Gilliam v. Sealey, 073019 FED4, 18-1366

Docket Nº:18-1366, 18-1402
Opinion Judge:THACKER, CIRCUIT JUDGE:
Party Name:J. DUANE GILLIAM, Guardian of the Estate of Leon Brown; RAYMOND C. TARLTON, Guardian Ad Litem for Henry Lee McCollum, Plaintiffs - Appellees, v. KENNETH SEALEY, both individually and in his official capacity as the Sheriff of Robeson County; ROBERT E. PRICE, Administrator C.T.A. of the Estate of Joel Garth Locklear, Sr., Defendants - Appellants...
Attorney:James R. Morgan Jr., WOMBLE BOND DICKINSON (US) LLP, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, for Appellants. Catherine E. Stetson, HOGAN LOVELLS U.S. LLP, Washington, D.C., for Appellees. Bradley O. Wood, WOMBLE BOND DICKINSON (US) LLP, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, for Appellants K. Sealey and R. Price....
Judge Panel:Before NIEMEYER, THACKER, and RICHARDSON, Circuit Judges. RICHARDSON, Circuit Judge, concurring in part and dissenting in part:
Case Date:July 30, 2019
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
 
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J. DUANE GILLIAM, Guardian of the Estate of Leon Brown; RAYMOND C. TARLTON, Guardian Ad Litem for Henry Lee McCollum, Plaintiffs - Appellees,

and

HENRY LEE MCCOLLUM; LEON BROWN; GERALDINE BROWN RANSOM, Guardian of Leon Brown; KIMBERLY PINCHBECK, as limited guardian and conservator of the estate of Henry Lee McCollum, Plaintiffs,

v.

KENNETH SEALEY, both individually and in his official capacity as the Sheriff of Robeson County; ROBERT E. PRICE, Administrator C.T.A. of the Estate of Joel Garth Locklear, Sr., Defendants - Appellants,

and

ROBESON COUNTY; TOWN OF RED SPRINGS; KENNETH SNEAD; JOEL GARTH LOCKLEAR; LARRY FLOYD; LEROY ALLEN; ESTATE OF LUTHER HAGGINS; GERALDINE BRITT HAGGINS, as Administratix/Executrix of the Estate of Luther Haggins; PAUL CANADY, Administrator C.T.A of the Estate of Luther Haggins; FAYETTEVILLE OBSERVER-TIMES; ASSOCIATED PRESS; WTVD TELEVISION LLC; CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, Defendants.

J. DUANE GILLIAM, Guardian of the Estate of Leon Brown; RAYMOND C. TARLTON, Guardian Ad Litem for Henry Lee McCollum, Plaintiffs - Appellees,

and

HENRY LEE MCCOLLUM; LEON BROWN; GERALDINE BROWN RANSOM, Guardian of Leon Brown; KIMBERLY PINCHBECK, as limited guardian and conservator of the estate of Henry Lee McCollum, Plaintiffs,

v.

KENNETH SNEAD; LEROY ALLEN, Defendants - Appellants,

and

ROBESON COUNTY; TOWN OF RED SPRINGS; KENNETH SEALEY, both individually and in his official capacity as the Sheriff of Robeson County; JOEL GARTH LOCKLEAR; LARRY FLOYD; ESTATE OF LUTHER HAGGINS; GERALDINE BRITT HAGGINS, as Administratix/Executrix of the Estate of Luther Haggins; PAUL CANADY, Administrator C.T.A of the Estate of Luther Haggins; ROBERT E. PRICE, Administrator C.T.A. of the Estate of Joel Garth Locklear, Sr.; FAYETTEVILLE OBSERVER-TIMES; ASSOCIATED PRESS; WTVD TELEVISION LLC; CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, Defendants.

Nos. 18-1366, 18-1402

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

July 30, 2019

Argued: March 20, 2019

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, at Raleigh. Terrence W. Boyle, Chief District Judge. (5:15-cv-00451-BO)

ARGUED:

James R. Morgan Jr., WOMBLE BOND DICKINSON (US) LLP, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, for Appellants.

Catherine E. Stetson, HOGAN LOVELLS U.S. LLP, Washington, D.C., for Appellees.

ON BRIEF:

Bradley O. Wood, WOMBLE BOND DICKINSON (US) LLP, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, for Appellants K. Sealey and R. Price.

Joshua H. Stein, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF NORTH CAROLINA, Raleigh, North Carolina; Matthew W. Sawchak, Brian D. Rabinovitz, NORTH CAROLINA DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellants K. Snead and L. Allen.

E. Desmond Hogan, Kirti Datla, David W. Maxwell, Elizabeth C. Lockwood, Matthew J. Higgins, HOGAN LOVELLS U.S. LLP, Washington, D.C., for Appellees.

Before NIEMEYER, THACKER, and RICHARDSON, Circuit Judges.

