United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division
RAYMOND TARLTON, as guardian ad litem for HENRY LEE MCCOLLUM, and J. DUANE GILLIAM, as guardian of the estate of LEON BROWN, Plaintiffs,
KENNETH SEALEY,  both individually and in his official capacity as the Sheriff of Robeson County, et al, Defendants.
TERRENCE W. BOYLE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
cause comes before the Court on motions for summary judgment
pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
as well as plaintiffs' motion for sanctions. A hearing on
the dispositive motions was held before the undersigned on
January 23, 2018, at Raleigh, North Carolina. The motions
have been fully briefed and are in this posture ripe for
ruling. For the reasons that follow, defendants' motions
for summary judgment are granted in part and denied in part
and plaintiffs' motions for summary judgment and for
sanctions are denied.
McCollum and Leon Brown instituted this action against
Robeson County, Kenneth Snead, Joel Locklear, the Town of Red
Springs, Kenneth Sealey, Larry Floyd, Paul Canady for the
Estate of Luther Haggins, and Leroy Allen on August 31, 2015.
[DEI]. Their amended complaint alleges four claims arising
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983: false arrest, malicious
prosecution, deprivation of due process, and municipal
liability for custom, usages, practices, procedures, and
policies as a result of which McCollum's and
Brown's constitutional rights were violated.
McCollum and Brown seek a declaratory judgment that
defendants have violated their rights as provided by the
United States Constitution, an award of compensatory and
punitive damages, and attorneys' fees. [DE 70].
guardian was appointed to represent the interests of Leon
Brown on March 14, 2016 [DE 66]; a substitute
guardian was appointed on May 31, 2016. [DE 85]. On May 27,
2016, the Court denied a motion to dismiss by Snead and Allen
and granted a motion to dismiss filed by defendant Robeson
County. [DE 83 & 84]. On December 12, 2016, Robert E.
Price, Administrator C.T.A. of the Estate of Joel Locklear
was substituted as a party for defendant Locklear. [DE 116].
A guardian ad litem was appointed to represent the interests
of Henry McCollum on May 10, 2017. [DE 204]. On December 18,
2017, the Court approved a settlement between plaintiffs and
the Town of Red Springs, Larry Floyd, and Paul Canady,
Administrator C.T.A. of the Estate of Luther Haggins.
following is comprised of the undisputed facts upon which all
parties rely in their motions for summary judgment. [DE
127-1; 165; 178; 183; 185-1].
old Sabrina Buie went missing on the night of Saturday,
September 24, 1983, in the Town of Red Springs in Robeson
County, North Carolina. Her parents filed a missing persons
report with the Red Springs Police Department on Sunday,
September 25, 1983. James Shaw discovered Sabrina Buie's
body on Monday afternoon, September 26, 1983, in a soybean
field near a convenience store in Red Springs. Miss
Buie's body was found naked from the waist down with her
bra pushed up over the back of her head. Her panties and a
stick were down her throat, and she had been sexually
Springs Police Department requested that the North Carolina
State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) participate in the murder
investigation. Defendant Leroy Allen, then a resident SBI
agent in Robeson County, was dispatched to process the crime
scene. The Sheriff of Robeson County assigned defendants
Detective Joel Garth Locklear and Detective Kenneth Sealey to
provide additional support to the SBI. Defendants SBI Agent
Kenneth Snead and Detective Sealey,  were dispatched to canvass
the neighborhood for witnesses. Defendant Locklear also
participated in the investigation by canvassing the area near
where Sabrina Buie's body was discovered, as did other
law enforcement agents.
September 27, 1983, while canvassing the neighborhood for
witnesses, Locklear spoke to plaintiff Henry McCollum outside
of McCollum's home at 104 Malpass Avenue. McCollum denied
any knowledge of the disappearance of Miss Buie. At the time,
McCollum was staying with his mother, Mamie Brown, and his
half-siblings Leon and Geraldine Brown; McCollum was visiting
from New Jersey. At approximately 6:20 p.m. on September 28,
1983, Agent Snead and Detective Sealey interviewed Ethel
Furmage, then seventeen years-old, at her residence. Miss
Furmage stated that she had heard at school that McCollum
(referred to as Buddy by those who knew him) had something to
do with Miss Buie's murder. That evening, Snead, Sealey,
and Agent Allen traveled to McCollum's home to interview
him, arriving at approximately 9:10 p.m. McCollum agreed to
ride with the officers to the Red Springs police station.
