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King v. Harwood

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

March 27, 2017

Susan Jean King, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Todd Harwood, Vic Hubbuch, Chad White, and Jeff Medley, in their individual capacities; Commonwealth of Kentucky, dba Kentucky State Police; Unnamed Law Enforcement Officers; Unnamed Supervisors Of Individual Defendants, Defendants-Appellees.

          Argued: January 26, 2017

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky at Louisville. No. 3:15-cv-00762-Gregory N. Stivers, District Judge.

         ARGUED:

          Thomas E. Clay, CLAY DANIEL WALTON ADAMS, PLC, Louisville, Kentucky, for Appellant.

          Perry R. Arnold, KENTUCKY STATE POLICE, Frankfort, Kentucky, for Appellees.

         ON BRIEF:

          Thomas E. Clay, David N. Ward, CLAY DANIEL WALTON ADAMS, PLC, Louisville, Kentucky, for Appellant.

          Perry R. Arnold, KENTUCKY STATE POLICE, Frankfort, Kentucky, for Appellees.

          Before: BOGGS, SILER, and DONALD, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          BOGGS, Circuit Judge.

         Susan King brought suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Kentucky State Police (KSP) Detective Todd Harwood, three of Harwood's supervisors, and unnamed law-enforcement officers and their supervisors, all in their individual capacities, along with the Kentucky State Police. The district court granted Defendants' "Motion to Dismiss/Motion for Summary Judgment, " holding that King's claims were time-barred and, in the alternative, that no genuine issue of material fact existed as to Defendants' qualified immunity. The court also denied King's request under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d) for additional discovery to oppose summary judgment. King appeals both rulings. For the reasons that follow, we reverse as to King's malicious-prosecution claim against Harwood, holding that (1) under the rule in Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), King's malicious-prosecution claims are not time-barred, and (2) Harwood is not entitled to summary judgment on the issue of his qualified immunity.

         I. King Was Convicted of Homicide and Subsequently Exonerated

         On November 5, 1998, ten days after going missing, Kyle Breeden was found dead in the Kentucky River near Gratz and Lockport, Kentucky. Breeden's autopsy revealed that the cause of his death was two non-exiting .22-caliber magnum gunshot wounds to the head. Breeden's legs had been bound with a guitar-amplifier cord.

         The Initial Investigation

         Various KSP detectives, including Sergeant Duncan and Detectives Figg and Bess, investigated the murder, but were unable to identify the perpetrator. All the potential suspects resided either in Mount Eden or in Shelbyville, Kentucky. King was a suspect because of her "on / off again relationship" with Breeden and because during the time between Breeden's disappearance and the location of his body, King had shared with others her premonitions of "Breeden being found in water." Appellant's Br. 46.

         During the course of the investigation, Figg and Bess attempted to obtain a search warrant of King's residence based on information they had that King's home had bullet holes in its floor and that King played the guitar. Figg and Bess met with King for several hours on October 27, 1999, and attempted to obtain King's consent to search. But Figg and Bess were unable to obtain either the warrant or King's consent.

         One week later, on November 3, 1999, Sergeant Duncan met with King in her home after being escorted into the home by King's live-in boyfriend Curtis Carruthers. Duncan advised King that KSP had information indicating that a firearm had been discharged in her home, and Duncan asked to see the bullet holes. King showed Duncan two bullet holes in her kitchen floor, and explained that several years before, "a man named Bo . . . had come uninvited to her home" and "made sexual advances towards her, " so "she told him to leave" and "she then picked up a .22 handgun and fired three shots: one in the kitchen floor, one in the kitchen ceiling and one in the driveway . . . in an effort to make him leave." King also stated that Breeden had subsequently pawned that handgun. King did not explain why there was a second hole in the floor, nor did she know where the bullet hole in the ceiling was, although she stated that the area had been painted over. King did state that the home's previous residents "had also caused holes in the home by gunfire."

         Duncan then asked King for permission to search King's floor area to find the bullets that had made the holes for comparison with the bullets that killed Breeden. King spoke with her attorney, who advised Duncan that "he might advise her to allow the search" if he could review the consent-to-search document. Duncan then left without conducting any further investigation. King alleges that Duncan then directed Figg to request a search warrant again, but "the Commonwealth's Attorney stated that there was not enough probable cause to obtain a search warrant." Duncan's notes indicate that he "did not believe that King was responsible for Breeden's death."

