United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
M. Hood, Senior U.S. District Judge.
case presents a human tragedy. Plaintiff Jessica Allen lost
her child and her liberty when she was wrongfully imprisoned
in connection with her infant daughter's death. Allen
spent more than three years behind bars before Kentucky
courts overturned her convictions of criminal abuse in the
first degree and complicity to first-degree manslaughter.
believes that Defendant Virgil Rucker, a state police
officer, was at least partially responsible for her
misfortune. She claims Rucker fabricated evidence, falsified
testimony, conducted a shoddy investigation, and pushed for
her prosecution. So she has filed this malicious prosecution
lawsuit seeking monetary damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
and state law.
bring her lawsuit, Allen must show that Rucker acted without
probable cause. And when a grand jury issues an indictment,
that indictment presumptively establishes probable cause. In
some situations, a plaintiff can rebut the presumption, but
in the absence of specific factual allegations against
Rucker, Allen has failed to do so. Thus, this Court must
dismiss her Complaint, and for the reasons stated herein
Defendant's Motion to Dismiss [DE 6] is
Allen (“Allen”) gave birth to her daughter,
Kaylee Buchanan, in April 2008. [DE 1, p. 3, ¶15]. Three
months later, Kaylee was dead. [Id. at p. 6,
¶30]. This case involves Allen's criminal
prosecution after Kaylee's death and whether state police
officer Virgil Rucker (“Rucker”) violated
Allen's Fourth Amendment rights in the process. The facts
in this case come from Allen's Complaint, which the Court
assumes to be true for the purposes of the present motion.
and her boyfriend, Terry Buchanan (“Buchanan”),
moved in together in April 2007. [DE 1, p. 3, ¶14].
Months later, the couple learned Allen was pregnant, and she
gave birth in April 2008. [Id. at ¶15]. Allen
returned to work three months after Kaylee's birth, and
Kaylee stayed with a babysitter from about 2:30 p.m. to 5:30
p.m. each day. [Id. at ¶16]. The babysitter-
identified in the complaint only as “Mrs.
Meade”-described Kaylee as “normal and
healthy” and never noticed any strange marks or
bruising on Kaylee. [Id. at p. 4, ¶17].
after Allen returned to work, she and Buchanan took Kaylee,
and Allen's other son, Braden, to a campsite for the day.
[Id. at ¶18]. Allen's mother and other
family members joined the trip, during which the family
fished and enjoyed the outdoors. [Id.]. The family
spent hours together before departing at about 2 or 3 p.m.
[Id.] Kaylee “seemed happy and normal”
during the trip. [Id.].
returning home, Allen fed Kaylee a bottle and laid her in a
bassinette before cooking dinner. [Id. at ¶20].
At some point, Kaylee begin to stir and Allen asked Buchanan
to watch Kaylee while she showered and spent time in a
tanning bed. [Id. at ¶21]. After showering, but
before entering the tanning bed, Allen heard Kaylee giggle
from the other room. [Id.]. She then entered the
tanning bed. [Id.].
tanning, Allen heard Buchanan tell Braden to go to bed and
she observed a shadow pass by the tanning room. [Id.
at p. 5, ¶22]. She assumed Buchanan was putting Braden
to bed. [Id.]. She then heard what she described as
“not a normal cry” from Kaylee, but Allen stayed
in the tanning bed and did not check on Kaylee. [Id.
at ¶23]. Kaylee eventually stopped crying.
Allen finished tanning, Buchanan ran into the tanning room
and lifted the tanning bed lid; he was holding a limp and
unresponsive Kaylee in his harms. [Id. at ¶24].
Allen attempted rescue breaths, chest compressions, and the
Heimlich Maneuver. [Id. at ¶25]. A volunteer
firefighter then arrived and began rescue breaths.
[Id. at ¶26]. Kaylee had a slight pulse when
she arrived at the Fleming County Emergency Room.
[Id. at ¶27]. The doctor noticed irregular
symptoms, and a CT scan showed swelling and blood around
Kaylee's brain. [Id. at pp. 5-6, ¶28].
Kaylee was pronounced brain dead on July 23, 2008; an autopsy
showed she died of blunt force injury to the head.
[Id. at ¶30]. Kaylee also had a muscle injury
on her right leg, which a doctor said would have occurred
eight to ten days prior to her x-rays in the emergency room.
[Id. at ¶¶30-32].
Fleming County Grand Jury indicted Allen, and she was tried
and convicted of criminal abuse in the first degree for the
leg injury and complicity to first-degree manslaughter for
failing to prevent Buchanan from inflicting the fatal injury
to Kaylee's head. [Id. at ¶33]. Several
years of appeals followed. And eventually, the Kentucky Court
of Appeals reversed both of Allen's convictions.
[Id. at p.7, ¶37]. The appeals court reasoned
there was “no evidence” of the requisite mens rea
on the complicity charge. [Id. at ¶38]. The
court also reversed the criminal abuse charge. [Id.
at p. 8, ¶40]. The Fleming Circuit Court dismissed the
charges against Allen on September 27, 2016. [Id. at
then filed this lawsuit seeking damages against Rucker. She
claims Rucker “had no more information than that which
was presented at trial when he made, influence, and
participated in the decision to prosecute Ms. Allen.”
[Id. at ¶41]. Allen alleges Rucker investigated
witnesses in a manner which was intimating, threatened
witnesses and coerced them to give false testimony, omitted
material exculpatory facts from his investigation and report,
presented false or misleading information in the application
and affidavit submitted to obtain a search warrant, and
presented false and misleading evidence to prosecutors and
the grand jury. [Id. at ¶ 8-9, ¶¶43,
47-48]. This, Allen argues, amounts to a malicious
prosecution in violation of the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and
Fourteenth Amendments. [Id. at ¶49]. She sued
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law.
has filed a Motion to Dismiss for failure to state a claim
under Rule 12(b)(6). [DE 6]. Allen responded [DE 10] and