United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
TALWANI UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
jury found in favor of all Defendants as to all claims,
Plaintiffs Christopher Castagna and Gavin Castagna moved for
a new trial, asserting that: (1) the jury verdict on the 42
U.S.C. § 1983 unlawful entry claim against Defendants
Daran Edwards, Keith Kaplan, and Harry Jean is against the
law and against the weight of the credible evidence; (2) the
jury was improperly instructed on probable cause to arrest
Plaintiffs for disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace;
and (3) defense counsel improperly argued in her closing that
Christopher Castagna was racist and that the court's
supplemental jury instruction was insufficient to cure the
prejudice, thus warranting a new trial on all claims.
Pls.' Mot. New Trial at 1-2 [#292]. Finding that relief
is not merited under the second and third argument, but that
the verdict is against the law as to the warrantless entry
into the home and that the warrantless entry on the facts at
trial is not protected by qualified immunity, Plaintiffs'
motion is ALLOWED as to the § 1983 unlawful entry claim
against Defendants Edwards, Kaplan, and Jean, but is
district court may set aside the jury's verdict and order
a new trial only if the verdict is against the law, against
the weight of the credible evidence, or tantamount to a
miscarriage of justice.” Casillas-Diaz v.
Palau, 463 F.3d 77, 81 (1st Cir. 2006). In considering
the weight of the evidence, the court views the evidence in
the light most favorable to the non-moving party.
Cambridge Plating Co. v. Napco, Inc., 85 F.3d 752,
764 (1st Cir. 1996).
UNLAWFUL ENTRY CLAIM
The Evidence at Trial
events leading up to Defendants Edwards, Kaplan and
Jean's entry to the apartment were, for the most part,
not in dispute.
March 17, 2013, Plaintiffs and most of the non-police
witnesses spent the day enjoying various Saint Patrick's
Day festivities in South Boston, eventually arriving at
Christopher Castagna's first-floor apartment on East 6th
Street. Defendants, all Boston Police Officers, spent the day
patrolling the Saint Patrick's Day parade route, and
after that, responding to party calls.
p.m., a 911 caller reported a loud party at the intersection
of East 6th Street and O Street in South Boston. According to
the caller, the party participants were
“whipping” beer bottles off the second-floor
porch, which faced 6th Street. Officer Kaplan did not hear
the 911 call, but he received notice from dispatch of a
disturbance and the street intersection where the party was
7:29 p.m., when police officers, including Kaplan, Edwards,
and Jean, approached East 6th Street and O Street, the only
apartment with music and yelling was a first-floor apartment
on 6th Street, later identified as Christopher Castagna's
apartment. Officer Kaplan observed several people leave the
apartment and other people inside drinking and dancing.
Detective Jean observed what appeared to be someone vomiting
on the sidewalk outside of the apartment. Detective Edwards
heard loud music as he approached the apartment.
to the officers, the front door of the apartment was open.
(Although Plaintiffs attempted to show that the temperature
was too cool for the door to be open, there was no dispute
that people were entering and exiting the apartment, and
there was no direct evidence to contradict the officers'
assertion that at the moment they arrived, the door was
ajar). Officer Kaplan stepped into the apartment first and
yelled “hello” and “Boston Police”
into the apartment. No one answered right away. Without
asking for permission, Officer Kaplan and Detectives Edwards
and Jean walked into the apartment. At this point, the people
inside the apartment stopped dancing, turned down the music,
and walked over towards Officer Kaplan.
Kaplan testified that when he entered the apartment, his
objective was to get the attention of the homeowners and to
tell them to keep the doors shut and the noise down. Officers
Edwards and Jean also testified that their objectives were to
contact the owner and ask him to turn the music down. Officer
Kaplan and Detective Jean further testified that they had no
intention of arresting anyone at the party.
entering, the officers inquired about where the homeowners
were. Some guests told the officers that the owner of the
apartment, Christopher Castagna, was down the hall, in the
bathroom. While Officer Kaplan and Detective Edwards stayed
in the kitchen speaking to the guests, Detective Jean and
another officer, Terry Cotton, walked down the hall.
The Officers' Entry Was Unlawful and Was Not
Protected by Qualified Immunity
argue that the entry of Officer Kaplan and Detectives Edwards
and Jean into Plaintiffs' home and Christopher
Castagna's bedroom was not supported by a warrant or
exigent circumstances, and was not entitled to qualified
immunity. Pls.' Mem. Supp. Mot. New Trial
(“Pls.' Mem.”) at 8-12 [#293]. Defendants
respond that exigent circumstances did exist and moreover,
that the officers' actions were justified by an exception
to the warrant requirement for police officers engaging in
community caretaking functions. Defs.' Opp. Pls.'
Mot. New Trial (“Defs.' Opp.”) at 11-14
[#298]. Defendants further argue that the officers are also
entitled to qualified immunity due to the unsettled nature of
the community caretaking exception in 2013, at the time of
the entry. Id. at 16.
The Officers' Entry Was Unlawful
Fourth Amendment shields individuals from “unreasonable
searches and seizures.” U.S. Const. amend. IV.
“It is common ground that a man's home is his
castle and, as such, the home is shielded by the highest
level of Fourth Amendment protection.” Matalon v.
Hynnes, 806 F.3d 627, 633 (1st Cir. 2015) (citing
United States v. Martin, 413 F.3d 139, 146 (1st Cir.
