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Clair v. Bevin

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

March 2, 2018

MICHAEL ST. CLAIR, Plaintiff,
v.
MATT G. BEVIN, et al. Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

          GREGORY F. VAN TATENHOVE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant James Erwin's Motion for Screening and Extension of Time, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. [R. 4.] Under § 1915A, a Court is required to screen a complaint when a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer. Defendant Michael St. Clair does not oppose the screening, but maintains that his claims are not frivolous and should not be dismissed. [R. 5.] The Court has screened Mr. St. Clair's Complaint and finds he has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. For the following reasons, Mr. St. Clair's claims are dismissed.

         I

         Mr. St. Clair previously filed a similar action in this Court, but the former action was dismissed as premature. St. Clair v. Thompson, No. 3:14-CV-00056-GFVT, 2015 WL 1526118 (E.D. KY. Apr. 3, 2015). He explains, in September 1991, in Oklahoma, he was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder and one count of solicitation to first-degree murder, and on these convictions, he received two sentences of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole and one additional life sentence. [R. 1 at ¶6.] In January 1994, also in Oklahoma, he was convicted of two additional counts of murder and received two additional life without parole sentences. Id. at ¶7. In Oklahoma alone, he has received four different life without parole sentences.

         In October 1991, while in prison in Oklahoma awaiting sentencing for his 1991 conviction, Mr. St. Clair escaped from prison, fleeing to Hardin County, Kentucky. St. Clair v. Thompson, at *1. Upon arrival, he and Dennis Gene Reese (“Reese”) kidnapped Frances Brady (also known as Frank Brady) and stole his pickup truck. Id. They transported Mr. Brady to Bullitt County, where they murdered him. Id. Subsequently, Mr. St. Clair and Mr. Reese parted ways before they were arrested separately. Id. Due to the kidnapping of Mr. Brady in Hardin County, Kentucky, and his subsequent murder in Bullitt County, Kentucky, criminal charges were filed against Mr. St. Clair in Hardin Circuit Court relative to the kidnapping of Mr. Brady and in Bullitt Circuit Court relative to Mr. Brady's murder. Id.

         A

         On December 20, 1991, Mr. St. Clair was indicted in Hardin Circuit Court for two counts of receiving stolen property, criminal attempt to commit murder, and second-degree arson. See Commonwealth of Kentucky v. Michael St. Clair, No. 91-CR-00207. Later, on January 17, 1992, the Hardin County Grand Jury indicted him for the capital kidnapping of Brady. See Commonwealth of Kentucky v. Michael St. Clair, No. 92-CR-00002. On June 19, 1998, the Commonwealth filed its Notice of Intent to Seek Death Penalty. Mr. St. Clair was convicted in February of 2001 of the capital kidnapping of Mr. Brady, and he was sentenced to death. He appealed his conviction to the Kentucky Supreme Court. On October 20, 2005, the Kentucky Supreme Court reversed his conviction and remanded for a new trial. St. Clair v. Commonwealth of Kentucky, 174 S.W.3d 474 (Ky. 2005). On remand, the Hardin County kidnapping case went to trial again in 2009, but it was prematurely terminated due to a mistrial. Before the case could be tried again, Mr. St. Clair petitioned the Kentucky Supreme Court for a writ of prohibition barring his retrial, arguing that retrial would violate both the Interstate Agreement on Detainers and his federal and state constitutional rights to a speedy trial. St. Clair v. Coleman, No. 2007-SC-000901, 2008 WL 2484715 (Ky. June 19, 2008) (unpublished opinion). However, the Supreme Court denied St. Clair's petition. Id.

         The Hardin County case went to trial a third time in 2012. The jury in the third trial found Mr. St. Clair guilty of all counts, except for the arson charge, for which he was convicted of the lesser-included offense of criminal facilitation of second-degree arson. In the sentencing phase, the jury recommended Mr. St. Clair be sentenced to death for the kidnapping, as well as sentences of twenty years in prison for attempted murder of the Kentucky State Trooper, five years for each count of receiving stolen property, and five years for facilitation of arson, all to be served consecutively for a total of thirty-five (35) years. The trial court sentenced him in accordance with the jury's recommendation.

         Mr. St. Clair appealed his conviction and sentence to the Kentucky Supreme Court. St. Clair v. Commonwealth of Kentucky, No. 2012-SC-000130-MR. St. Clair raised thirty-five (35) claims in this appeal. On February 19, 2015, the Supreme Court reversed his convictions, addressing only those claims necessary to its decision, and remanded for a new trial. St. Clair v. Commonwealth of Kentucky, 455 S.W.3d 869 (Ky. 2015). On April 12, 2017, Mr. St. Clair pleaded guilty to the Hardin County charges in exchange for a total sentence of thirty years in prison. [R. 1 at 4.] The Hardin Circuit Court entered a judgement consistent with this deal on June 15, 2017. Id.

         B

         Meanwhile, in February 1992, Mr. St. Clair and Mr. Reese were jointly indicted in Bullitt Circuit Court, Bullitt County, Kentucky, for the murder of Mr. Brady. See Commonwealth of Kentucky v. Michael St. Clair, No. 92-CR-010. Mr. Reese entered a guilty plea in Bullitt Circuit Court and agreed to testify for the Commonwealth. Mr. St. Clair pleaded not guilty and proceeded to trial. In 1998, Mr. St. Clair was convicted of Mr. Brady's murder and received a death sentence, in accordance with the jury's recommendation. On direct appeal, the Kentucky Supreme Court affirmed the conviction but remanded for a new capital sentencing phase trial because the jury was not instructed on life without the possibility of parole as a sentencing alternative. St. Clair v. Commonwealth, 140 S.W.3d 510 (Ky. 2004) (hereinafter St. Clair I Bullitt).

         In September 2005, Mr. St. Clair was again sentenced to death. In April 2010, the Kentucky Supreme Court again reversed that sentence and remanded for a new sentencing phase because of inadequate jury instructions. See St. Clair v. Commonwealth, 319 S.W.3d 300, 306-08 (Ky. 2010) (hereinafter St. Clair II Bullitt). Subsequently, in July 2010, Mr. St. Clair moved for a new trial, claiming comparative bullet lead analysis (CBLA) evidence, which had been used in the guilt phase of his 1998 trial, had recently been determined unreliable and thus inadmissible. The Bullitt Circuit Court denied the motion in January 2011. Initially, he sought interlocutory relief at the Kentucky Court of Appeals, but voluntarily dismissed the action because it could be consolidated with the appeal of the sentence.

         In October 2011, the Bullitt Circuit Court sentenced Mr. St. Clair to death. He appealed both the denial of his motion for a new trial and his death sentence to the Kentucky Supreme Court, raising thirty-two (32) claims. St. Clair v. Commonwealth of Kentucky, No. 2011-SC- 000774-MR. On August 21, 2014, the Kentucky Supreme Court affirmed his conviction for murder and his death sentence. St. Clair v. Commonwealth, ...


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