Craig v. Lawrence et al
Memorandum Opinion and Order re 1 Complaint: Ordered that this civil action is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE as frivolous and as seeking monetary relief against defendants who are immune from such relief; that any habeas corpus claims asserted in this c ivil action are DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE to Plaintiffs pursuit of these claims in his pending habeas corpus case, Craig vs. MDOC, Civil No. 1:16-cv-371-LG-FKB (S.D. Miss.); and ordered that this dismissal will count as a strike. Signed by District Judge Halil S. Ozerden on 1/20/17. (RLW)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI
HENRY LEE CRAIG, #76582
CIVIL NO. 1:16-cv-375-HSO-JCG
ANTHONY LAWRENCE, III,
ANGEL MEYERS, BOBBY KNOCHEL,
and KATHY KING JACKSON
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
DISMISSING PLAINTIFF’S COMPLAINT
This matter is before the Court, sua sponte, for consideration of dismissal.
Plaintiff Henry Lee Craig, an inmate of the Mississippi Department of Corrections,
brings this pro se Complaint seeking injunctive relief. Craig is proceeding in forma
pauperis. See Order . The named Defendants are: Anthony Lawrence, III,
District Attorney for Jackson County Mississippi; Angel Meyers, Assistant District
Attorney for Jackson County; Bobby Knochel, Assistant District Attorney for
Jackson County; and Kathy King Jackson, Circuit Court Judge for Jackson County.
The Court, having liberally construed the pleadings in consideration with the
applicable law, finds that this case should be dismissed.
In 2011, Craig was convicted of murder in the Jackson County Circuit Court
and sentenced to life imprisonment. Craig v. State, 110 So. 3d 807, 808 (Miss. Ct.
App. 2012). Attorneys Lawrence, Meyers, and Knochel prosecuted the case against
Craig and Judge King presided over Craig’s trial. Compl.  at 5 (CM/ECF
pagination); Clerk’s Docket at 1, Craig v. State, No. 2011-KA-01283 (Miss. Ct. App.
2012). Craig now complains that, in doing so, Defendants violated his
constitutional and civil rights. Specifically, Craig claims that Defendants
“concealed evidence of the crime of intimidation” by two FBI Agents “on May 11,
2011.” Compl.  at 5 (CM/ECF pagination). Craig further alleges that the
Defendants conspired with “illegal jurors and illegal incompetent witness[es] on . . .
May 11, 2011.” Am. Compl.  at 4 (CM/ECF pagination).1
Craig brings this Complaint on forms available for prisoners suing under 42
U.S.C. § 1983 and also states that he is filing his claims under §§ 1981, 1985, and
1986. Compl.  at 1. Craig seeks “injunctive relief, defamation relief,” attorney’s
fees and “whatever relief this Court deems necessary and appropriate.” Am. Compl.
 at 5 (CM/ECF pagination).
The Prison Litigation Reform Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) (as amended),
applies to prisoner proceedings in forma pauperis, and provides that “the court shall
dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that . . . (B) the action or appeal
In addition to this case, Craig has filed eight other complaints in this Court
against various individuals involved in his criminal case, from witnesses and jurors to law
enforcement officers, attorneys, and judges. See Craig v. Ishee, Civil No. 3:16-cv-804; Craig
v. Gore, Cicil No. 3:16-cv-805; Craig v. Holmes, Civil No. 3:16-cv-806; Craig v. Fountain,
Civil No. 1:16-cv-372; Craig v. Lorraine, Civil No. 1:16-cv-373; Craig v. Taylor, Civil No.
1:16-cv-377; Craig v. Taylor, Civil No. 1:16-cv-407; and Craig v. King, Civil No. 1:16-cv-421.
-- (i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be
granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such
relief.” Since Craig is proceeding in forma pauperis, his Complaint is subject to the
case screening procedures set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Having completed
that screening, it is apparent that Craig’s claims are barred by absolute immunity,
by the applicable statute of limitations, and by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477
Defendants are entitled to absolute immunity.
Judge Jackson, as Circuit Court Judge for Jackson County, enjoys absolute
immunity from damages when performing acts within her judicial capacity. See
Boyd v. Biggers, 31 F.3d 279, 284 (5th Cir. 1994). Claims of bad faith, malice, and
corruption do not overcome absolute judicial immunity. See Mireles v. Waco, 502
U.S. 9, 11 (1991) (citations omitted). Nor will a judge be deprived of immunity
because the action she took was in error or in excess of her authority. See Stump v.
Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 356 (1978).
Judicial immunity can be overcome only by showing that the actions
complained of were non-judicial in nature, or by showing that the actions were
taken in the “clear absence of all jurisdiction.” Mireles, 502 U.S. at 11; Stump, 435
U.S. at 356-57. In determining whether a judge acted within the scope of her
judicial capacity, the court considers four factors: “(1) whether the precise act
complained of is a normal judicial function; (2) whether the acts occurred in the
courtroom or appropriate adjunct spaces such as the judge’s chambers; (3) whether
the controversy centered around a case pending before the court; and (4) whether
the acts arose directly out of a visit to the judge in his official capacity.” Ballard v.
Wall, 413 F.3d 510, 515 (5th Cir. 2005) (citing Malina v. Gonzales, 994 F.2d 1121,
1124 (5th Cir. 1993)).
Applying the four Ballard factors to Craig’s allegations, it is clear that the
actions of Judge Jackson were “judicial in nature.” Id. at 517. Likewise, there are
no claims that Judge Jackson lacked jurisdiction to preside over criminal
proceedings in the Circuit Court for Jackson County. See Miss. Code Ann. § 9-7-81
(circuit court has original jurisdiction over state felony prosecutions). Therefore,
Judge Jackson is entitled to absolute immunity from the claims asserted in this
Likewise, criminal prosecutors “enjoy absolute immunity from claims for
damages asserted under § 1983 for actions taken in the presentation of the state’s
case.” Boyd, 31 F.3d at 285. This immunity extends to “all actions which occur in
the course of the prosecutor’s role as an advocate for the State.” Cousin v. Small,
325 F.3d 627, 632 (5th Cir. 2003) (internal quotation marks and punctuation
omitted). “This broad immunity applies even if the prosecutor is accused of
knowingly using perjured testimony.” Boyd, 31 F.3d at 285. The alleged actions
taken by Lawrence, Meyers, and Knochel as advocates for the State of Mississippi
in Craig’s criminal case were “intimately associated with the judicial phase of the
criminal process,” and therefore these Defendants are also entitled to absolute
immunity from the claims asserted in this case. See Lampton v. Diaz, 639 F.3d 223,
226 (5th Cir. 2011).
Plaintiff’s claims are barred by the statute of limitations.
“A district court ‘may raise the defense of limitations sua sponte . . . [and]
[d]ismissal is appropriate if it is clear from the face of the complaint that the claims
asserted are barred by the applicable statute of limitations.’” Stanley v. Foster, 464
F.3d 565, 568 (5th Cir. 2006) (quoting Harris v. Hegmann, 198 F.3d 153, 156 (5th
Cir. 1999)). Since there is no federal statute of limitations for civil rights actions
brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a federal court must borrow the forum state’s
general personal injury limitations period. See Owens v. Okure, 488 U.S. 235, 240
(1989); see also Mitchell v. Crescent River Port Pilots Ass’n, 265 F. App’x 363, 367,
367 n.3 (5th Cir. 2008) (citations omitted) (holding state’s personal injury limitation
period applies to claims under §§ 1981, 1983, and 1985, but noting that § 1986
specifically includes a one-year statute of limitations). The applicable Mississippi
statute of limitations period is three years. See James v. Sadler, 909 F.2d 834, 836
(5th Cir. 1990) (holding Mississippi’s three-year general personal injury limitations
period applicable to § 1983 cases); see also Miss. Code Ann. § 15-1-49 (1972), as
The Court recognizes that certain claims brought under the civil rights statutes,
namely those made possible by a post-1990 Congressional enactment, are subject to the
federal four year catch-all statute of limitations set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1658. Jones v. R. R.
While Mississippi law governs the applicable limitations period, “the accrual
date of a § 1983 cause of action is a question of federal law that is not resolved by
reference to state law.” Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 388 (2007). As such, an
action accrues when a plaintiff has “a complete and present cause of action.” Id. As
noted by the Fifth Circuit:
Under federal law, the [limitations] period begins to run the
moment the plaintiff becomes aware that he has suffered an
injury or has sufficient information to know that he has been
injured. A plaintiff’s awareness encompasses two elements: (1)
the existence of the injury; and (2) causation, that is, the
connection between the injury and the defendant’s actions. A
plaintiff need not know that she has a legal cause of action; she
need know only the facts that would ultimately support a claim.
