United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
EDWARD AUTREY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on initial review of plaintiff
Reginald Clemons' complaint for violations of his civil
rights brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See 28
U.S.C. § 1915A. After reviewing the complaint, the Court
will order the Clerk of Court to issue process or cause
process to be issued on the complaint as to defendants Joseph
Brauer, Chris Pappas, Ben Coleman, and Nels C. Moss.
Standard on Initial Review
to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, a prisoner's civil action
seeking damages from an officer or employee of a governmental
entity is subject to initial review regardless of whether the
prisoner has paid the required filing fee. 28 U.S.C. §
1915A. The Court is required to dismiss the complaint if it
is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted. To state a claim for relief, a
complaint must plead more than “legal
conclusions” and “[t]hreadbare recitals of the
elements of a cause of action [that are] supported by mere
conclusory statements.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A plaintiff must demonstrate a
plausible claim for relief, which is more than a “mere
possibility of misconduct.” Id. at 679.
“A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff
pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Id. at 678. Determining
whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief is a
context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to
draw on its judicial experience and common sense.
Id. at 679.
reviewing a complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court
accepts the well-pled facts as true. Furthermore, the Court
liberally construes the allegations.
brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging
violations of his First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, Ninth,
Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Named as
defendants are the following former St. Louis City Police
Department employees: Joseph Brauer, Chris Pappas, Steven
Jacobsmeyer, Raymond Grist, Robert Meyer, David A. Robbins,
Gary Stittum, James Conway, Nessby Moore, Jr., Rita M. Kraph,
Robert Scheetz, Robert Bauman, Daniel Nichols, Mike Guzzy,
Richard Trevor, John Walsh, Joseph Nickerson, George Bender,
Jack Huelsmann, and Harry B. Hegger. Also named as defendants
are Nels C. Moss, former St. Louis City Prosecutor; Ben
Coleman, former St. Louis City Probation and Parole
Supervisor; Vincent C. Schoemehl, former Mayor of St. Louis
City; the Board of Commissioners of the Metropolitan Police
Department of the St. Louis City; and the Supervisory Board
of the Metropolitan Police Department of St. Louis City.
alleges these defendants violated his constitutional rights
when they coerced two audio-taped statements from him on
April 7, 1991. In these statements, plaintiff incriminated
himself in the rape and murder of two sisters at the Old
Chain of Rocks Bridge on April 4, 1991.
background, on February 13, 1993, plaintiff was found guilty
by jury of two counts of first degree murder in the 1991
killing of sisters Julie and Robin Kerry. He was sentenced to
death. See State v. Clemons, No. 22911-01758B (St.
Louis City). On November 24, 2015, however, the Missouri
Supreme Court granted plaintiff's state court habeas
corpus petition, vacating his convictions and sentences.
See State ex rel. Clemons, 475 S.W.3d 60 (Mo. 2015).
The Missouri Supreme Court found that the state's
deliberate failure to disclose favorable evidence to
plaintiff, which could have led to the suppression of
plaintiff's confession, was prejudicial. The Missouri
Supreme Court ordered the state to retry plaintiff within
sixty days or dismiss the criminal case and
“discharge” him. Id.
November 20, 2017, plaintiff filed this § 1983 action,
alleging violations of his right to remain silent, his right
to counsel, and his right to be free of cruel and unusual
punishment when the police beat him and coerced his
confession to the murders. On December 18, 2017, while this
§ 1983 case was pending, plaintiff pled guilty to two
counts of second degree murder, two counts of forcible rape,
and one count of first degree robbery in exchange for a
sentence of life in prison on all five counts to be served
consecutively. See State v. Clemons, No.
22911-01758B-01 (St. Louis City); State v. Clemons,
No. 1622-CR354-01 (St. Louis City).
order vacating Mr. Clemons' convictions and sentences,
the Missouri Supreme Court found that the state willfully
violated Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), by
failing to disclose evidence of a favorable witness, Mr.
Weeks, to the defense. See State ex rel. Clemons,
475 S.W.3d (Mo. 2015). The Court found that Mr. Weeks would
have testified that he observed injury to Mr. Clemons'
face after Mr. Clemons was interrogated by Detectives Joseph
Brauer and Chris Pappas. Mr. Weeks would have stated that he
recorded his observation of Mr. Clemons' injury on the
pretrial release form he submitted to the court commissioner
for review. Mr. Weeks would have testified that his notation
of the injury was scratched out on the pretrial release form
produced by the state, and that Mr. Weeks did not know who
scratched out the notation, but “it had to be someone
who [did] it on behalf of the State.” Mr. Weeks also
testified that one of his supervisors and the lead prosecutor
in the case, defendant Nels C. Moss, attempted to convince
him to change his written report of the injury and, despite
his refusal, the report was altered to redact any reference
to the injury. Id. at 88. Based on this
Brady violation, the Missouri Supreme Court vacated
Mr. Clemons' convictions and sentences for first degree
reviewed and liberally construed, plaintiff's pro se
complaint seeks damages under § 1983 for the state's
Brady violation in his criminal case. Under Heck
v. Humphrey, “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, a § 1983 plaintiff must
prove that the conviction or sentence has been . . . declared
invalid by a state tribunal authorized to make such
determination.” Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S.
477, 486-87 (1994). Such a § 1983 cause of action for
damages attributable to an unconstitutional conviction or
sentence does not accrue until the conviction or sentence has
been invalidated. Id. at 489-90.
§ 1983 cause of action arising out of his Brady
violations did not accrue until November 24, 2015, when the
Missouri Supreme Court vacated his convictions and sentences
for first degree murder. Additionally, under persuasive case
law, Mr. Clemons' § 1983 case is not barred by his
subsequent plea of guilty to two counts of second degree
murder, two counts of rape, and robbery. See Poventud v.
City of New York, 750 F.3d 121, 133-34 (2d Cir. 2014)
(finding a court invalidates the final judgment in a state
criminal trial when it vacates a conviction and “from
that moment on, a § 1983 suit would not demonstrate the
invalidity of the vacated conviction” and would not be
Heck barred). While the Eighth Circuit has not
addressed this issue, it is plausible that the state is
liable under § 1983 for violating Mr. Clemons'
Brady rights (a due process violation) even if Mr.
Clemons is not an innocent man. See Id. The Court
finds plaintiff claim under § 1983 arising out of ...