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Young v. American Society of Crime Lab Directors

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

August 4, 2017

DARNELL YOUNG, Plaintiff,
v.
AMERICAN SOCIETY OF CRIME LAB DIRECTORS, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          HENRY EDWARD AUTREY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court upon review of plaintiff's amended complaint. Plaintiff, an inmate at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center (“ERDCC”), brought the instant action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that he is entitled to seek a “procedural due process claim” under Skinner v. Switzer, 562 U.S. 521 (2011).

         Background

         Plaintiff was granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis in the Eastern District of North Carolina, and his case was reviewed for frivolousness pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1915, on June 8, 2017 in the Eastern District of North Carolina.

         In its initial review, the Court dismissed several claims from plaintiff's complaint, as well as one of the defendants from this action. However, in addition to transferring the matter to this Court, the Eastern District of North Carolina found that plaintiff's allegations under the Supreme Court case of Skinner v. Switzer, 131 S.Ct.1289 (2011), may be able to state a claim for relief.

         This Court ordered plaintiff to file an amended complaint in his action on June 20, 2017, in order to fully articulate his claims under Skinner. Plaintiff filed his amended complaint on July 17, 2017, and the Court is obligated to review the amended complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 for frivolousness, maliciousness and for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         Plaintiff's Amended Complaint

         This 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action purportedly concerns plaintiff's attempts to seek a second[1]DNA test in order to allegedly prove that the evidence was insufficient to provide forcible compulsion on his state conviction for forcible rape. See State v. Young, No. 0722-CR3741 (19thJudicial Circuit, St. Francois County Court).[2] Defendants in plaintiff's amended complaint are: Sarah Custis (Police Lab Examiner); Jenna Oakes Smith (Police Lab Examiner); Donna Becherer (Police Lab Examiner); Beth Hensley Orwick (Asst. St. Louis City Attorney); Jennifer Joyce (Prosecutor); Sam Dotson (Chief of St. Louis City Police).

         Plaintiff was charged with forcible rape and incest. At trial, part of the State's evidence included a DNA test performed on a stain on the victim's underwear that matched plaintiff. Plaintiff claims in his amended complaint that Ms. Custis, Ms. Smith and Ms. Becherer testified at his criminal trial. He claims that the defendants testified that there was “DNA [on] the victims' underwear which contains (2) sets of DNA (1) consistent of a mixture and the other one consistent with the DNA of Darnell Young.” Plaintiff claims that his due process rights were violated and that he is entitled to new DNA testing because he believes the three lab defendants “tampered with DNA evidence.” Plaintiff has not submitted any evidence or assertions beyond his own conclusory statement to support his assertion.

         Plaintiff also asserts his due process rights have been violated and that he is entitled to new DNA testing because “[i]f a post-conviction for DNA testing is granted it will reveal inconsistencies and flaws in the state's evaluation of genetic material.” Plaintiff also believes that defendant Asst. Prosecutor Orwick provided a “false representation” of DNA evidence, because he believes she “misled the jury” and maliciously prosecuted plaintiff. Plaintiff states that Prosecutor Orwick essentially stopped pursuing a “second contributor” of DNA on the victim's underwear, which means she failed to turn over exculpatory evidence and never proved her case, despite the jury convicting him of forcible rape and incest.[3] Plaintiff has not made any claims against Police Chief Dotson or Prosecutor Jennifer Joyce.

         Plaintiff seeks $25 million in this action.

         Plaintiff's State Court Habeas Actions

         As noted above, plaintiff was found guilty in Missouri State Court of forcible rape and incest by a jury. See State v. Young, No. 0722-CR3741 (19th Judicial Circuit, St. Francois County Court). Part of the State's evidence at trial, presented by Prosecutor Orwick, included a DNA test performed on a stain on the victim's underwear that matched Young. The DNA test was done prior to trial, and although plaintiff's attorney moved to do a second test on the DNA immediately before trial, his motion was denied. The trial court denied the motion because the results of the testing were available nearly one year before trial, and as the trial court judge put it, “the law does say…that trials have to be rescheduled because people sit on their hands until the last minute.”

         On direct appeal of his conviction, Young asserted that the evidence was insufficient to prove forcible compulsion for the charge of forcible rape. The Missouri Court of Appeals rejected that challenge. In his amended post-conviction motion, Young alleged that trial counsel should have obtained a second DNA test. Plaintiff did not allege any facts that would have entitled him to a second test under the rules governing post-conviction DNA testing. ...


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