In 2008, Marlow Humbert was arrested for rape and detained in solitary confinement for over fifteen months, even though the sole witness repeatedly told officers she could not identify him as the attacker and there was no physical evidence connecting him to the crime. The police officers who led the investigation based their arrest warrant solely on his generic resemblance to a sketch and a tentative identification – tainted by the fact that one of the officers showed the victim a picture of him before asking her to view a photo array. The officers also withheld exculpatory DNA evidence from the prosecutors for nearly a year; when they finally turned it over, Mr. Humbert was released. In 2011, Mr. Humbert sued the City of Baltimore and the officers for violating his rights under the Fourth Amendment and Maryland law. In 2015, a jury agreed with him, finding that no reasonable officer would have believed he was the perpetrator of the crime. A district court set aside the jury’s finding though, based on its view of the evidence, its interpretation of “probable cause” and the doctrine of qualified immunity. In 2017, a unanimous panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and reinstated the verdict in Mr. Humbert’s favor. The city and the officers petitioned the Supreme Court for review.
Serving as co-counsel in the Supreme Court, Public Citizen lawyers prepared the brief in opposition to the petition. The brief argues that the Fourth Circuit was correct in determining that there was sufficient evidence to support the jury’s factual findings, and that those factual findings established a constitutional violation. Under the relevant “totality of the circumstances” standard for probable cause under the Fourth Amendment, the evidence before the jury, in the light most favorable to Mr. Humbert, showed that the officers lacked reason to believe Mr. Humbert was the perpetrator. The brief also argued that the officer’s failure to disclose the victim’s repeated statements that she could not identify Mr. Humbert as her attacker was a violation of clearly-established law, and that there was sufficient evidence to conclude each of the three officer defendants knew there was no positive identification of Mr. Humbert, but sought an arrest warrant on that basis anyway. The Court denied the petition for review in June 2018.