2005)). “‘A warrantless police entry into a
residence is presumptively unreasonable unless it falls
within the compass of one of a few well-delineated
exceptions' to the Fourth Amendment's warrant
requirement.” Id. (quoting United States
v. Romain, 393 F.3d 63, 68 (1st Cir. 2004)). a. Exigent
Circumstances The well-delineated exceptions offered for
exigent circumstances include: “(1) ‘hot
pursuit' of a fleeing felon; (2) threatened destruction
of evidence inside a residence before a warrant can be
obtained; (3) a risk that the suspect may escape from the
residence undetected; or (4) a threat, posed by a suspect, to
the lives or safety of the public, the police officers, or to
[themselves].” Hegarty v. Somerset Cty., 53
F.3d 1367, 1374 (1st Cir. 1995) (citing Minnesota v.
Olsen, 495 U.S. 91, 100 (1990)). “[A] subset of
the exigent circumstances rubric covers ‘emergency
aid.'” Matalon, 806 F.3d at 636. Within
this emergency aid exception, “law enforcement officers
may enter a home without a warrant to render emergency
assistance to an injured occupant or to protect an occupant
from imminent injury.” Brigham City v. Stuart,
547 U.S. 398, 403 (2006). “[A] cognizable exigency must
present a ‘compelling necessity for immediate action
that w[ould] not brook the delay of obtaining a
warrant.'” Hegarty, 53 F.3d at 1374
(quoting United States v. Almonte, 952 F.2d 20, 22
(1st Cir. 1991)). Thus, in an emergency situation, police
“‘may enter a residence without a warrant if they
reasonably believe that swift action is required to safeguard
life or prevent serious harm.'” Matalon,
806 F.3d at 636 (quoting United States v. Martins,
413 F.3d 139, 147 (1st Cir. 2005)).
hearing on the pending motion, Defendants argued that the
officers properly entered the apartment without a warrant due
to a concern for safety of underage party goers. The weight
of the evidence does not support this claim of a concern for
the safety of underage party goers, let alone a need for
emergency assistance. Although Detective Jean testified that
he saw someone vomiting twice outside of the apartment, he
also admitted that he did not look for or inquire inside
about the person who vomited. No other officer testified that
they observed any vomiting inside or outside of the
apartment. Prior to entering the apartment, none of the
officers observed anything remarkable about the scene in the
apartment; Officer Kaplan testified that he observed people
dancing and Detective Edwards testified that he observed
people chatting and drinking from cups.
the trial, none of the officers articulated any concern as to
an emergency need to enter. Nor did the officers articulate a
specific safety concern other than the possibility that the
party goers may have been underage, and as to that concern,
none of the officers testified to asking any party goers
their age or for identification. Officer Kaplan testified
that upon entering the home, the guests were cooperative.
None of the officers testified that the anyone tried to run
or hide from the officers to avoid detection. Cf. Howes
v. Hitchcock, 66 F.Supp. 2d. 203, 208-215 (D. Mass.
Sept. 9, 1999) (finding that officers are entitled to
qualified immunity for entering house after monitoring
underage party outside, announcing police presence at the
entryway, and observing teenagers run to basement and climb
out of bedroom window to escape detection).
all three men testified that they were responding to a noise
complaint and that their primary objective in entering the
home was to find the owner and ask him to turn down the
music. In Commonwealth v. Kiser, 48 Mass.App.Ct. 647
(2000), like here, the police officers entered a home without
a warrant when responding to a noise disturbance complaint.
Id. at 649. As the court explained there,
“[t]his situation does not involve the degree of
exigency needed to bypass the Fourth Amendment.”
Id. at 651-652. Thus, the officer's actions do
not fall within the exigent circumstance
Community Caretaking Exception
also argue that the search was appropriate as a
“community caretaker” search because the search
was “totally divorced from criminal investigation
activity.” Defs.' Mem. at 12 . The court
rejected this argument when Defendants asked for a
“community caretaker” instruction for the jury
and rejects the argument again here.
exception to the warrant requirement for searches
“totally divorced from the detection, investigation, or
acquisition of evidence relating to the violation of a
criminal statute” has been allowed by the United States
Supreme Court as to cars. Cady v.
Dombrowski, 413 U.S. 433, 441, 447-48 (1973); see
also United States v. Rodriguez-Morales, 929 F.2d 780,
785 (1st Cir. 1991) (“[b]ecause of the ubiquity of the
automobile . . . and the automobile's nature . . . the
police are constantly faced with dynamic situations . . . in
which they, in the exercise of their community caretaking
function, must interact with car and driver to promote public
safety.”). In performing this community caretaking
role, a police officer is “‘a jack-of-all
emergencies,' . . . expected to aid those in distress,
combat actual hazards, prevent potential hazards from
materializing, and provide an infinite variety of services to
preserve and protect public safety.” Id. at
784-85 (1st Cir. 1991) (internal citation omitted).
45 years since Cady, the First Circuit has declined
to directly address claims of a community caretaking
exception for searches of homes, but also has not endorsed
such an exception. In United States v. Tibolt, 72
F.3d 965 (1st Cir. 1995), where the court did not need to
reach the issue after finding exigent circumstances permitted
the warrantless entry, the court responded to the
government's request to characterize the warrantless
entry as a “so-called ‘community
caretaker'” exception, with a citation to
Cady's note of the “‘constitutional
difference' between search of home and search of
automobile.” Id. at 969 n.2 (quoting
Cady, 413 U.S. at 439). The Tibolt court
also listed decisions from three other circuits finding that
Cady applied only to searches of ...