against the plaintiff. Mr. Wellbrock memorialized the
rationale underlying their decision in a memo dated May 11,
Based on our review and investigation, sufficient evidence
exists to undermine confidence in the conviction and creates
a basis for relief in the interest of justice. Based on the
evidence, we do not believe sufficient evidence exists to
prove [the plaintiff] guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. As
such, the CRU recommends agreeing to a new trial and moving
to nolle prosequi the charges.
Ex. 98 at 5. The memo reaffirmed that "it is most likely
that [the plaintiff] appeared in Juvenile Court for an intake
interview on the morning of November 13th,
1990." Id. at 3. Ms. Graham-Rubin and Ms.
Martin both reviewed and approved Mr. Wellbrock's memo.
Id. at 5.
23, 2017, the plaintiff was released from prison after 24
years of incarceration. Plaintiffs Ex. 115. On June 13, 2017,
Ms. Graham-Rubin appeared in front of Judge Rose Marie
DeFino-Nastasi and stated the reasons for dismissing the
[A]fter reviewing further investigation, the District
Attorney's Office Conviction Review Unit has determined
that it is most likely that [the plaintiff] was, in fact, at
the Youth Study Center sometime during the morning of
November 13, 1990. However, the evidence does not establish
an absolute alibi. So, therefore, the Conviction Review Unit
cannot determine [the plaintiffs] actual innocence.
Furthermore, there has been a recent recantation by one of
the witnesses who testified, William Stallworth.
In his recantation, [William Stallworth] recanted his trial
testimony, but his recantation also does not actually
exculpate [the plaintiff]. Mr. Stallworth now claims that he
was not present at the time of the crime and, therefore, he
does not know, he has no firsthand knowledge of who was or
was not a participant in the crime.
Although [William Stallworth] states he believes [the
plaintiff] wasn't there, he states now he has no actual
knowledge of who participated because he wasn't there
and, finally, as to the statements from Oliver Walthour,
these statements were the statements that were not provided
to the District Attorney's Office or to the Defense at
the time of trial but on their face, they are both
potentially exculpatory and inculpatory. So they too do not
establish any innocence.
However, under present case law, the Conviction Review Unit
believes that these statements are discoverable under
Brady and, accordingly, [the plaintiff] would be
entitled to a new trial. So that is why we recommended
vacating the [plaintiffs] conviction and as this Court knows
at this time, the District Attorney's Office is ...