United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London
OPINION AND ORDER
K. CALDWELL, CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
charges for the murder of Bob Wiggins were instituted against
Plaintiff William Anderson on December 3, 2011. (DE 1 at 21
¶ 134). After spending nearly five years in state
custody, on May 25, 2016, Anderson was acquitted.
Id. at 2 ¶ 1. Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983, Anderson then filed this suit against Knox County,
former Knox County Sherriff John Pickard, and Knox County
Sherriff's Department Officer Derek Eubanks (“Knox
County Defendants”); and Kentucky State Police Officers
Jason York, Brian Johnson, Mark Mefford, Jackie Joseph, and
Tyson Lawson (“KSP Defendants”). seeking relief
for malicious prosecution, other alleged violations of his
constitutional rights, and various state-law torts. (DE 1).
matter is currently before the Court on three motions to
dismiss filed by the defendants. (DE 25; DE 29; DE 30). The
Knox County Defendants and KSP Defendants argue that all of
Anderson's claims should be dismissed as untimely and for
failing to state a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). (DE 25;
DE 30). Defendant Tyler Lawson independently moves for the
dismissal of all of Anderson's claims against him as
being both untimely and as failing to state a claim on which
relief can be granted, because he believes Anderson has
failed to sufficiently allege Lawson's involvement. (DE
29). For the reasons that follow, these motions shall be
GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN
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 Ct. of Tn.,
188 F.3d 687, 691 (6th Cir. 1999). As such, the following
facts have been taken from Anderson's complaint and will
be considered as true for purposes of the pending
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss.
November 23, 2011, Bob Wiggins was murdered in Bell County,
Kentucky. (DE 1 at 4 ¶ 18). Prior to the murder,
Kimberly York invited Wiggins to her residence under the
pretense of purchasing OxyContin. Id. at ¶
19-20. Wiggins left York's residence in the company of
James Otis Sizemore, who had told Wiggins that someone wanted
to purchase pills from Wiggins on top of Red Bird Mountain.
Id. at 4-5 ¶¶ 21. Upon reaching the top of
the mountain and exiting their car, Sizemore beat Wiggins
multiple times, leaving a divot in his skull. Id. at
¶ 22-23. Sizemore then used a knife found in
Wiggin's pocket to slash Wiggin's throat and stab him
eighteen (18) times. Id. at ¶ 24.
fled the scene in Wiggin's car and ingested some of
Wiggin's pills. Id. at ¶ 24- 25. He drove
to Jeremy Ferrell's residence, where he showered and
changed clothing. Id. at ¶ 26-28. That evening,
Sizemore burned Wiggin's car in Barborville, Kentucky.
Id. at 6 ¶ 29. Two days later, on November 25,
2011, Sizemore and Jeff Gray went to Lowes Department Store
in Corbin, Kentucky, where they purchased a number of items
used to bury Wiggin's body. Id. at ¶ 30.
They buried Wiggins on top of Red Bird Mountain. Id.
at ¶ 31.
Scott, Wiggin's sister, accompanied by Kimberly York,
filed a missing persons report with the Knox County
Sherriff's Office on December 1, 2011. Defendant Eubanks
helped file the report. Id. at ¶ 32-34.
Defendants Eubanks and Pickard began the investigation into
Wiggins death by interviewing York, who indicated that
Wiggins was last seen leaving her residence with Sizemore on
November 23, 2011. York also indicated that Plaintiff
Anderson and Dave Fox might have information about the
murder. Id. at ¶¶ 36-37.
and Pickard interviewed Anderson, who indicated that he had
been caring for a handicapped child on the date of
Wiggin's murder. Id. at 7 ¶ 38-40. The
evening of Wiggin's murder, however, Anderson encountered
Sizemore and Jeremy Ferrell at the grocery store, where
Sizemore asked Anderson to follow Sizemore back to
Ferrell's residence. Id. at 41-43. Mr. Anderson
recalled that Sizemore was driving a black Toyota Camry at
the time, which is the same make, model, and color of the car
that belonged to Wiggins. Id. at 8 ¶ 44, 5
¶ 26. Sizemore later burned papers found in the car, and
gave a black coat and hat from the car to Anderson.
Id. at 8 ¶ 45-48. Dave Fox, a local resident,
was able to corroborate the information provided by Anderson.
