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David Johns Bryson v. City of Oklahoma City

December 6, 2010



The opinion of the court was delivered by: McKAY, Circuit Judge.


United States Court of Appeals Tenth Circuit

Elisabeth A. Shumaker Clerk of Court

Before MURPHY, McKAY, and TYMKOVICH, Circuit Judges.

In 1983, Plaintiff David Bryson was convicted of a rape and kidnapping he did not commit. At his trial, a forensic chemist employed by the Oklahoma City Police Department, Joyce Gilchrist, testified the hair and semen found at the scene of the crime were consistent with samples taken from Plaintiff. Plaintiff was incarcerated for seventeen years before his conviction was vacated based on exculpatory DNA test results, and it took another three and a half years before the charges against him were finally dismissed. A subsequent analysis of the serological and hair evidence that was tested before his criminal conviction demonstrated that, even without the benefit of DNA testing, Ms. Gilchrist should have excluded Plaintiff as a criminal suspect back in 1983. Indeed, Ms. Gilchrist's own lab results indicated Plaintiff could not be the donor of the semen found at the scene, contrary to the testimony she gave at his trial.

Following the dismissal of the criminal charges against him, Plaintiff filed this § 1983 action to seek damages against, inter alia, Ms. Gilchrist and the city that employed her for twenty-one years. Plaintiff ultimately obtained a $16.5 million judgment in actual damages against Ms. Gilchrist. However, the district court granted summary judgment to the City of Oklahoma City, holding that the undisputed evidence, taken in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, did not support a finding of municipal liability.

During the pendency of the action, Ms. Gilchrist filed an indemnification cross-claim against the City. Plaintiff sought to participate in this cross-claim, but Ms. Gilchrist and the City settled the claim for $23,364.29 without his participation. Plaintiff also attempted to seek indemnification directly from the City, but the district court denied his motion.

On appeal, Plaintiff challenges both the entry of summary judgment in favor of the City and the district court's denial of his indemnification application.


We review the district court's summary judgment decision de novo, applying the same legal standard as the district court. See Padhiar v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 479 F.3d 727, 732 (10th Cir. 2007). Under this standard, summary judgment is only warranted "if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(2). We also review de novo the district court's interpretation of Oklahoma's indemnification statute. See Breaux v. Am. Family Mut. Ins. Co., 554 F.3d 854, 863 (10th Cir. 2009).

As an initial matter, we must decide what evidence is properly before us on appeal. After the district court made its summary judgment ruling in this case, Plaintiff filed a motion to reconsider and new supporting evidence in the form of affidavits from two state forensic chemists. The district court denied the motion to reconsider, stating that it would be improper to reconsider the summary judgment decision based upon new supporting facts that should have been presented in prior briefing.

We are not persuaded this decision constituted an abuse of discretion. See Price v. Philpot, 420 F.3d 1158, 1167-68 (10th Cir. 2005) (noting that "a district court may, in its discretion, elect not to consider a delayed affidavit" and finding no abuse of discretion in the district court's refusal to consider evidence that was first filed as an attachment to the plaintiff's motion to reconsider). We therefore will not consider any of the new evidence presented for the first time in Plaintiff's motion to reconsider. See Fye v. Okla. Corp. Comm'n, 516 F.3d 1217, 1224 (10th Cir. 2008); see also Adler v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 144 F.3d 664, 671 (10th Cir. 1998) ("[A]lthough our review is de novo, we conduct that review from the perspective of the district court at the time it made its ruling, ordinarily limiting our review to the materials adequately brought to the attention of the district court by the parties.").

We thus consider, in light of the evidence presented to the district court before the entry of its summary judgment decision, whether Plaintiff has set forth sufficient evidence to support a finding of municipal liability against ...

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