Lemons v. Watkins et al
Memorandum of Opinion and Order For the reasons set forth herein, Plaintiff's conviction has not been overturned. Indeed, he is still incarcerated and serving a fifty-eight year sentence. Therefore, Plaintiff cannot proceed with his cla im in a § 1983 action. Accordingly, this action is dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1915(e). The Court certifies, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3), that an appeal from this decision could not be taken in good faith. Judge Benita Y. Pearson on 1/30/2017. (E,CK)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
CHARLES LEMONS, III,
DENNIS WATKINS, et al.,
CASE NO. 4:16CV2793
JUDGE BENITA Y. PEARSON
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION AND
Pro se Plaintiff Charles Lemons, III has filed this in forma pauperis action under 42
U.S.C. § 1983 against Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins, Trumbull County Assistant
Prosecutor Gina Buccino Arnaut, and Warren, Ohio Police Sergeant Emanuel Nites. See
Complaint for Violation of Civil Rights (Prisoner), ECF No. 1. In the Complaint, Plaintiff
challenges his 2009 rape conviction on grounds that the prosecution allegedly withheld
exculpatory evidence. Id. He seeks monetary relief. Id.
Plaintiff was convicted in 2009 in the Trumbull County, Ohio Court of Common Pleas on
charges of felonious assault, rape, kidnapping and attempted rape.1 He is currently serving a
sentence of fifty-eight years in prison. ECF No. 1 at PageID #: 11.
Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Offender Search Detail,
http://odrc.drc.ohio.gov/OffenderSearch/details.aspx?id=A563098&pg=x (last visited
Jan. 21, 2017).
On October 29, 2007, the victim called Warren, Ohio police and reported that Plaintiff
assaulted her with a hammer and raped her. Id. at PageID #: 10. The victim indicated to police
that the hammer broke when Plaintiff struck her and, when his back was turned, she retrieved the
hammer from the floor and hid it in a closet. Id. The victim was taken to the hospital where
images were taken of her head, and a rape kit was administered. Id.
Plaintiff alleges that the prosecutor did not provide him with the hammer, nor did he
supply the rape kit evidence for independent testing. Id. at PageID #: 3-4. He claims he was
denied due process, and seeks an award of $10,000,000.00 in damages for withholding
potentially exculpatory evidence. Id. at PageID #: 5.
II. Standard for Dismissal
Although pro se pleadings are liberally construed, Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364,
365 (1982) (per curiam); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), the district court is
required to dismiss an in forma pauperis action under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) if it is frivolous or
malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or if it seeks monetary relief
against a defendant who is immune from such relief.
In order to state a claim on which relief may be granted, a pro se complaint must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.
See Hill v. Lappin,, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010) (holding that the dismissal standard articulated in
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) and Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007),
governs dismissals for failure to state a claim under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)). The factual
allegations in the pleading "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . .
. on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)."
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
III. Law and Analysis
Plaintiff challenges his conviction in this civil rights action. The Supreme Court has held
[I]n order to recover damages for allegedly unconstitutional
conviction or imprisonment, or for other harm caused by actions
whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or sentence invalid,
[P]laintiff must prove that the conviction or sentence has been
reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared
invalid by a state tribunal authorized to make such determination, or
called into question by a federal court’s issuance of a writ of habeas
corpus, 28 U.S.C. § 2254. A claim for damages bearing that
relationship to a conviction or sentence that has not been so
invalidated is not cognizable in an action under [42 U.S.C.] § 1983.
Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994).
Therefore, when a state prisoner seeks damages in an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
the [Court] must consider whether a judgment in favor of [P]laintiff
would necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction or sentence;
if it would, the [C]omplaint must be dismissed unless [P]laintiff can
demonstrate that the conviction or sentence has already been
invalidated. [If the Court] determines that [P]laintiff’s action, even if
successful, will not demonstrate the invalidity of any outstanding
criminal judgment against [P]laintiff, the action should be allowed to
proceed, in the absence of some other bar to the suit.
Id. at 487.
Here, Plaintiff claims the prosecutors withheld potentially exculpatory evidence from
him—the hammer used to attack the victim and the rape kit. If this claim were found to have
merit, it would call into question the validity of Plaintiff’s conviction. Plaintiff, therefore, may
only proceed with this claim if his conviction were invalidated by a state appellate court or a
federal writ of habeas corpus.
Plaintiff’s conviction has not been overturned. Indeed, he is still incarcerated and serving
a fifty-eight year sentence. Therefore, Plaintiff cannot proceed with his claim in a § 1983 action.
Accordingly, this action is dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1915(e). The Court
certifies, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3), that an appeal from this decision could not be taken
in good faith.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
January 30, 2017
/s/ Benita Y. Pearson
Benita Y. Pearson
United States District Judge
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