Id. at 8-10.
and Pickard next interviewed Sizemore. Id. at 10
¶ 60. At the time, the officers knew that all of the
evidence pointed to Sizemore, but Sizemore claimed he was not
involved in the murder. Id. at 10-11 ¶ 60-64.
Eubanks and Pickard became frustrated with Sizemore and
turned to coaching him on what they wanted him to say.
Id. at 11-12 ¶ 65-73. Eubanks and Pickard then
coached Sizemore to implicate Anderson as the murderer, with
stolen pills as the motive. Id. at ¶ 74-77.
obtaining false statements from Sizemore implicating Anderson
as the murderer, Pickard reached out to Defendant York and
the KSP Defendants to seek their aid in the investigation. In
the same conversation, Pickard indicated that Sizemore had
revealed the location of Wiggins' body. Id. at
13 ¶ 84-85. On December 2, 1011, Bob Wiggin's body
was discovered at the top of Red Bird Mountain-exactly where
Sizemore said it would be. Id. at 10 ¶ 60, 14
York, Eubanks, and Johnson interviewed Sizemore once again.
Id. at 14 ¶ 93. At this interview, York,
Eubanks, and Johnson fabricated a fictionalized narrative of
Wiggin's murder, which they knew was false, and which was
conclusively proved untrue through their subsequent
investigation. Nonetheless, the officers convinced
Sizemore to go along with the fabrication, naming Anderson as
the murderer. Id. at 15 ¶ 94-99.
December 3, 2011, little more than one week after
Wiggins' murder and one day after the finding of his
body, Defendant Mefford signed a criminal complaint against
Anderson. On the same day, Anderson was arrested for the
murder of Wiggins. Id. at 21 ¶ 134-135. The
Knox County and KSP Defendants knew that the statements used
to obtain the criminal complaint against Anderson were false
and that probable cause did not exist to initiate charges
against Anderson. Nonetheless, the defendants continued to
conspire together to suppress exculpatory evidence and
preserve fabricated evidence, which implicated Anderson in
Wiggins' murder and aided in his prosecution through the
end of Anderson's trial. Id. at ¶ 136-23
spending nearly five (5) years in custody on false charges
based on fabricated evidence and enduring a capital trial,
Anderson was acquitted. Id. at 24 ¶ 156-157.
Standard of Review
survive a Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) motion, “a complaint
must contain 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); see
also Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555
(2007); Wesley v. Campbell, 779 F.3d 421, 427 (6th
Cir. 2015); Handy-Clay v. City of Memphis, Tenn.,
695 F.3d 531, 538 (6th Cir. 2012).
“plaintiffs need not meet a ‘probability
requirement' . . . they must show ‘more than a
sheer possibility that a defendant has acted
unlawfully.'” Wesley, 779 F.3d at 427-28
(quoting Rondigo, LLC v. Twp. of Richmond, 641 F.3d
673, 680 (6th Cir. 2011)). “In ruling on the issue, a
district court must ‘construe the complaint in the
light most favorable to the plaintiff, accept its allegations
as true, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the
plaintiff.'” Id. at 428 (quoting
Directv, Inc. v. Treesh, 487 F.3d 471, 476 (6th Cir.
2007)). It is the defendant who “has the burden of
showing that the plaintiff has failed to state a claim for
42 U.S.C. § 1983
state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the
violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of
the United States, and must show that the alleged violation
was committed by a person acting under color of state
law.” West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988);
Miller v. Sanilac Cty., 606 F.3d 240, 247 (6th Cir.
2010). “If a plaintiff fails to make a showing on any
essential element of a § 1983 claim, it must
fail.” Redding v. St. Eward, 241 F.3d 530, 532
(6th Cir. 2001).
§ 1983 “is not itself a source of any substantive
rights, but instead provides the means by which rights
conferred elsewhere may be enforced, ” the Court's
“first task . . . is to identify the specific
constitutional or statutory rights allegedly
infringed.” Meals v. City of Memphis, 493 F.3d
720, 727-28 (6th Cir. 2007). “That [a plaintiff]
asserts claims under various constitutional provisions does
not control [the Court's] inquiry.” Moldowan v.
City of Warren, 578 F.3d 351, 376 (6th Cir. 2009).
“Rather, the critical question is whether the
‘legal norms' underlying those claims implicate
clearly established constitutional rights.”
Id. (citing Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S.
