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Little v. Cape Girardeau Police Department

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

March 11, 2019




         This matter is before the court upon the motion of plaintiff Leatrice L. Little for leave to proceed herein in forma pauperis. The Court has reviewed the financial information submitted in support, and will grant the motion. The Court will also dismiss the complaint, without prejudice.

         Legal Standard on Initial Review

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the Court is required to dismiss a complaint filed in forma pauperis if it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. To state a claim for relief under § 1983, 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, inter alia, draw upon judicial experience and common sense. Id. at 679.

         When conducting initial review pursuant to § 1915(e)(2), the Court must give the complaint the benefit of a liberal construction. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). However, this does not mean that pro se complaints may be merely conclusory. Even pro se complaints are required to allege facts which, if true, state a claim for relief as a matter of law. Martin v. Aubuchon, 623 F.2d 1282, 1286 (8th Cir. 1980); see also Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914-15 (8th Cir. 2004) (federal courts are not required to “assume facts that are not alleged, just because an additional factual allegation would have formed a stronger complaint”). In addition, affording a pro se complaint the benefit of a liberal construction does not mean that procedural rules in ordinary civil litigation must be interpreted so as to excuse mistakes by those who proceed without counsel. See McNeil v. U.S., 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993).


         In 1981, plaintiff was convicted of first-degree burglary and forcible rape. Missouri v. Little, 674 S.W.2d 541 (Mo. banc 1984). He filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, which was granted by the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in 1987. Little v. Armontrout, 835 F.2d 1240 (8th Cir. 1987). The Court of Appeals held that the admission of the victim's post-hypnotic identification testimony violated plaintiff's right to due process. Id.

         On August 13, 2015, plaintiff filed a pro se complaint in this Court alleging violations of his civil rights. Little v. Cape Girardeau Police Dept., No. 4:15-CV-1237 DDN (E.D.Mo). There, plaintiff sued the Cape Girardeau Police Department, the Brentwood Police Department, and the State of Missouri for harassment by police officers, seeking $6.3 billion in damages. Id. Plaintiff alleged that police officers, apparently investigating a rape, visited him at his place of employment on December 11, 2011. Id. Plaintiff alleged that the officers yelled at him and stated that he had gotten off on a technicality. Id. Plaintiff alleged that he suffered mental and emotional pain and damage to his reputation. Little, No. 4:15-CV-1237 DDN (E.D.Mo.). Plaintiff's complaint was dismissed as legally frivolous. Id.

         Plaintiff filed a second civil rights action in this Court on December 12, 2016. See Little v. Cape Girardeau Police Dept., No. 1:16-CV-285 RLW (E.D.Mo). Plaintiff alleged that he had been denied due process during his trial and that he had been subject to false arrest due to improper training by the arresting officers. Plaintiff further alleged that his character had been defamed. The action was dismissed as frivolous as legally frivolous on February 2, 2017. Id.

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff filed the instant three-count complaint on August 13, 2018. Named as defendants are the Cape Girardeau Police Department, Police Hypnotist B.J. Lincecum, and Detective Bill McHughes.

         In Count I, titled “Violation of Constitutional Rights, ” plaintiff alleges that: he was denied the right to confront witnesses during his state trial; the victim's identification of plaintiff lacked credibility; hypnotically-induced testimony is inadmissible; he was improperly denied a state-provided expert; the trial court wrongfully admitted witness testimony identifying plaintiff as the assailant; the trial court improperly denied his motion for the appointment of a forensic hypnotist; hypnosis was improperly used to refresh witness memories; the audio recording of the hypnotic sessions conducted by the state were wrongfully destroyed; the identification procedure was suggestive in that hypnosis was used; and he was effectively denied counsel.

         In Count 2, titled “Deprivation of Rights under Color of Law, Title 18 U.S.C. Code 242, Section 14141, ” plaintiff alleges that he was falsely arrested due to the lack of (or improper) training of Lincecum and McHughes. Plaintiff also alleges that the police lineups were improperly suggestive, that Lincecum should not have been allowed to conduct hypnotic sessions, that recordings of such sessions were improperly destroyed, and that identification testimony was improperly admitted.

         Count 3 is titled “Causing Emotional Distress.” In support of these counts, plaintiff alleges that he has been defamed and slandered. He asserts that his emotional distress has been caused by defendants ...

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