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Gray v. Hampton

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington

December 6, 2017

JAMES ANTHONY GRAY, Plaintiff,
v.
TONY HAMPTON, et al., Defendants.

          AMENDED MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          DANNY C. REEVES, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is pending for consideration of Plaintiff James Anthony Gray's motion to alter amend this Court's Memorandum Opinion and Order of November 9, 2017. [Record No. 26] The plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on March 29, 2017, in which he abandoned some of the claims asserted in his original Complaint. In ruling on the defendant's motion to dismiss, the Court inadvertently included a discussion of the claims that had been abandoned previously. [Record No. 25] Accordingly, the Court's Memorandum Opinion and Order will be modified as follows.

         I. BACKGROUND

         James and Vivian Gray were found deceased in their home in Scott County, Kentucky in April 2007. [Record No. 14, p. 10 ¶ 8] Their son, Plaintiff Anthony Gray (“Gray”), with whom they had a turbulent relationship, quickly became a suspect in their deaths. Id. at p. 10 ¶¶11-12. Approximately six months following James and Vivian's deaths, Scott County Sheriff Deputies Roger Persley and David Willis asked Gray to come in for an interview. Id. at p. 13 ¶ 25. Gray took a short break and returned to the interview room to find grisly photographs of the crime scene. Officers had also placed a slice of pecan pie and a Pepsi soft drink on the table. Id. at ¶ 30. According to Gray, this was done to “recreate the crime scene environment.” Id.

         At this point, Persley and Willis turned off all recording devices and interrogated Gray for over five hours. Id. at ¶ 32-33. They employed various forms of “trickery and deceit, ” which included producing “a forged or altered lab report of DNA and blood evidence allegedly linking Gray to the murders;” telling Gray that his car had been captured on surveillance video heading to his parents' home on the night in question; showing him a photograph of a car and telling him that it was, in fact, his car; telling Gray that a neighbor identified him at his parents' home on the night in question; and telling him that a judge had called the sheriff and threated Gray with the death penalty if he did not confess to the murders immediately. Id. at p. 13 ¶ 34. He was also shown photographs of his parents' bodies and told that their blood was found on his clothing and steering wheel, and that gunshot residue was found on his clothing. Id. at p. 13 ¶ 38. Gray alleges that the officers knew all along that all of the assertions were untrue. Id. at p. 13 ¶ 34.

         The officers eventually turned back on the cameras or other recording devices. Id. at p. 15 ¶ 39. Gray told the officers that they “made [him] realize what [he] had done” and that the evidence they had provided “helped [him] to . . . I still don't believe I done it but you know, with the evidence I must have.” Id. at ¶ 42. Gray was immediately arrested, taken into custody, and indicted. Id. at p. 16 ¶ 46.

         Gray sought to suppress his confession prior to his first trial. Id. at p. 17 ¶ 44. The state trial court denied suppression and a mistrial resulted. Id. at p. 20 ¶ 67. Gray was tried again and was convicted of two counts of murder and of tampering with physical evidence in 2013. Id. at p. 21 ¶ 70. He was sentenced to 45 years' imprisonment. Gray appealed.

         In February 2016, the Kentucky Supreme Court reversed Gray's convictions, finding that “the hours of manipulation and fabricated evidence” amounted to coercion and that the confession should have been suppressed. Gray v. Com., 480 S.W.3d 253, 261 (Ky. 2016). The court stated that “considerable evidence” pointed to Gray's guilt, but it was particularly troubled by officers' use of false reports linking DNA evidence to Gray. Id. At the time Gray filed the instant Complaint, he was scheduled to be tried on the charges for a third time. Id. at p. 23 ¶ 80. Gray amended his Complaint in March 2017 to “clarify certain Counts” and dismiss some claims he believed he could no longer support. [Record No. 14, p. 2]

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         When evaluating a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must determine whether the complaint alleges “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). The plausibility standard is met “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). While a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff must provide more than mere labels and conclusions, and “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. While plaintiffs are not required to plead facts showing that the defendant is likely to be responsible for the harm alleged, plaintiffs must demonstrate “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Denial of a Fair Trial, Conspiracy, and Failure to Train under 42 U.S.C. § 1983

         Gray alleges that the defendants' conduct deprived him of a fair trial in violation of his due process rights (Count II) and that his coerced confession resulted in a false conviction (Count V). He complains, inter alia, that the defendants coerced his confession and knowingly used it against him at trial; arrested and prosecuted him without probable cause; and withheld and destroyed evidence during the investigation and trials. Likewise, Gray claims that the defendants conspired to obstruct justice to achieve his wrongful indictment, conviction, and unlawful imprisonment (Count IV) and that they failed to supervise or train their officers (Count VII).

         A plaintiff's § 1983 claims accrue when the plaintiff has a complete and present cause of action. See Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 394 (2007); Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 487-88, n.8 (1994). In Kentucky, the applicable statute of limitations for § 1983 actions is one year. Collard v. Ky. Bd. of Nursing, 896 F.2d 179, 182 (6th Cir. 1990). Gray's interrogation occurred in late 2007 and the defendants' “threats” regarding the death penalty persisted through 2011, just prior to his first trial. [Record No. 1, p. 13 ¶ 28] Viewed in isolation, these events would no longer be actionable, as they are outside the statute of limitations. See Wallace, 549 U.S. at 349. However, Gray claims that the defendants conspired and used a false confession and fabricated evidence against him during his trials to obtain a conviction. This may have resulted in new constitutional claims ...


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