THACKER, CIRCUIT JUDGE:

This case stems from the wrongful conviction of two brothers, both teenaged boys with severe intellectual disabilities, for the rape and murder of an 11 year old girl in 1983. Henry McCollum and Leon Brown ("Appellees") spent 31 years in prison and on death row1 before being exonerated based on DNA evidence linking another individual, a man who was known to officers at the time of the investigation, to the crime. Following their release from prison, Appellees brought this case pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that the state and county law enforcement officers investigating the crime violated their Fourth Amendment and due process rights.

The officers moved for summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity. The district court denied their motion, and this appeal followed. Because Appellees have alleged facts sufficient to show that the officers violated their clearly established Fourth Amendment and due process rights, we affirm the district court's denial of qualified immunity.

I.

A.

The Underlying Crime and Investigation

Eleven year old Sabrina Buie went missing on the evening of September 24, 1983, in Red Springs, North Carolina. Two days later, her body was discovered in a soybean field near a convenience store in Red Springs. She was found naked from the waist down, with her bra pushed up over the back of her head. Her panties were shoved down her throat with a stick, and she had been sexually assaulted.

The Red Springs Police Department and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation ("SBI") worked together to investigate the case. SBI Agents Leroy Allen and Kenneth Snead and Robeson County Detectives Joel Garth Locklear and Kenneth Sealey (collectively, "Appellants") were assigned to the case. While processing the crime scene, Appellants discovered three Schiltz Malt Liquor beer cans, three match sticks, one Newport cigarette butt, and two wooden sticks reddened with blood.

On September 27, 1983, while canvassing the neighborhood for witnesses, Detective Locklear spoke to Henry McCollum, who denied any knowledge of Buie's disappearance. However, the following evening, Agent Snead and Detective Sealey interviewed Ethel Furmage, a high school student, who said that she had "heard at school" that McCollum "had something to do with" Buie's murder. J.A. 304.2 Shortly after 9:00 that evening, Snead, Sealey, and Agent Allen traveled to McCollum's home to interview him. McCollum agreed to ride with the officers to the police station, where he was fingerprinted and questioned.

B.

Interrogations of Appellees

1.

McCollum

What exactly happened in the interrogation room is at the heart of this case and is, as the district court determined, a dispute of material fact that must be determined by a jury. This is what we know for sure. At the time of these events, McCollum was 19 years old, and he suffered from severe intellectual disabilities. He scored a 56 on an IQ test, where any score below a 69 indicates intellectual disability. In high school, McCollum performed at the level of an eight to ten year old. And in 1990, McCollum was formally diagnosed as intellectually disabled. McCollum had never been in legal trouble.

A

Miranda3 waiver form bearing McCollum's signature is dated September 28, 1983, at 10:26 p.m. At 2:10 a.m. on September 29, McCollum signed a handwritten confession that was drafted by Agent Snead and witnessed by Detective Sealey and Red Springs Police Department Chief Luther Haggins. This confession stated the following: McCollum, along with four other boys -- Darrell Suber, Louis Moore, Chris (last name unknown), and Leon Brown -- were with Buie at approximately 9:30 p.m. on September 24, the day she went missing. Suber and Chris left the group to buy a six-pack of beer from the nearby convenience store. When they returned, Suber, Chris, McCollum, Moore, and Brown discussed raping Buie, because she had not agreed to have sex with them voluntarily. After this conversation, Moore left. The rest of the group walked with Buie to the woods at the edge of a field and drank beer. Suber and Chris smoked Newport cigarettes.

Per the confession, McCollum grabbed Buie's right arm while Brown grabbed her left arm. The group of boys then took turns raping Buie, with McCollum going third and Brown going last. Afterwards, Suber said they had to do something so that Buie would not tell the police what they had done. Chris tied Buie's pink panties to a stick, then used it to choke Buie to death. While this was happening, McCollum and Brown held Buie down and Suber cut her with a knife. Then, after they believed Buie was dead, the boys dragged her body to the edge of the woods. Suber had blood on his brown corduroy jacket and gray Nike tennis shoes, and Chris had blood on his sneakers.

After McCollum signed the confession, he was placed under arrest for Buie's rape and murder.

2.

Brown

During McCollum's interrogation, his mother Mamie Brown and brother Leon Brown arrived at the police station. At approximately 2 a.m. on September 29, and based on McCollum's written confession, Detective Locklear and Chief Haggins began to interrogate Brown.

Brown was 15 years old at the time, and like his brother, he had been diagnosed with severe intellectual disabilities. He consistently scored in the mid-50s range on IQ tests, and although he was in seventh grade, he performed at a third grade level. In 1982, a school psychologist had placed Brown in a special education class. Like his brother, Brown had not previously been in legal trouble.

At 2:24 a.m., Brown signed a form entitled "Juvenile Rights Warning."4 Then, around 6 a.m., Brown signed a confession that had been drafted by Detective Locklear. Following Brown's confession, he was arrested for the rape and murder of Buie.

3.

Confession Inconsistencies

Brown's confession implicated Suber and Chris, but it differed in certain aspects from McCollum's confession...

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