United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. Reeves United States District Judge.
Nickie Miller alleges that various state and county law
enforcement officers framed him for the murder of Paul
Brewer. Miller claims that, while he was awaiting trial,
Defendant Keith Craycraft (the prosecutor in his case)
participated in the destruction of exculpatory evidence.
Craycraft has filed a motion to dismiss, which will be
granted because he enjoys absolute immunity with respect to
Brewer was found dead in his home in Mount Sterling,
Kentucky, on December 22, 2011. [Record No. 1, ¶ 21]
Brewer's arms were strapped to a bed frame, and he had
been shot twice in the head. Natasha Martin eventually told
officers with the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office that
she, Cody Hall (Martin's husband at the time), and
Defendant Miller were involved in Brewer's murder.
Id. ¶ 121. Martin reported that she, Miller,
Hall and another woman went to Brewer's home. The women
went inside and lured Brewer to a bedroom, where they tied
him to the bed frame. According to Martin's statement,
the women left the residence as Miller and Hall entered.
Martin, who was apparently waiting outside, heard a gunshot
before the men exited. Id. ¶ 122. She advised
law enforcement that she and the others went to Brewer's
home to rob him and that she and the other woman were paid
$340.00 for their participation. Miller maintains that that
Martin's statements were coerced and that law enforcement
knew at the time that the statements were false.
was arrested on a criminal complaint for Brewer's murder
on November 12, 2015. Id. ¶ 127. A grand jury
returned an indictment against him approximately two weeks
later, charging him with murder and being a persistent felony
offender. Id. at ¶ 132. Hall and Martin were
also indicted for the robbery and murder of Brewer, and were
taken into custody.
being held in the Montgomery County Detention Center, Hall
and Martin exchanged correspondence in which Martin allegedly
revealed that the police forced her to lie about Miller's
involvement in Brewer's murder. Id. ¶ 156.
Miller's defense attorney made a motion to obtain the
correspondence between Hall and Martin. Id. ¶
160. The Montgomery County Circuit Court issued a sealed
order on June 15, 2017, requiring personnel of the Montgomery
County Detention Center to retrieve the correspondence and
produce it to the defense.
investigator from the defense team arrived at the Montgomery
County Detention Center around noon on June 15, 2017.
Id. ¶ 164. The investigator informed jail staff
of the court order and requested the correspondence between
Martin and Hall. However, a jail staff member informed the
investigator that Martin had already been released from
custody. Miller alleges that a detention center employee
called Martin the following day and advised her that an
investigator had been there to retrieve her correspondence
via a court order. Id. ¶ 169.
contends that, after receiving the call advising her of the
court order, Martin sought advice from Craycraft, who
encouraged her to destroy the correspondence. Id.
¶ 170. Telephone records confirm that Martin and
Craycraft participated in a series of telephone calls on the
afternoon of June 16, 2017. Hall, who was still in custody,
placed a recorded call to Martin at on June 16, 2017, at 8:52
p.m. Martin advised Hall that the defense team
“subpoenaed your mail and my mail . . . . I guess she
went up to the Montgomery County Jail today to get mine and I
wasn't there, so you know she threw ten kinds of hell,
because my friend LaDonna was there. She works
laundry.” Id. ¶ 185. Hall then asked
Martin where the letters were located. Martin responded:
“Not here. I got rid of it. It's burnt.”
Id. ¶ 186.
contends that Craycraft's alleged role in the destruction
of exculpatory evidence caused him to remain in jail until
charges against him were dismissed on November 21, 2017.
Id. ¶ 204. Accordingly, Miller asserts,
Craycraft's conduct amounted to a violation of his due
process rights under the Fourth Amendment, for which he seeks
compensatory and punitive damages under 42 U.S.C. §
complaint must contain a “short and plain statement of
the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). To survive a motion to
dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), it
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). While the court makes all reasonable inferences in
favor of the non-moving party, the plaintiff must plead
factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the conduct
alleged. Id. (citing Bell Atlantic Co. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)). A district court may
not grant a motion to dismiss because it does not believe the
complaint's factual allegations, but conclusory
allegations or legal conclusions “masquerading as
factual allegations” will not suffice. Nwanguma v.
Trump, 903 F.3d 604, 611 (6th Cir. 2018) (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).
prosecutors are absolutely immune from civil liability when
acting within the scope of their prosecutorial duties.”
Howell v. Sanders, 668 F.3d 344, 349 (6th Cir. 2012)
(citing Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 420
(1976)). This is true even when the allegations involve
“unquestionably illegal or improper conduct, ” as
long as the general nature of the action in question is part
of a prosecutor's normal duties. Cady v. Arenac
Cnty., 574 F.3d 334, 340 (6th Cir. 2009) (citing
Imbler, 424 U.S. at 413). Although absolute immunity
may leave a genuinely-wronged defendant without civil redress
against a prosecutor whose malicious or dishonest actions
deprives him of liberty, “the broader public interest
would be disserved if defendants could retaliate against
prosecutors who were doing their duties.” Adams v.
Hanson, 656 F.3d 397, 401-02 (6th Cir. 2011) (citing
Imbler, 424 U.S. at 427).
Supreme Court has endorsed a “functional
approach” to determine whether a prosecutor is entitled
to this protection. Prince v. Hicks, 198 F.3d 607,
611 (6th Cir. 1999) (citing Buckley v. Fitzsimmons,
509 U.S. 259, 269 (1993)). Under this approach, the court
looks to “the nature of the function performed, not the
identity of the actor who performed it.” Id.
The official seeking absolute immunity has the burden of