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Forrest v. Madison County

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Eastern Division

September 20, 2017




         On April 8, 2016, Plaintiff Justin Rashad Forrest, who is incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution in Memphis, Tennessee, filed a pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 accompanied by a motion to proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF Nos. 1 & 2.) In an order issued April 11, 2016, the Court granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis and assessed the civil filing fee pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(a)-(b). (ECF No. 5.) On December 8, 2016, Forrest filed a motion to amend his complaint. (ECF No. 6.) The amendment is intended to supplement, rather than supersede, the original complaint. Therefore, the motion is GRANTED. The Clerk shall record the defendants as Madison County, the State of Tennessee, the City of Jackson, [1] Jackson Police Department (JPD) Investigators Michael Parson and Tyreece Miller, [2] JPD Officer Terry Dyer, Assistant District Attorney Jody S. Pickens, and Public Defender Susan D. Korsnes.[3]

         On January 11, 2017, Forrest filed a motion for appointment of counsel (ECF No. 7) and a second motion to amend (ECF No. 8). The second motion to amend is actually a motion asking the Court to issue process for the Defendants. Given the dismissal of this case, both the motion to issue process and the motion to appoint counsel are DENIED.

         I. The Complaint

         In his complaint, Forrest largely attempts to re-try his criminal case. He alleges that in December 2006 Defendant Dyer and his partner were looking for two burglary suspects, Shawn Greer and Michael Greer, when they came to a residence where Plaintiff was staying. (ECF No. 1 at PageID 7.) Although Forrest told Defendant Dyer the Greers were not there, Dyer asked him for his name, date of birth and social security number, which Forrest provided. (Id. at PageID 8.) Two hours later, Defendant Dyer returned and arrested Forrest on a warrant for violating probation; Forrest was placed in the back of a patrol car. (Id.)

         At that time, one of the burglary suspects, Sean Greer, was spotted by Defendant Dyer, who handcuffed Greer and placed him in the patrol car with Forrest. (Id. at PageID 8-9.) Dyer and his partner took both Greer and Forrest to the scene of the burglary, allegedly so Greer could be identified by the victims, Greer's aunt and cousin. (Id. at PageID 9.) Forrest alleges it was illegal to take him to that crime scene because it had nothing to do with him. (Id.) The officers then took Forrest to the Madison County Criminal Justice Complex (CJC), where he was booked for the violation of probation. (Id.) The next day, Forrest appeared before a judge, who allowed him to serve 48 hours in the CJC rather than requiring him to perform community service. (Id. at PageID 9-10.) Forrest served the 48 hours and was released without any other pending charges, warrants or detainers. (Id. at PageID 10.)

         Forrest was again arrested by the JPD and Madison County Sheriff's Department as a result of events that occurred on January 21, 2007, and charged with several offenses. (Id. at PageID 5.) Forrest alleges that while he was incarcerated on those charges, Defendant Dyer and his partner made statements in which they “changed” the description of the second suspect in the earlier December burglary to fit Forrest's description even though Michael Greer previously had been identified as the second suspect by Greer's aunt and cousin. (Id. at PageID 10.) Forrest alleges that the burglary charge was placed on him by Defendants Parson, Miller and Dyer. (Id.)

         Forrest alleges that he wanted to go to trial on all of the charges, but Defendant Korsnes refused to review any of the discovery or file any pretrial motions. (Id. at PageID 6.) Instead, she allegedly tried to compel Forrest into accepting a plea agreement because Defendant Korsnes, “'. . . was not doing nothing that Jody S. Pickens did not want [her] to do in this case.'” (Id.) Forrest contends that Defendants Korsnes and Pickens had all of the pertinent discovery prior to trial, including two positive identifications of the two other suspects in the burglary from a photo line-up done by Defendants Parson and Miller; Forrest's photo was not in the line-up, so he not identified as a suspect. (Id. at PageID 11-12.)

         Forrest contends that he had no choice but to accept the state's plea offer, which called for a 15-year sentence to run concurrent with the sentence imposed on a related federal charge.[4] (Id. at PageID 11.) However, he alleges that Defendants Korsnes and Pickens were aware that the state and federal sentences actually could not run concurrent and, therefore, did not put the federal authorities on notice of the state convictions. (Id. at PageID 12.) Forrest further alleges that the state trial judge accepted the plea while knowing he did not have jurisdiction to order a federal sentence to run concurrent with the state sentence. (Id.)

         Forrest's later motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.01 was granted by the Madison County Circuit Court on November 26, 2014. (Id. at PageID 13.) Forrest was allowed to withdraw his plea agreement, and the charges were reinstated. (Id.) However, at a motion hearing on July 17, 2015, the trial judge ordered all of the charges dismissed, on motion of the prosecutor. (Id. at PageID 14; see also ECF No. 1-3 (order of dismissal).) Plaintiff alleges the charges were dismissed because the “government employees” knew he was not the person who committed the crimes. (Id. at PageID 14.) However, the order itself states only that the prosecution's witnesses had advised “that the crimes occurred but that they had gone on with their lives and refuse to attend the Court.” (ECF No. 1-3.)[5]

         Forrest alleges that he was maliciously prosecuted and sent to prison for crimes that he did not commit and that his Fourth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated due to negligence, failure to properly train employees, and failure to follow state and federal laws. (Id. at PageID 15.) He further asserts claims of libel, slander, deceit and misrepresentation. Forrest alleges he suffered mental anguish. (Id. at PageID 5-6.) Forrest seeks injunctive relief as well as compensatory and punitive damages. (Id. at PageID 22-24.)

         II. Analysis

         The Court is required to screen prisoner complaints and to dismiss any complaint, or any portion thereof, if the complaint-

(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         In assessing whether the complaint in this case states a claim on which relief may be granted, the standards under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), as stated in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-79 (2009), and in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-57 (2007), are applied. Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010). “Accepting all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true, the Court ‘consider[s] the factual allegations in [the] complaint to determine if they plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief.'” Williams v. Curtin, 631 F.3d 380, 383 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 681). “[P]leadings that . . . are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth. While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679; see also Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 n.3 (“Rule 8(a)(2) still requires a ‘showing, ' rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief. Without some factual allegation in the complaint, it is hard to see how a claimant could satisfy the requirement of providing not only ‘fair notice' of the nature of the claim, but also ‘grounds' on which the claim rests.”).

         “A complaint can be frivolous either factually or legally.” Hill, 630 F.3d at 470 (citing Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989)). “Any complaint that is legally frivolous would ipso facto fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Id. (citing Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 328-29).

Whether a complaint is factually frivolous under ยงยง 1915A(b)(1) and 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) is a separate issue from whether it fails to state a claim for relief. Statutes allowing a complaint to be dismissed as frivolous give judges not only the authority to dismiss a claim based on an indisputably meritless legal theory, but also the unusual power to pierce the veil of the complaint's factual allegations and dismiss those claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless. Unlike a dismissal for failure to state a claim, where a judge must accept all factual allegations as true, a judge ...

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