511, 528 (1985)).
alleges that the defendants violated his constitutional
rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth amendments when they
conspired together to frame him for the murder of Bob
Wiggins. (DE 1). Specifically, Anderson alleges seven
different constitutional violations that might be remedied
under Section 1983: (1) malicious prosecution, (2)
fabrication of evidence, (3) due process violations, (4)
supervisor liability, (5) failure to intervene, (6)
conspiracy, and (7) a claim under Monell v. Dept. of Soc.
Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978). (DE 1 at 25 ¶ 162-35
¶ 211). All of the defendants' motions to dismiss,
(DE 25; DE 29; DE 30), argue that Anderson's claims are
time barred and that Anderson has otherwise failed to state a
Count I: Malicious Prosecution
“The Sixth Circuit ‘recognizes a separate
constitutionally cognizable claim of malicious prosecution
under the Fourth Amendment,' which ‘encompasses
wrongful investigation, prosecution, conviction, and
incarceration.'” Sykes v. Anderson, 625
F.3d 294, 308 (6th Cir. 2010) (quoting Barnes v.
Wright, 449 F.3d 709, 715-16 (6th Cir. 2006)). “To
succeed on a malicious-prosecution claim under § 1983
when the claim is premised on a violation of the Fourth
Amendment, a plaintiff must prove” four elements.
Id. “First, the plaintiff must show that a
criminal prosecution was initiated against the plaintiff and
that the defendant ‘made, influenced, or participated
in the decision to prosecute.'” Id.
(quoting Fox v. DeSoto, 489 F.3d 277, 237 (6th Cir.
2007)). “Second, because a § 1983 claim is
premised on the violation of a constitutional right, the
plaintiff must show that there was a lack of probable cause
for the criminal prosecution.” Id. (citing
Fox, 489 F.3d at 237 and Voyticky v. Villiage of
Timberlake, Ohio, 412 F.3d 669, 675 (6th Cir. 2005)).
“Third, the plaintiff must show that as a consequence
of a legal proceeding, the plaintiff suffered a
‘deprivation of liberty,' as understood in our
Fourth Amendment jurisprudence, apart from the initial
seizure.” Id. at 308-09 (Johnson v.
Knorr, 477 F.3d 75, 81 (3rd Cir. 2007)). “Fourth,
the criminal proceeding must have been resolved in the
plaintiff's favor.” Id. at 309 (citing
Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 484 (1994)). Under
the Fourth Amendment analysis, it is not necessary to prove
malice or specific intent to violate the plaintiff's
constitutional rights. See id.; Duncan v.
Newby, 2018 WL 627573, at *3 (W.D. Ky. Jan. 29, 2018).
general basis for Anderson's malicious prosecution claim
is that the defendants, while acting both individually and
collectively, influenced and caused the prosecution of
Anderson for a crime he did not commit, despite the absence
of probable cause, thereby depriving Anderson of his liberty
for nearly five years, culminating with his acquittal at
trial. (DE 1 at 25 ¶ 162-27 at ¶ 171).
Anderson's claim is timely under Heck v.
Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), and King v.
Harewood, 852 F.3d 568, 579 (6th Cir. 2017) (“In
short, under heck, a malicious-prosecution claim is not
available before the favorable termination of criminal
proceedings, nor does the limitations period for such a claim
begin until the favorable termination of criminal
Knox County Defendants argue that the existence of a grand
jury indictment against Anderson is conclusive proof of
probable cause and defeats Anderson's claim of malicious
prosecution as a matter of law. (DE 25-1 at 14-15 (citing
Kaley v. United States, 571 U.S. 302, 328 (2014)).
The KSP Defendants present a similar argument. (DE 30-1 at 4-
7). In their memoranda of law, these defendants reiterate the
long-standing tenant that “an indictment fair upon its
face, and returned by a properly constituted grand jury . . .
conclusively determines the existence of probable
cause.” Kaley, 571 U.S. at 308 (citing
Gernstein v. Pugh, 420 U.S. 103, 117 n. 19 (1975)).
Such a presentation of this general rule, however, neglects
more nuanced Fourth Amendment precedent.
v. City of Joliet, Ill., 137 S.Ct. 911 (2017),
“considered and rejected the argument that either a
judge's finding of probable cause or ‘a grand jury
indictment or preliminary examination' forecloses a
Fourth Amendment claim arising from unlawful pretrial
detention.” King v. Harewood, 852 F.3d 568,
588 (6th Cir. 2017). This is because “[t]he Fourth
Amendment prohibits government officials from detaining a
person in the absence of probable cause, ” and
“[t]hat can happen when the police hold someone without
any reason before the formal onset of a criminal proceeding,
” or that “can occur when legal process itself
goes wrong-when, for example, a judge's [or grand
jury's] probable-cause determination is predicated solely
on a police officer's false statements.”