After arriving at the police station, McCollum was
fingerprinted and taken to the office of Red Springs Police
Chief Luther Haggins for questioning.
Miranda waiver form bearing McCollum's signature reflects
the time of 10:26 p.m. on September 28th. At 2:10 a.m. on
September 29, 1983, McCollum signed a handwritten confession
which was drafted by Agent Snead and witnessed by Sealey and
Chief Haggins. [DE 147-29]; [DE 146-11] Snead Dep. at 50. The
confession details that McCollum along with Darrell Suber,
Louis Moore, Chris (last name unknown) and Leon Brown walked
down the road toward the little red house with Miss Buie at
approximately 9:30 p.m. on Saturday September 24th. After
Suber and Chris left and returned from the convenience store
with a six pack of beer, Suber, Chris, McCollum, Moore, and
Brown discussed raping Buie as she had not agreed to have sex
with them voluntarily. Moore then left, and the remaining men
and Miss Buie walked to the woods at the edge of a field
where they drank beer. McCollum grabbed Miss Buie's right
arm and Brown grabbed her left arm and then men proceeded to
rape Miss Buie; McCollum stated he was the third in the group
to rape Miss Buie and that Brown was the last. The confession
recounts that Suber then stated that they had to do something
so that she would not tell the police, and that Chris then
picked up a stick and tied Miss Buie's pink panties to
the stick and choked Miss Buie to death. McCollum and Brown
held Miss Buie down while she was being choked and Suber was
cutting Miss Buie with a knife. After they believed Miss Buie
to be dead, the men dragged her body to the edge of the woods
toward a ditch. Suber had blood on his brown corduroy jacket
and gray Nike tennis shoes with a burgundy seal, and Chris
had blood on his sneakers, which were New Yorkers. Suber and
Chris were smoking Newport cigarettes in the woods.
Id. Henry McCollum's intelligence quotient has
been scored as low as 56.
signing the transcribed confession, McCollum was placed under
arrest for the rape and murder of Miss Buie. While McCollum
was being questioned, his mother Mamie Brown and brother Leon
Brown had gone to the Red Springs police station. At
approximately 2:00 a.m. on September 29th, Brown was asked by
law enforcement to step into a room and talk with them, which
he did. Brown, then fifteen years-old, signed a form entitled
"Juvenile Rights Warning" at 2:24 a.m. [DE 148-35].
Brown was interviewed by Detective Locklear and Red Springs
Police Chief Haggins. Leon Brown signed a confession that was
reduced to writing by Detective Locklear. Leon Brown's
confession implicated Darrell Suber and Chris Brown, but
differed in aspects from McCollum's confession. For
example, Brown's confession makes no mention of Louis
Moore's involvement nor does it reference a stick as
being used to force Miss Buie's underwear down her
throat. Following his confession, Leon Brown was arrested for
the rape and murder of Sabrina Buie; juvenile petitions
charging Brown with delinquency related to rape and murder
were filed on September 29, 1983. [DE 161-13]. Leon
Brown's intelligence quotient has been scored
consistently in the mid-50s range.
September 30, 1983, McCollum made an on-camera statement to a
television reporter that he had "just held her down.
That's it." [DE 161-19] Barnes Aff. f6. McCollum and
Brown were indicted by a grand jury on January 3, 1984, on
charges of first degree murder and rape. [DE 161-16]. They
were tried together in Robeson County Superior Court in
October 1984. The prosecutor was District Attorney Joe
Freeman Britt, McCollum was represented by Earl Strickland,
and Brown was represented by Robert Johnson. [DE 140-1] 1984
Trial Tr. at 1. McCollum and Brown both moved to suppress
their confessions and their motions were denied. The trial
court held that both McCollum and Brown had voluntarily gone
to the Red Springs police station and that before each was
questioned he had knowingly and intelligently waived his
rights. [DE 142-3] 1984 Trial Tr. at 1346-51]. The trial
court held that the statements of McCollum and Brown were
made freely, voluntarily, and knowingly without duress,
coercion, or inducement. Id. McCollum and Brown both
testified at trial, each was convicted of first degree murder
and rape, and each was sentenced to death.