Actual knowledge is not required if the circumstances would
lead a reasonable person to investigate further.
Piotrowski v. City of Houston, 237 F.3d 567, 576 (5th Cir. 2001) (internal quotation
marks and citations omitted); see also Walker v. Epps, 550 F.3d 407, 414 (5th Cir.
2008) (citing Piotrowski).
Craig filed this lawsuit in October 2016. His claims are premised on the
asserted inadequacies of his criminal conviction, including Defendants’ alleged
conspiracy to conceal evidence of a crime of intimidation. Craig specifically
maintains, on five separate occasions within his pleadings, that Defendants’
purported conduct causing his injury occurred on May 11, 2011. Compl.  at 5, 7-8
(CM/ECF pagination); Am. Compl.  at 3-4 (CM/ECF pagination). It is clear that
Donnelley & Sons, Co., 541 U.S. 369, 382 (2004). The Court finds that none of Craig’s
purported claims fall within the ambit of § 1658.
as of May 11, 2011, the date of Craig’s conviction, he was aware of his injury and
the connection between the injury and Defendants’ purported conduct. See
Piotrowski, 237 F.3d at 576. Therefore, the limitations period expired on May 11,
2014. Craig’s claims accrued more than three years prior to Craig filing the present
action in October 2016, and are therefore time-barred.
Heck v. Humphrey also supports dismissal of the Complaint.
Craig’s claims regarding the validity of his criminal conviction are also
subject to dismissal under Heck v. Humphrey. 512 U.S. 477 (1994). Under Heck,
where a claim for damages would “necessarily imply” the invalidity of a conviction,
such a claim is not cognizable unless and until the plaintiff obtains a favorable
resolution of a challenge to his conviction. Id. at 487.
If the Court were to find in Craig’s favor and determine that his criminal
conviction is unconstitutional, it would necessarily imply the invalidity of his
conviction and current term of imprisonment. Craig fails to demonstrate that his
criminal conviction has been invalidated by any of the means set forth in Heck.3
Therefore, Craig’s claims that necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction are
barred. Id.; see also Amaker v. Weiner, 179 F.3d 48, 51 (2d Cir. 1999) (holding Heck
also applies to claims under §§ 1981, 1985, and 1986); Dolney v. Lahammer, 70 F.
Supp. 2d 1038, 1043 (D.S.D. 1999) (same) (collecting cases).
Craig is currently litigating a habeas corpus petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254
in this Court. See Craig v. MDOC, Civil No. 1:16-cv-371-LG-FKB (S.D. Miss.).
Plaintiff’s habeas corpus claims will be dismissed without prejudice.
To the extent Craig now seeks injunctive relief invalidating his conviction
and releasing him from incarceration, he must pursue such relief through a petition
for writ of habeas corpus. Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 500 (1973). As
footnoted above, Craig is currently litigating a habeas corpus case in this Court.
Any habeas claims Craig may be asserting in this civil action will be dismissed
without prejudice to Craig’s pursuit of these claims in his pending habeas corpus
The Court has considered the pleadings and applicable law. For the reasons
stated, this civil action will be dismissed as frivolous and as seeking monetary relief
against defendants who are immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
See Bates v. Price, 368 F. App’x 594, 595 (5th Cir. 2010) (finding prisoner case
barred by statute of limitations and dismissed as frivolous counts as a “strike”
under § 1915(g)); Hamilton v. Lyons, 74 F.3d 99, 103 (5th Cir. 1996) (finding Heckbarred claims are legally frivolous); Boyd, 31 F.3d at 285 (affirming frivolous
dismissal of § 1983 claim based on absolute immunity).
IT IS, THEREFORE, ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that this civil action
is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE as frivolous and as seeking monetary relief
against defendants who are immune from such relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915
IT IS, FURTHER, ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that any habeas corpus
claims asserted in this civil action are DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE to
Plaintiff’s pursuit of these claims in his pending habeas corpus case, Craig v.
MDOC, Civil No. 1:16-cv-371-LG-FKB (S.D. Miss.).
IT IS, FURTHER, ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that this dismissal will
count as a “strike” in accordance with the Prison Litigation Reform Act. See 28
U.S.C. § 1915 (g).
SO ORDERED AND ADJUDGED, this the 20th day of January, 2017.
s/ Halil Suleyman Ozerden
HALIL SULEYMAN OZERDEN
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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