Manuel, 137 S.Ct. at 919. It is for this reason that
the Sixth Circuit recently held that when (1) a law
enforcement officer in the course of a prosecution knowingly
or recklessly makes false statements or “falsifies or
fabricates” evidence; (2) the false statements and
evidence, in addition to any omissions made, are material to
the ultimate prosecution of the plaintiff; and (3) the false
statements, evidence, and omissions do not consist solely of
grand-jury testimony, “the presumption that the
grand-jury indictment is evidence of probable cause is
rebuttable and not conclusive.” King, 852 F.3d
while “[a]s a general rule, the finding of an
indictment, fair upon its face, by a properly constituted
grand jury, conclusively determines the existence of probable
cause, ” it is now held that “an exception
applies where the indictment was obtained wrongfully by
defendant police officers who knowingly presented false
testimony to the grand jury.” Robertson v.
Lucas, 753 F.3d 606, 616 (6th Cir. 2014). Indeed,
“even if independent evidence establishes probable
cause against a suspect, it would still be unlawful for
law-enforcement officers to fabricate evidence in order to
strengthen the case against a suspect.” Webb v.
United States, 789 F.3d 647, 670 (6th Cir. 2015).
alleges that the defendants “knowingly
fabricated” evidence, “including without
limitation, false police reports, fabricated statements
attributed to witnesses, and fabricated testimony offered at
grand jury and other pretrial proceedings.” (DE 1 at 27
¶ 173). Accepting these allegations as true for purposes
of consideration of the defendants' motions to dismiss,
it cannot be said that the mere existence of a grand jury
indictment alone is sufficient grounds to dismiss
Anderson's malicious prosecution claim against the Knox
County and KSP Defendants. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (requiring no more than probability
based on the facts accepted as true for purposes of a Rule
12(b)(6) motion). More discovery will be required to
determine the merits of Anderson's claim, but
Anderson's pleadings are sufficient to survive the
current Rule 12(b)(6) motions. Hoskins v. Knox County,
Ky., 2018 WL 1352163 (E.D. Ky. Mar. 15, 2018).
Anderson's claim against Defendant Lawson will go
forward, despite Lawson's independent motion to dismiss.
(DE 29). This is because-while Lawson alleges there are
insufficient facts and allegations listed in the complaint to
include him in the malicious prosecution claim-Anderson
specifically pleads that all of the defendant
officers “individually, jointly and in conspiracy with
each other” violated Anderson's constitutional
rights. (DE 1 at 27 ¶ 173). Further, Anderson alleges
that Lawson himself worked with the other KSP Defendants to
obtain false statements from a witness implicating Anderson
as the murderer. Id. at 23 ¶ 148-24 ¶ 155.
Such an allegation is “beyond mere negligence or
innocent mistake, ” as is required to satisfy the first
element of a malicious prosecution claim. Johnson v.
Moseley, 790 F.3d 649, 655 (6th Cir. 2015). At this
stage of litigation, the Court is required to accept
Anderson's allegations as true. Accordingly,
Anderson's malicious prosecution claim shall go forward
against all defendants, whose motions to dismiss shall be
denied. (DE 25-1 at 13-15; DE 29-1 at 6-11; DE 30-1 at 4-7).
Count II: Fabricated Evidence
i. Fourth Amendment
Fourth Amendment claim for fabricated evidence lies where a
defendant knowingly manufactures probable cause, thereby
effecting a seizure.” Robertson v. Lucas, 753
F.3d 606, 616 n.5 (6th Cir. 2014). To adequately state a
claim for relief for fabrication of evidence under the Fourth
Amendment, a plaintiff must allege that the defendant
knowingly fabricated evidence against him or her and that
there is a reasonable likelihood that the false evidence
would have affected the decision of the jury. Gregory v.
City of Louisville, 444 F.3d 725, 737 (6th Cir. 2006)
(citing Stemler v. City of Florence, 126 F.3d 856,
872 (6th Cir.1997)). In Kentucky, this Section 1983 claim is
governed by the one-year statute of limitations of Ky. Rev.
Stat. Ann. § ...