appeal, the North Carolina Supreme Court reversed and
remanded for a new trial, finding error in the trial
court's jury instructions. State v. McCollum,
321 N.C. 557 (1988). McCollum and Brown were retried
separately in adjacent counties. McCollum was retried in
Cumberland County in November 1991. On July 31, 1991, the
Cumberland County Superior Court denied McCollum's motion
to suppress his confession, specifically concluding that none
of McCollum's constitutional rights were violated by his
arrest, detention, interrogation, or statement, that his
statement was made freely and voluntarily, that McCollum was
in full understanding of his constitutional rights and that
he waived those rights freely, knowingly, and intelligently.
[DE 161-31]. During his opening and closing statements, and
with the consent of McCollum, McCollum's attorney argued
to the jury to that McCollum was present for the rape and
murder of Miss Buie and asked the jury to return a verdict of
second degree murder. The jury returned a verdict of guilty
on the charges of first degree murder and rape, and McCollum
was again sentenced to death. [DE 141-1] 1991 Trial Tr. at
1597-98; 1632-33; 2058-2065]. The North Carolina Supreme
Court affirmed McCollum's conviction and sentence.
State v. McCollum, 334 N.C. 208 (1993). The United
States Supreme Court denied McCollum's petition for writ
of certiorari. McCollum v. North Carolina, 512 U.S.
1992 Brown was retried in Bladen County Superior Court.
Brown's motion to suppress his confession was denied, the
court concluding that Brown knowingly, intelligently, and
voluntarily waived his rights, that none of his rights under
the North Carolina or United States Constitution had been
violated, and that his statement was voluntary and not the
result of any coercion, pressure, or intimidation. [DE
166-3]. The trial court later granted a defense motion to
dismiss the first degree murder charge, finding that Brown
had withdrawn from a conspiracy to commit murder, and the
jury found Brown guilty of first degree rape. [DE 146-1] 1992
Trial Tr. at 288]. Brown was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Id. at 310. Brown's conviction and sentence were
affirmed on appeal both in the North Carolina Court of
Appeals and the North Carolina Supreme Court. State v.
Brown, 112 N.C.App. 390 (1993); State v. Brown,
339 N.C. 606 (1995). Brown did not file a petition for writ
of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court.
2009, Brown sought assistance from the North Carolina
Innocence Inquiry Commission (NCIIC). The NCIIC accepted
Brown's case and began its investigation, which included
DNA testing of physical evidence found at the scene of the
crime. A Newport-brand cigarette butt found near other
evidence was found to contain DNA which matched that of
Roscoe Artis. Roscoe Artis is currently serving a life
sentence, commuted from death, following his conviction in
Robeson County for the first degree murder and rape of Joann
Brockman. See State v. Artis, 325 N.C. 278 (1990),
cert, granted, judgment vacated, 494 U.S. 1023
(1990); see also State v. Artis, 329 N.C. 679, 680
(1991). Artis was arrested on October 22, 1983, the same day
Ms. Brockman went missing and her body was discovered, and
tried in August 1984. [DE 129-1]. Defendants Allen and
Locklear testified for the state in Artis' trial,
Locklear having participated in the arrest and investigation
of Artis and Allen having conducted testing on a blood sample
taken from Artis. See [DE 129-1; 132-1] Artis Trial
Tr. at 618-620; 707-711.
than Miss Buie, the DNA tested on other items of physical
evidence found at the crime scene did not match any known
person, including McCollum and Brown. Although McCollum had
not filed a claim with the NCIIC, the Commission expanded its
investigation to include McCollum. Following a hearing held
September 2, 2014, on motions for appropriate relief (MAR)
filed by McCollum and Brown, at which the investigator from
the NCIIC, Ms. Sharon Stellato was the sole witness, the
Robeson County Superior Court granted the motions and vacated
McCollum and Brown's convictions. [DE 154-7; 155-7]. The
State did not contest that the newly-discovered DNA evidence
was favorable to McCollum and Brown and conceded that
McCollum and Brown had satisfied the requirements of N.C.
