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Grimes v. City of Hickory

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Statesville Division

June 11, 2015

WILLIE JAMES GRIMES, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF HICKORY, FLOYD LUCAS, JR., TOM ADKINS, STEVE HUNT, STEVE BRYANT, L. DAVID HUFFMAN, COY REID, AL JEAN BOGLE, PHYLLIS HICKS, JOHN DOE CORPORATION, JACK DOE CORPORATION, ROCKY EUGENE TOWERY as administrator of the estate of BARBARA MACKIE TOWERY Defendants.

ORDER

RICHARD L. VOORHEES, District Judge.

BEFORE THE COURT are two motions. First, Al Jean Bogle ("Bogle"), Phyllis Hicks ("Hicks"), and Rocky Eugene Towery ("Towery") (collectively, the "Clerk Defendants") filed a Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 36), to which Grimes has responded, (Doc. 44). Second, L. David Huffman ("Huffman") and Cory Reid's ("Reid") filed Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (Doc. 45), to which Grimes responded, (Doc. 51). Huffman and Reid filed a Reply to Grimes' Response, (Doc. 54).

I. STATEMENT OF FACTS

This case arises out of the wrongful conviction of Grimes. (Doc. 1, at ¶ 1). Pertinent facts relevant to the instant motions are alleged as follows:

In July 1988, Grimes was convicted and sentenced to life plus nine years for the rape and kidnapping of Carrie Lee Elliot in Hickory, North Carolina. (Id. ). In 2012, the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission referred Grimes' case to a three-judge panel which issued a unanimous decision that he was innocent of both charges. (Id. at ¶¶ 3, 104-107). Key to the determination of Grimes' innocence was the presence of fingerprints recovered from bananas in the victim's home. (Id. at ¶¶ 87, 103). The fingerprints were identified as having been made by Albert Lindsey Turner, (Id. at ¶ 103), who was allegedly an initial suspect in the rape investigation, (Id. at ¶ 6).

Pertinent to the instant motion is the destruction of other allegedly exculpatory evidence after Grimes' conviction. (Id. at ¶ 9). After the trial, the Clerk of Court of Catawba County retained custody of the admitted evidence, including a rape kit, the victim's panties, hair samples, and the victim's clothing. (Id. at ¶ 89). At some point between 1988 and 1991, employees in the Clerk's Office sent this evidence to Catawba County Sheriff's Department ("CCSD") for destruction, although no court order authorized the destruction. (Id. ). The Clerk's Office did not maintain a record of the sending of the evidence to the CCSD or the destruction of the evidence. (Id. ). Further, the Clerk's Office misfiled and/or lost numerous items of evidence from 1986 to 1990, including $18, 000. (Id. at ¶ 90). This mismanagement of evidence was due to a systemic lack of organization. (Id. ).

On December 13, 1990, CCSD destroyed most of the evidence in Grimes' case, pursuant to the Clerk's instruction but without a court order directing it to do so. (Id. at ¶ 92).

Defendant Hicks served as Clerk of Court for Catawba County from 1986 until 1990. (Doc. 1, at ¶ 42). Defendant Towery served as Clerk of Court for Catawba County from 1990 until 1999. (Id. at ¶ 43).[1] Defendant Bogle is the current Clerk of Court for Catawba County and has served in this position since 1999. (Id. at ¶ 44).

Defendant Huffman served as Sheriff of Catawba County during the years of 1982 through 2010. (Id. at ¶ 39). Defendant Reid currently serves as Sheriff of Catawba County and has served in that capacity since 2010. (Id. at ¶ 40).

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under a motion to dismiss under 12(b)(6), the court must accept as true all factual allegations in the pleading, Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam), and all reasonable inferences must be drawn in the non-movants favor, Ibarra v. United States, 120 F.3d 472, 474 (4th Cir. 1997). This requirement applies only to facts, not legal conclusions, however. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009).

A motion filed pursuant to 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure challenges the legal sufficiency of a complaint. Jordan v. Alternatives Res. Corp., 458 F.3d 332, 338 (4th Cir.2006); Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 192 (4th Cir.2009). While a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, the courts require more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (applying Rule 8). Specifically, plaintiffs may proceed into the litigation process "only when their complaints are justified by both law and fact." Francis, 588 F.3d at 193. To be justified by fact, courts must overlook "conclusory, unwarranted deductions of fact, or unreasonable inferences, " nor must the court "accept as true allegations that contradict matters properly subject to judicial notice or by exhibit." Veney v. Wyche, 293 F.3d 726 (4th Cir. 2002).

A court applies the same standards as set forth in the case law surrounding a motion to dismiss under 12(b)(6) when reviewing a Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings. Edwards v. ...


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