         Harwood's Investigation

         The case then went cold for nearly seven years until KSP Detective Todd Harwood was assigned to it on May 22, 2006. King alleges that much of Harwood's initial investigation, including conversations he had with Duncan, Figg, Bess, and others, was not documented, and that Harwood "routinely failed to record interviews" with individuals. According to King, Harwood interviewed her on May 31, 2006, and June 12, 2006, but did not document either interview-though when Harwood sought a search warrant for King's home on June 12, 2006, he referred to a May 31, 2006, visit to her home.

         Notably, when Harwood sought the search warrant on June 12, 2006, he had only the same information that Figg and Bess had when they had previously sought and failed to obtain a search warrant. Harwood's affidavit in support of the search warrant is recited here in full:

Affiant received information from/observed:
The affiant is the detective presently in charge of the murder investigation of Kyle "Deannie" [sic] Breeden. The cause of death was apparently two gunshot wounds to the head from a 22 caliber firearm using magnum ammunition. The decedent's legs were bound with a guitar amplifier cable. The decedent was found floating in the Kentucky River at the separation point between Henry and Owen Counties. On November 3, 1999, two 22 caliber bullit [sic] holes were seen in King's kitchen floor by a state police detective. This information was provided by Susan King and she stated that the holes were from a 22 caliber weapon and was caused as a result of a domestic altercation with "Bo", a motorcycle guy. This happened according to her three to six years before 1999. King stated that Breeden had sold or pawned the weapon some time before and she has no knowledge of it [sic] location or whereabouts.
Prior to the finding of the decedent's body Susan King told Debbie Jordan, Ronnnnie [sic] Haydon and Mildred Breeden that she had had dreams or premonitions that Breeden being found in water. These conversations were confirmed by interviews in 1998 and 1999. Susan King and Breeden were good friends and lovers in the weeks prior to his disappearance. Breeden had stated that King had taken $300.00 from him. (See sep. sheet for continuation)
Continuation sheet:
Breeden had stated to individuals that he would get his money back and further that he had told his mother, Mildred Breeden, that King had some of his property and that he would get it from her. Breeden and King were good friends with Ronnie Haydon and Jackie Callahan (now the wife of Ronnie Haydon) who only lived one to two miles from Susan King. A prior boyfriend of Callahan had found large bleach stains in Callahan's car two to three weeks two weeks [sic] or so after Breeden's death. This was confirmed by Detective Bess.
Susan King plays the guitar and this fact was confirmed by interviews with Larry Mobley, Ronnie Haydon and Shawn Wright. Decedent was bound at the legs with a [sic] amplifier/guitar cord.
Fragments of the bullits [sic] that killed Breeden were recovered and are available for comparison with other samples.
Acting on the information received, Affiant conducted the following independent investigation:
May 31, 2006 Susan King was again interviewed and at her residence a guitar, an amplifier and other musical instruments were observed at King's residence.

         The affidavit requested a warrant to search for "property or things used as means of committing a crime" and "property or things in possession of a person to whom it was delivered for the purpose of concealing it or preventing its discovery and which is intended to be used as a means of committing a crime." The affidavit omits the fact that the bullet wounds in Breeden's head were non-exiting (thus leaving open the possibility that the bullet holes in King's floor were made by the bullets that killed Breeden, which was not possible). The affidavit also omits the fact that King had one leg (and, though she now has a prosthetic leg, she did not at the time) and weighed 100 pounds, while Breeden weighed 187 pounds, which would make it less probable than otherwise that King killed Breeden in her kitchen, tied up his body, dragged him to her car, drove forty miles north, and dumped his body into the Kentucky River.

         Harwood received the search warrant. While two other troopers executed the warrant, King alleges that Harwood directed King to go for a drive with Harwood, saying, "If you don't get in my car, I will take away your crutches, handcuff you, and drag you across that gravel driveway and put you in my car." King alleges that Harwood drove around recklessly for most of the six hours during which the other troopers searched King's home.

         The search recovered a section of King's kitchen floor and a .22-caliber bullet. KSP conducted a forensic examination of the bullets, which determined that the "configuration" of the bullet from King's floor was different from that of the bullets that killed Breeden.

         Harwood obtained a second search warrant, based on the same affidavit, on July 27, 2006, and recovered 130 bullets from a tree in King's back yard that had evidently been used for target practice. A February 2, 2007, KSP lab report did not identify any of the 130 bullets or bullet fragments as matching the bullets found in Breeden's skull. KSP also tested the kitchen-floor bullet holes for blood, and, according to King, found blood in one bullet hole that with "one allele" that was "positive for male DNA." "No comparison [could] be made" between this ...


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