The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Judge Curtis L. Collier
Before the Court are cross-motions for summary judgment filed by Plaintiff Raymond Teague (Court File No. 44) and Defendants Bill Cox, Thomas Evans, Bill Dalton, Lynn Duncan, Charles Traughber, Patsy Bruce, Ronnie Cole, and Jack G. Elder (Court File No. 31). The Court has reviewed the briefs and related submissions of the parties, the evidence, and the applicable law. For the following reasons, the Court will GRANT Defendants' motion (Court File No. 31) and DENY Plaintiff's motion (Court File No. 44).
Plaintiff, an inmate in a Tennessee prison, brings this complaint under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985. He alleges the methods and procedures used by Defendants in denying him parole violated his constitutional rights.
Plaintiff was convicted of first degree murder in 1980 for killing his exwife. He was originally sentenced to death, but in 1995 the sentence was reduced to life imprisonment. See generally State v. Teague, 897 S.W.2d 248 (Tenn. 1995); Teague v. State, 772 S.W.2d 932, 934-35 (Tenn. Crim. App. 1988).
Plaintiff became eligible for parole in 2005, and a parole hearing was held on April 19, 2005. That hearing was attended by two members of the Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole (BOPP), defendants Dalton and Duncan. At the hearing, Dalton and Duncan voted to deny Plaintiff's parole. Two other BOPP members, defendants Cole and Bruce, did not attend the hearing but voted to deny parole after reviewing Plaintiff's parole file. Each made their decision based on the seriousness of the offense. In denying parole, BOPP relied on the parole laws and procedures in effect at the time of the hearing, rather than those in effect at the time of the offense. Plaintiff alleges BOPP has granted parole on first consideration to other inmates who were serving life sentences for first degree murder despite having worse disciplinary records than Plaintiff (Court File Nos. 54-2, 54-3).
Defendant Evans, who was a victim-witness advocate for the district attorney's office of Hamilton County, Tennessee, appeared at the parole hearing via videoconferencing equipment. Speaking on behalf of the district attorney's office, he argued against parole. Plaintiff alleges Evans referenced a murder charge against Plaintiff which had been expunged in accordance with Tennessee law. Separate from his murder conviction, Plaintiff had entered a plea of no contest to accessory before the fact to murder for the killing of John Mark Edmonds, which Evans argued was Plaintiff's motive for killing his exwife. Defendant contends there is no evidence Plaintiff's conviction was ever expunged. However, they note the criminal charge was subsequently dismissed. See Teague, 772 S.W.2d at 932 (dismissing conviction due to ineffective assistance of counsel).
Plaintiff contends he was denied due process as a result of the use of the expunge offense and the loss of the tape of the parole hearing, which he claims hampered his ability to appeal. He also alleges the parole board committed an ex post facto violation by using parole procedures in effect at the time of the hearing, rather than at the time of the offense.
Summary judgment is proper when "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). When evaluating cross-motions for summary judgment, each motion is evaluated on its own merits with all facts and inferences in the light favorable to the nonmoving party. Bakery & Confectionery Union & Indus. Int'l Health Benefits & Pension Funds v. New Bakery Co., 133 F.3d 955, 958 (6th Cir. 1998).
First, the moving party must demonstrate no genuine issue of material fact exists. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986); Leary v. Daeschner, 349 F.3d 888, 897 (6th Cir. 2003). The Court views the evidence, including all reasonable inferences, in the light most favorable to the non-movant. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574 (1986); Nat'l Satellite Sports, Inc. v. Eliadis Inc., 253 F.3d 900, 907 (6th Cir. 2001). However, the non-movant is not entitled to a trial based solely on its allegations, but must submit significant probative evidence to support its claims. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324; McLean v. Ontario, Ltd., 224 F.3d 797, 800 (6th Cir. 2000). The moving party is entitled to summary judgment if the non-movant fails to make a sufficient showing on an essential element for which it bears the burden of proof. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. In short, if the Court concludes a fair-minded jury could not return a verdict in favor of the non-movant based on the record, the Court may enter summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986); Lansing Dairy, Inc. v. Espy, 39 F.3d 1339, 1347 (6th Cir. 1994).
A. Due Process Violations
Plaintiff contends Defendants violated his constitutional right to due process by relying on an expunged offense in denying parole and losing the audio tape of his parole hearing. Defendants contend prisoners have no due process rights in parole ...