340 F.3d 1279 (11th Cir. 2003), 02-10200, Chappell v. Rich

Docket Nº:02-10200
Citation:340 F.3d 1279
Party Name:Chappell v. Rich
Case Date:August 11, 2003
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

Page 1279

340 F.3d 1279 (11th Cir. 2003)

Shelton CHAPPELL, Martha Bolden, Ruthie Montero, Jackie Williams, Paula Burns, all individually and as Personal Representatives of the Estate of Johnnie Mae Chappell, Alonzo Chappell, Ernest Chappell, Plaintiffs-Appellants,


J.W. RICH, Wayne M. Chessman, Elmer Kato, James Alex Davis, all individually, Nathaniel Glover, Sheriff of Duval County, Florida as successor to Dale Carson, Dale Carson, as former Sheriff of Duval County, Florida, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 02-10200.

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

August 11, 2003

Page 1280

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 1281

M. Forest Hutchinson, III, Gregory Wayne Lineberry, William T. Lassiter, Jr., Lassiter & Sessions, D. Gray Thomas, William J. Sheppard, Sheppard, White & Thomas, P.A., Jacksonville, FL, for Plaintiffs-Appellants.

Scott Douglas Makar, Asst. Gen. Counsel, App. and Local Government Law Div., Jacksonville, FL, for Defendants-Appellees.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

Before BARKETT, MARCUS and ALARCON [*], Circuit Judges.


The adult children of Johnnie Mae Chappell ("Chappell children") appeal the district court's dismissal of their complaint asserting constitutional claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985. They contend that their cause of action for denial of access to the courts is not time-barred and that their complaint alleges facts sufficient to state a claim.

According to the complaint, Johnnie Mae Chappell, an African-American woman, was shot and killed on March 23, 1964, by four white men during a drive-by shooting in a period of racial unrest in Jacksonville, Florida. Following an investigation at the crime scene, no action was taken by the Duval County Sheriff's Office until about August 10, 1964, when two detectives in the Sheriff's Office inadvertently obtained a confession, as well as the murder weapon, from one of the four men while investigating another case. Unable to find any detectives working on the Chappell case, the two detectives, C. Lee Cody and Donald R. Coleman, searched for the investigative file, discovering it underneath the desk chair floor pad in Chief of Detectives J.C. Patrick's office. Detectives Cody and Coleman brought the matter to the attention of Sheriff Dale Carson, who assured them he would look into it. Shortly thereafter, Chief Patrick removed Detectives Cody and Coleman from the Chappell murder investigation, and they were reassigned.

In September 1964, J.W. Rich, Elmer Kato, Wayne Chessman, and James Alex Davis were indicted for Mrs. Chappell's murder. Rich was tried separately and convicted of manslaughter. The state then moved for entry of nolle prosequi for Kato, Chessman, and Davis, citing insufficient evidence for trial.

On March 23, 1996, former detective Cody informed members of the Chappell family for the first time about the alleged interference by the Sheriff's Office in the Chappell investigation. The Chappell children filed their complaint on March 23, 2000 against the former and current Sheriffs of Duval County and the four men arrested in connection with their mother's death, alleging deprivation of their civil rights solely because of their race in violation of 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, 1985(2) and (3)...

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