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Neal v. Dean

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division

February 26, 2015

WILLIAM J. NEAL, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
DWAYNE DEAN, L.D. BETHEA, BRYANT CANADY, CHRISTOPHER ROGERSON, CHRISTINA MUMMA, C. BRANSON VICKORY, III, J. MICHAEL RICKS, OFFICER ROBERT T. SMITH, and DIANE HAMILTON, Defendants.

ORDER

LOUISE W. FLANAGAN, District Judge.

This matter, brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983, is before the court on defendants' respective motions to dismiss (DE 17, 19, 31, 53, 55) under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The issues raised have been fully briefed and are ripe for adjudication. For the following reasons, the court grants defendants' motions.

BACKGROUND

On April 27, 2010, in the Wayne County Superior Court, plaintiff was found guilty, following a jury trial, of the following: (1) first-degree statutory rape; (2) first-degree sex offense; (3) first-degree burglary; and (4) indecent liberties with a child. State v. Neal, No. COA 11-110, 2011 WL 4552589, at *1 ( N.C. App. 2011). On April 28, 2010, the trial court sentenced plaintiff to the following consecutive terms of imprisonment: (1) life imprisonment on the first-degree rape conviction; (2) life imprisonment on the first-degree statutory sexual offense conviction; (3) life imprisonment on the first-degree burglary conviction; and (4) 10 years on the charge of indecent liberties with a minor conviction. Id.

Plaintiff then filed a notice of appeal to the North Carolina Court of Appeals. See id. The court of appeals found the following facts:

On 21 August 1987, a man climbed through the second-floor balcony of an apartment and raped an N.C. State student. The rape occurred during the early morning hours, while one of the student's roommates was in another room of the apartment. The man held a knife to the student's throat, and he removed her clothing. The man told her not to make a sound or he would kill her. The student reported the rape to the Raleigh police. She described the man as a white male, with dirty-blond hair, a beard, a mustache, and a strong country accent. The student was taken to Rex Hospital, and a rape examination was completed. The examination indicated that the student received no physical injury from the rape.
Defendant was identified as a suspect. Defendant was initially considered a suspect because he had been arrested in the area and charged with three counts of peeping tom. Defendant was later acquitted of the peeping tom charges.
Two pubic hairs were found on the student's comforter. Raleigh police took a pubic hair sample from defendant. These hairs were found to be consistent with the hairs found on the comforter. On 21 August 1987, defendant was indicted. Prior to trial, the student planned to move to Charleston to begin work, and she did not wish to testify. The student hired an attorney, and she instructed the attorney to request that all charges against defendant be dropped. On 22 February 1990, the charges against defendant were dropped.
On 4 September 1987, a man climbed through the window of an apartment and raped a twelve-year-old girl. The rape occurred during the early morning hours, while the girl's brother and mother were in another room in the apartment. The man held a knife to the girl's throat, and he removed her clothing. The man told the girl to be quiet, and he would not hurt her. The girl described the man who raped her as a white male, with dusty-brown hair, a beard, and a mustache. The girl was taken to a hospital where a rape examination was completed. The examination indicated that the girl received no physical injury from the rape. The girl's nightgown was collected as evidence. A nurse at the hospital attached a safety pin to the right armpit of the nightgown, so that the nightgown could later be identified at trial.
In 1989, Dwayne Dail was arrested and convicted of the rape of the twelve-year-old-girl. Sometime in 2007, the Actual Innocence Commission (the commission) sought to have the girl's nightgown tested for DNA. The commission contacted the Wayne County Clerk of Court and the Goldsboro Police Department in an attempt to locate the nightgown. The commission was informed that all of the evidence from the case had been destroyed. However, the nightgown was later found in a secondary storage room at the Goldsboro Police Department. This storage room was referred to as "the bike room." The bike room is a large, concrete block reinforced room, with a concrete floor and a steel door. There are three keys to the door. Each key is held by a different crime scene officer. The bike room is not climate controlled. A majority of the evidence located in the bike room was transferred there in 2004. At that time, the evidence being transferred was labeled with a bar code. The bar codes were then entered into the police PISTOL system. However, not all of the evidence that received a bar code was added into the PISTOL system. The nightgown was found in a sealed bag, on a different shelf than the other evidence from the case. On the bag was a sticker from the Wayne Memorial Hospital, as well a bar code. At the time the nightgown was located, it had not been entered into the PISTOL system. The officer who located the nightgown later entered it into the system. DNA testing was conducted on the nightgown, and the testing revealed that Dwayne Dail was innocent. The DNA sample extracted from the nightgown was entered into the Combined DNA Indexing System (CODIS), an FBI database. The CODIS search indicated a match with the DNA profile of defendant.
On 5 May 2007, defendant was indicted for offenses against the twelve-year-old-girl. He was indicted with 1) one count of first degree burglary, 2) one count of first degree statutory sex offense, 3) one count of first degree statutory rape, and 4) one count of indecent liberties. The trial occurred during the 19 April 2010 session of Wayne County Superior Court.
In a pretrial motion, defendant sought to have the DNA evidence suppressed, based on an inadequate chain of custody of the nightgown. The trial court denied the motion to suppress. At trial, the State sought to introduce evidence of the 21 August 1987 rape of the student. Defendant objected to this evidence, and the trial court overruled defendant's objection. The student then took the stand and testified to the details of her rape. She also testified that she has a degree in speech, with an emphasis on voices and dialects, and that she could identify defendant as her assailant by his accent. Next, the State asked several questions of a police officer that elicited testimony concerning defendant's peeping tom charges. Defendant objected to this line of questioning. The trial court sustained the objection, and instructed the jury to disregard the officer's answer. Defendant then made a motion for a mistrial. The trial court denied the motion. The State called Karen Hughes, an SBI forensic DNA analyst, as a witness. Hughes testified that in her opinion, defendant was the only source of the DNA discovered on the nightgown. Defendant objected as follows:
Q. Do you have an opinion as to whether or not you can identify Mr. Neal as the person whose sperm was on the gown of [the girl] to the ...

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