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Davis v. Warden

United States District Court, D. Maryland

January 30, 2017

WARDEN, et al., Defendants



         Pending is a Motion to Dismiss, or in the alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants State of Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services ("DPSCS"), Warden Richard Graham, Jr., Sgt. Gerald Lane, and Major Shalawnda Suggs.[1] ECF 9. Plaintiff, through counsel, has responded. ECF 19.

         Plaintiffs Complaint and Court-directed Supplement were filed pro se, ECF 1 & 3. In his opposition to the dispositive motion, counsel clarifies that Plaintiff is only pursuing his claim against Captain Suggs and Sergeant Lane in their individual capacities regarding the alleged forgery of the employee worksheet. ECF 19-1, p. 5. As such, Plaintiffs allegations regarding inadequate pre-release planning as well as his allegations regarding his assignment to a non-wheelchair accessible facility, will not be recounted. Moreover, his complaint as to DPSCS and Warden Graham shall be DISMISSED.

         Upon review of the papers filed, the Court finds a hearing in this matter unnecessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons stated below, the dispositive motion will be construed as a Motion to Dismiss and will be GRANTED.


         The case was instituted upon receipt of correspondence filed by Plaintiff Bryant Elliott Davis, a former Maryland state inmate. ECF 1. By way of his Court-directed, self-represented Supplemental Complaint, Plaintiff indicates that correctional employees Gerald Lane and Shalawnda Suggs conspired to falsify records which resulted in Plaintiffs conviction of perjury and related offenses. ECF 3.

         Plaintiff indicates that on January 23, 2011, he was incarcerated at the Jessup Correctional Institution (JCI) under Case Number 13-K-0209, serving a 12 year term of confinement for first degree assault and possession of a firearm. ECF 3, p. 4. On that date, the victim in his case, Taryn Young, who is the mother of Plaintiffs son, brought their son to visit Plaintiff. Id. While in the visiting room at JCI, Young signed an affidavit recanting the testimony she offered during Plaintiffs trial, which Plaintiff indicates was the basis for his conviction. Id., p. 5. JCI forbids the passing of materials between an inmate and visitor, so Plaintiff sought authorization from the visiting room supervisor, Sgt. Gerald Lane, to receive the material. Lane reviewed the affidavit and provided Plaintiff a pen so that Young could sign the affidavit. Id. Lane witnessed Young sign the affidavit and Lane subsequently signed an affidavit of his own stating he witnessed Young sign the affidavit. Id.

         Plaintiff filed a Petition for Writ of Actual Innocence in the Circuit Court for Howard County and attached both Young and Lane's affidavits. Id. On the day of the hearing, Young denied having signed the affidavit. Id. Although Sgt. Lane had been subpoenaed for the hearing, he did not appear. The Honorable Louis A. Becker, III, Circuit Court for Howard County, denied the Petition for Writ of Actual Innocence based on Young's testimony and also found that Plaintiff "perpetrated a fraud on the court." Id. Judge Becker also requested that JCI look into Plaintiffs claims that Lane witnessed Young sign the affidavit. ECF 3-1, p. 4.

         In response to that inquiry, Captain Shalawnda Suggs investigated the incident. At the conclusion of her investigation she wrote a memo to Warden John Wolfe stating that Lane advised her that "during the date indicated on the document that he was not assigned to the Visiting Room." Id. Suggs also indicated that she had reviewed the Post Assignment Worksheet and found that Lane was assigned to the Vehicle Sally Port while Officer Mollie Johnson was assigned as the Visiting Room Officer in Charge on January 23, 2011. Id. Suggs concluded that "the document submitted by inmate Bryant Davidson [was] fraudulent." Id.

         Months after the hearing on the Petition for Writ of Actual Innocence, the State's Attorney for Howard County charged Plaintiff with fraud, perjury and forgery, alleging that both affidavits had been forged by Plaintiff. In support of the charges, the State's Attorney alleged that Sgt. Lane was not working in the visiting room on January 23, 2011. Id.

         In preparation for Plaintiffs trial, his assigned public defender reviewed the "employee assignment sheet" for JCI for January 23, 2011, which showed that Officer Mollie Johnson was the supervisor in the visiting room on that date. Id., pp. 5-6. Plaintiffs attorney also showed him a statement from Sgt. Lane denying he witnessed Young sign the affidavit because he was not working in the visiting room on that date. Lane agreed that the signature appeared to be his on the affidavit but denied knowledge of how it got there. Id., p. 6. Plaintiffs defense attorney advised him that he could not win his case, and Plaintiff entered into a plea agreement. Id.

         Subsequently, Plaintiff filed a Petition for Post-Conviction Relief as to the perjury and forgery convictions, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel and a Brady violation for failing to disclose that the employee assignment worksheet was forged. Id., p. 6. Plaintiffs postconviction counsel subpoenaed the records from JO, including the employee assignment worksheet, and the record showed that Lane was in fact the supervisor of the visiting room on January 23, 2011. Id. Plaintiff alleges that it was demonstrated that the original employee assignment worksheet provided to his defense attorney did not come from JCI's record department but rather was created and forged by Suggs, a friend of Lane. Id. Plaintiff was granted post-conviction relief and a new trial was ordered. Id., p. 7. At this time, Plaintiff had served the remainder of his sentence on the First Degree Assault and Illegal Possession charges but was still on parole for the perjury conviction. ECF 19-1, p. 3. Plaintiff pleaded guilty to count 1 "Perjury: Witness in Court" and was sentenced to 779 days e.g. time served, and taken off of parole. ECF 3-1, p. 8; ECF 9-8, Ex. 7, p. 3. Plaintiff states that as a result of Lane and Suggs' actions he was forced to serve two and a half years incarceration. ECF 3-1, p. 8.

         Plaintiff states that he is pursuing a civil rights violation pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He alleges that it was cruel and unusual punishment for Suggs to forge the employee worksheet and for Lane to ...

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