In Moran v. Calumet City, 2022 WL 17173891, (7th Cir. 2022), the court provided further insight as to whether fabricated evidence influenced a jury’s guilty verdict. There, a jury convicted Moran of attempted murder with a firearm but was later acquitted when exculpatory evidence, including a ballistics report linking the firearm to a different shooter, had not been turned over to the defense before trial. Moran filed suit seeking redress for a decade spent behind bars alleging that two detectives fabricated a police report and gave false testimony during his trial that led to his criminal conviction.
Under Seventh Circuit precedent, to prevail on a fabrication of evidence claim, Moran must prove that “a police officer … manufacture[d] false evidence against” him, which was “later used to deprive [him] of [his] liberty in some way.” More importantly, the fabricated evidence must be material, which means “there is a reasonable likelihood the evidence affected the judgment of the jury.” First, the court reasoned that since the “fabricated” police report was not introduced at trial, it could not have influenced the jury’s verdict. Moreover, there was no evidence that the detective’s false statements were ever mentioned at trial. Thus, the police report and false statements were not material pieces of evidence that influenced the jury’s guilty verdict.
The Moran Court holding strengthens the defense to a fabricated evidence claim, especially where there is no evidence that a police report was introduced or that a detective testified to the alleged false statements at trial. In such a circumstance there is no question of fact as to whether a police report or testimony would influence a jury’s guilty verdict. Defendants can continue to rely on this defense in fabrication of evidence claims.