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Ford v. Parish

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division

December 7, 2017

GLENN FORD, ET AL.
v.
CADDO PARISH, ET AL.

          KAREN HAYES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          MEMORANDUM RULING

          S MAURICE HICKS, JR., CHIEF JUDGE

         Before this Court is Defendants, former District Attorney Paul Carmouche and current District Attorney James Stewart's Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss (Record Document 105) Plaintiff, Andrea Armstrong's (“Armstrong”), claims in her First Amended Complaint (Record Document 86) of federal constitutional violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by the Caddo Parish District Attorney's Office through its prosecutors. Armstrong serves as the Executrix of the Estate of Glenn Ford (“Ford”). For the reasons which follow, the Defendants' Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND [1]

         In 1984, Ford was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death November 5, 1983 for the armed robbery and murder of Isadore Rozeman. His conviction and sentence were affirmed on appeal. State v. Ford, 489 So.2d 1250 (La.1986); Record Document 86 at 23, ¶ 95. Throughout a thirteen year period, Ford sought post-conviction relief based on the alleged suppression of exculpatory evidence. Id. at 24, ¶ 97. However, on October 19, 2009, the state district court denied Ford's post-conviction relief and on February 4, 2011, the Louisiana Supreme Court affirmed the lower court's decision. See id. at 25, ¶ 102. In late 2013, the Caddo Parish District Attorney's Office stated that it had obtained credible evidence that Ford “was neither present at, nor a participant in, the robbery and murder of Isadore Rozeman, ” and filed a motion to vacate Ford's conviction and sentence. Id. at 25-26, ¶ 103. On March 10, 2014, the trial court granted the State's motion. Id. Ford was released the following day after spending nearly thirty years on death row. See id. at 26, ¶ 106. On June 10, 2014, the State dropped all charges against Ford. Id. at ¶ 107

         On March 9, 2015, Ford filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and amended his complaint September 8, 2015, naming as Defendants the City of Shreveport, several now-retired or deceased members of the Shreveport Police Department (“Law Enforcement Defendants”), Paul Carmouche (“Carmouche”), the former District Attorney of Caddo Parish at the time of Ford's arrest and conviction, Dale Cox[2] (“Cox”), in his official capacity as the current District Attorney for Caddo Parish, George McCormick (“McCormick”), who testified in the Ford trial as an expert forensic pathologist and at the time of trial, was the then recently elected Coroner of Caddo Parish, Caddo Parish, the alleged employer of McCormick, and ABC Insurance Companies, unknown insurance companies. See id. at 4-6, ¶¶ 11-19. During the time of the filing of the initial Complaint and the Amended Complaint, Ford passed away. Armstrong as the Executrix of the Estate of Glenn Ford was substituted in his place. See Record Document 83.

         Armstrong's Amended Complaint alleges violations of Ford's Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The Amended Complaint contains at least eighteen allegations concerning the manufacturing and suppressing of evidence by Law Enforcement Defendants. See Record Document 86 at 9-14. In summary, Armstrong alleges that multiple police reports were buried by Law Enforcement Defendants that would have implicated other suspects and potentially exonerated Ford, the Law Enforcement Defendants suppressed a report that one of the Robinson brothers, a potential suspect to the Rozeman murder, had the murder weapon at a relative's house, and finally, the Law Enforcement Defendants manufactured witness evidence against Ford in an effort to frame him.

         Armstrong's Amended Complaint, in the alternative to her claims against other Defendants involved in this action, alleges Monell claims against the Caddo Parish District Attorney's Office. Specifically, Armstrong alleges that “employees and representatives of the Caddo Parish District Attorney's Office knew of some or all of the exculpatory evidence described in this complaint. Instead of turning that evidence over to Mr. Ford and his defense attorneys prior to Mr. Ford's criminal proceedings, those employees and representatives of the Caddo Parish District Attorney's Office suppressed the evidence, acting pursuant to the policies and practices of the Caddo Parish District Attorney's Office, which deprived Mr. Ford of his rights under the United States Constitution and Louisiana law.” Id. at 3, ¶ 7. However, due to the magnitude of the allegations regarding the suppression and manufacturing of evidence by the Law Enforcement Defendants, the Court finds it unnecessary to detail each allegation for purposes of analyzing Armstrong's Monell claims.

         As the Court indicated in an earlier Order (Record Document 133), the Caddo Parish District Attorney's Office cannot be sued under Louisiana law. See Hudson v. City of New Orleans, 174 F.3d 677, 680 (5th Cir. 1999) (“Louisiana law does not permit a district attorney's office to be sued in its own name.”). Thus, when attempting to sue a Louisiana district attorney's office, the current district attorney must be named in the suit, which has occurred in the present action. In suing Stewart in his official capacity, Armstrong is seeking to hold the District Attorney's Office (through its former District Attorney and Assistant District Attorneys) responsible under a theory of Monell liability. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166, 105 S.Ct. 3099, 3105 (1985) (“A suit against a public official in his official capacity is not a suit against the official personally, ” but is “to be treated as a suit against the entity.”). Bringing Monell claims against Stewart and Carmouche in their official capacities is simply “another way of pleading an action against an entity of which an officer is or was an agent.” Kentucky, 473 U.S. at 166, 105 S.Ct. at 3105. In this case, Carmouche's actions as the former District Attorney at the time of Ford's prosecution and conviction are imputed to the Caddo Parish District Attorney's Office via current District Attorney Stewart for the purpose of analyzing Armstrong's Monell claims.

         After reviewing Armstrong's Amended Complaint and her Opposition to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, Armstrong is attempting to hold the Caddo Parish District Attorney's Office liable through its agents by alleging six theories of Monell liability:

(1) the actions of final policymakers violated Ford's constitutional rights;
(2) the existence of a written, official policy of the Caddo Parish District Attorney to suppress, destroy, and fabricate evidence;
(3) Brady evidence in Ford's case was destroyed, suppressed, and fabricated pursuant to widespread customs and practices of the Caddo Parish District Attorney, which were so well-settled to constitute de facto policies, and the District Attorney was deliberately indifferent to these wrongs;
(4) the District Attorney and his policymakers were deliberately indifferent to these customs and practices, which was demonstrated by a failure to supervise;
(5) the District Attorney and his policymakers were deliberately indifferent to these customs and practices, which was demonstrated by a failure to ...

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