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Duncan v. Newby

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah

January 29, 2018




         This matter comes before the Court upon Motion by Defendant Jason Newby (“Defendant”) to dismiss all claims against him for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The time has passed for Plaintiff Leslie Duncan (“Plaintiff”) to respond. This matter is ripe for adjudication. For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion [DN 6] is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         I. Background

         The following Background section is taken from Plaintiff's Complaint, the veracity of which is assumed for purposes of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, as explained below. This case arises out of a criminal investigation and, later, a criminal prosecution in Christian County, Kentucky, which spanned from the 1990s into the 2010s. Plaintiff was formerly a police officer in the town of Oak Grove, which is located in Christian County. [DN 1, at 3.] In the 1990s, an establishment known as the New Life Massage Parlor was open and operating there. [Id.] According to Plaintiff, the massage parlor was actually a prostitution business. [Id.]

         “In the early morning hours of September 20, 1994, Ed Carter, co-defendant in the [ensuing] criminal prosecution and part time janitor at the New Life Massage Parlor, left the parlor.” [Id. at 4.] At around 3:00 a.m., “three of the five massage parlor employees left the parlor, leaving the two remaining employees alone in the building.” [Id.] At 3:45 a.m., those three employees returned to the building, where “they found the two remaining employees shot and stabbed in one of the massage rooms.” [Id.] This double murder was initially tasked to the Oak Grove Police Department, where Plaintiff was the lead investigating detective. [Id.] Plaintiff was present at the crime scene in the wake of the murders. [Id.] “Shortly thereafter, the Christian County Sheriffs Department took over the investigation.” [Id.] In 2006, the case, still unsolved, was transferred to the Kentucky State Police. [Id. at 5.] The case was assigned to Defendant. [Id.]

         In November 2013, Defendant secured an indictment in Christian County against Plaintiff and two other individuals after testifying before a grand jury there. [Id.] These two other individuals were former Oak Grove police officer Ed Carter and a man named Frank Black. [Id.] Plaintiffs Complaint alleges that Defendant made “materially false statements and/or omissions…with reckless disregard for the truth” while testifying before the grand jury. [Id.] These statements, according to Plaintiff, include but are not limited to the following:

. Newby testified that he interviewed Tammy Papler [an owner of the massage parlor] who said it was common knowledge that Ed Carter was wanting to take over the massage parlor business. That statement is false. In addition, there was no written statement from Newby regarding an interview of Tammy Papler.
. Newby testified, ‘My opinion is he went there, too. He saw the girls leave, contacted Mr. Black, said there's two left in there.' This statement is false and/or made with a reckless disregard for the truth. There was no evidence of Carter seeing girls leave the massage parlor, no evidence that Carter contacted Mr. Black, and no evidence as to what statement Carter made to Mr. Black on the fabricated phone call.
. Newby testified that Carter's then wife, Carol, made statements that when Carter got home that night he was washing clothes which she thought was very odd. Carol's interview with the [FBI] makes no mention of Carter washing clothes that night or that Carol thought that washing clothes was odd. Newby never interviewed Carol.
. Newby testified that Carter and his co-defendant Duncan had been roommates less than a year before the murders. This statement was false. Carter and Duncan had not lived together, at the latest, … over two years prior to the homicides….
. Newby testified about a completely unrelated disappearance that had occurred in Oak Grove in 1992, and testified that Carter was the canine officer assigned to that case. That statement is false because Carter did not even become a canine officer until…over two years later. . Newby testified that evidence had been lost [and/or] destroyed intentionally by Plaintiff Duncan during the investigation. Detective Newby had no evidence to indicate [that] evidence had been lost during the term under which Oak Grove Police Department manned the murder investigations.

[Id. at 5-7.] “Plaintiff was incarcerated from November 24, 2013, through September 13, 2016, when he received a directed verdict of acquittal as to the charges” against him. [Id. at 7.] Plaintiff has brought claims against Defendant (1) for malicious prosecution under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and under Kentucky common law, and (2) for violations of procedural and substantive due process under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. [Id. at 7-8.] Defendant has filed the instant Motion pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) to dismiss all of Plaintiff s claims against him.

         II. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires that the plaintiffs complaint include “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” “Rule 12(b)(6) provides that a complaint may be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Bloch v. Ribar, 156 F.3d 673, 677 (6th Cir. 1998). Crucially, “[w]hen considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the district court must accept all of the allegations in the complaint as true, and construe the complaint liberally in favor of the plaintiff.” Lawrence v. Chancery Court of Tennessee, 188 F.3d 687, 691 (6th Cir. 1999). This means that, “unless it can be established beyond a doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief, ” the motion should be denied. Achterhof v. Selvaggio, 886 F.2d 826, 831 (6th Cir. 1989). “However, the Court need not accept as true legal conclusions or unwarranted factual inferences.” Blakely v. United States, 276 F.3d 853, 863 (6th Cir. 2002). A “complaint must contain either direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements to sustain a recovery under some viable legal theory.” Andrews v. Ohio, 104 F.3d 803, 806 (6th Cir. 1997).

         Although a “complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Thus, the plaintiff's “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Id. The concept of “plausibility” demands that a complaint contain sufficient facts “to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570. The element of plausibility 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.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). However, where the court is unable to “infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but has not show[n]-that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Id. at 679 (internal quotation marks omitted).

         In examining whether Plaintiff has stated a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), this Court keeps in mind the following maxim: complaints filed pro se are “to be liberally construed, ” which means that “a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976)). Notably though, this Court is not “willing to abrogate basic pleading essentials in pro se suits.” Wells v. Brown, 891 F.2d 591, 594 (6th Cir. 1989) (citing Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 521 (1972)). This means that, even where a layperson proceeds pro se, their ‚Äúcomplaint must contain sufficient ...

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