Gen. Stat. § 15A-270 (c)(2), which governs the relief
available to petitioners who come forward with favorable DNA
evidence post-conviction. The MAR court held that,
"especially when considered together with the rest of
the results of the [NCIICJ's investigation, " the
favorable DNA evidence "tend[s] to establish Henry
McCollum's and Leon Brown's innocence of crime for
which they were convicted and sentenced . . .." [DE
155-7 at 3-4]. The MAR court ordered the vacatur of their
convictions and sentences as imposed in Robeson, Cumberland,
and Bladen Counties, dismissed with prejudice all charges in
the cases, or order their immediate release. Id. On
June 5, 2015, McCollum and Brown were issued full pardons of
innocence by Governor Pat McCrory. [DE 147-14].
Motions for Summary Judgment
parties have moved for entry of summary judgment or partial
summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure. A motion for summary judgment may not be
granted unless there are no genuine issues of material fact
for trial and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter
of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party bears the
initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine
issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477l U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If that burden has been met,
the non-moving party must then come forward and establish the
specific material facts in dispute to survive summary
judgment. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 588 (1986). In determining whether
a genuine issue of material fact exists for trial, a trial
court views the evidence and the inferences in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party. Scott v. Harris,
550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007). However, "[t]he mere existence
of a scintilla of evidence" in support of the nonmoving
party's position is not sufficient to defeat a motion for
summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986). "A dispute is genuine if a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party. . . . and [a] fact is material if it might affect the
outcome of the suit under the governing law."
Libertarian Party of Virginia v. Judd, 718 F.3d 308,
313 (4th Cir. 2013) (internal quotations and citations
omitted). Speculative or conclusory allegations will not
suffice. Thompson v. Potomac Elec. Power Co., 312
F.3d 645, 649 (4th Cir. 2002).
Court considers first the motions for summary judgment by the
two remaining sets of defendants and the affirmative defenses
the SBI defendants, Allen and Snead, and the Robeson County
Sheriffs Office defendants, Sealey and Locklear, have raised
the defense of collateral estoppel or res judicata.
Specifically, defendants contend that collateral estoppel
prevents plaintiffs from re-litigating here whether probable
cause existed to support their arrests and whether their
confessions were voluntary. Defendants argue that
plaintiffs' convictions, though later vacated,
conclusively establish that probable cause existed and that
the state court judges' rulings on the plaintiffs'
motions to suppress their confessions conclusively establish
that their confessions were voluntary.
The federal courts have traditionally adhered to the related
doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel. Under res
judicata, a final judgment on the merits of an action
precludes the parties or their privies from relitigating
issues that were or could have been raised in that action. .
. . Under collateral estoppel, once a court has decided an
issue of fact or law necessary to its judgment, that decision
may preclude relitigation of the issue in a suit on a
different cause of action involving a party to the first
case.... As this Court and other courts have often
recognized, res judicata and collateral estoppel relieve
parties of the cost and vexation of multiple lawsuits,
conserve judicial resources, and, by preventing inconsistent
decisions, encourage reliance on adjudication.
Allen v. McCurry, 449 U.S. 90, 94 (1980) (internal
citations omitted). The doctrines of res judicata and
collateral estoppel apply to § 1983 actions, and federal
courts must afford preclusive effect to issues which have
been decided by state courts when the courts of that state
would do so. Id. at 95-96 (citing 28 U.S.C. §
1738); see also Davenport v. N. Carolina Dep't of
Transp., 3 F.3d 89, 92 (4th Cir. 1993) (federal court
considering § 1983 action to give res judicata effect to
a state court judgment and to apply the law of the rendering
state to determine whether and to what extent the state court
judgment should be given preclusive effect).
In order to assert collateral estoppel under North Carolina
law, a party must show that the issue in question was
identical to an issue actually litigated and necessary to the
judgment, that the prior action resulted in a final judgment
on the merits, and that the present parties are the same as,
or in privity with, the parties to the earlier action. North
Carolina courts have abandoned the final requirement of
"mutuality of estoppel" for the defensive use of
collateral estoppel, so long as the party seeking to reopen
the issue "had a full and fair opportunity to
litigate" the matter in the previous action.
Sartin v. Macik,
535 F.3d 284, 287-88 (4th Cir.
2008) (citing Thomas M. Mclnnis & Assocs., Inc. v.
Hall,318 N.C. 421, 349 S.E.2d 552, ...