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Monroe v. DiGuglielmo

United States District Court, Third Circuit

January 30, 2013




Now before me is a motion by defendants David DiGuglielmo, former superintendent of the State Correctional Institution at Graterford, Major Thomas Dohman, Lt. Karanzan, Corrections Officer McGregory, Corrections Officer Bright and Corrections Officer Hayes to dismiss the second amended complaint of plaintiff Edward L. Monroe.[1] For the reasons that follow, I will grant defendants’ motion.


Plaintiff Edward Monroe is serving a term of life without parole for a criminal homicide conviction and was previously an inmate at the State Correctional Institute at Graterford, where the alleged incidents in this case occurred. Dkt. No. 19 at ¶ 4. In his second amended complaint, plaintiff alleges that in late April or early May, 2008, he received two handwritten letters, one from Denise Gaines, a witness for the prosecution at his murder trial, and one from an unknown second party. Id. at ¶ 15. Ms. Gaines died on January 25, 2009 before plaintiff could locate or contact her. Id. at ¶ 43.

Plaintiff claims that in Gaines’ letter, she

apologized for failing to tell the truth while under oath in Plaintiff’s criminal trial. She acknowledged that she had lied in testifying against Plaintiff. She noted that she was aware that the Police Department had planted evidence in the form of a burnt purse against Plaintiff. She explained that representatives of the Police Department and the District Attorney’s office had convinced her to lie by threatening her with criminal charges, warning that they would take away her children, and promising her a sentence reduction in an unrelated criminal matter. Gaines cited her recent embrace of God and her active involvement in church activities as the motivation behind her recantation.

Id. at ¶ 16. He alleges that the writer of the anonymous letter claimed to have “been present and assisted Gaines with the drafting of the Gaines Letter” and “preferred to remain anonymous for the time being because he or she feared for his or her safety. However, the writer also stated that he or she would make things right for his or her previous wrongdoing.” Id. at ¶ 17. “There was no return address on the envelope or [on] either of the Letters.” Id. at ¶ 15.

Plaintiff claims that after he received the letters, he “began to research how he could use the letters to secure his freedom” and that he “prepared and retained legal materials, including research notes, draft pleadings and petitions, and supporting memoranda of law.” Id. at ¶ 18. He claims he made copies of the materials and gave them to two other inmates at SCI Graterford, cellmates Anthony Dickerson and Gregory Stover, for safekeeping at some point prior to June 21, 2008. Id. at ¶ 19.

Plaintiff alleges that on July 31, 2008, he discovered that his copies of the letters and legal materials related to the letters were missing. Id. at ¶ 34. He asserts that “[a]s a result of the destruction of the Letters and legal materials related to the Letters, plaintiff lost the opportunity to pursue a non-frivolous claim for relief, ” id. at ¶ 44, and that he “lost his best and only opportunity to confirm the existence of exculpatory evidence sufficient to overturn his conviction.” Id. at ¶ 50. He claims that with the documents he “could have sought relief under the Post-Conviction Relief Act . . . by presenting the letters as newly discovered exculpatory evidence, ” id. at ¶ 44, and that he “could have sought the appointment of counsel to further investigate the exculpatory information described therein.” Id. at ¶ 45. He claims that with the documents “supporting his suspicions” he “would have been far more likely to either have counsel appointed or to find pro bono counsel willing to pursue the reversal of his conviction.” Id. at ¶ 46. He contends that “[c]ounsel could have taken steps to locate Gaines and preserve any exculpatory evidence in her possession prior to her death, and to ascertain the identity of the author of the Anonymous Letter and secure exculpatory evidence available from that individual.” Id. at ¶ 47. Plaintiff alleges that “Gaines could have identified exculpatory evidence sufficient to show that prosecutors and police officers had manufactured inculpatory evidence and coerced testimony in order to falsely convict Plaintiff.” Id. at ¶ 48. He alleges that “the exculpatory evidence would have been sufficient to have changed the outcome of his trial” if it had then been available. Id. at ¶ 49. He also alleges that he “has no other remedy that may be awarded as recompense for the lost claim other than this action.” Id. at ¶ 50.

Plaintiff claims that while he was out of his cell on June 21, 2008, “Lt. Karanzan instructed McGregory to breach the security lock on Plaintiff’s cell and to destroy the Letter and legal materials related to the Letter that were . . . in Plaintiff’s cell.” Id. at ¶ 24. McGregory is alleged to have removed plaintiff from his cell and escorted him to Lt. Karanzan’s office for an interview after discovering copies of a pamphlet that plaintiff had been involved in drafting. Id. at ¶ 22. The pamphlet “encouraged his fellow inmates to assert their civil rights and avoid being overly friendly with corrections officers” and “included a list of numbered blank spaces where inmates could identify those inmates who they believed to be unduly cooperating with corrections officers.” Id. at ¶ 20. Plaintiff alleges that McGregory had searched his cell “in apparent retaliation [for plaintiff’s] exercise of his freedom of speech” through his involvement with the production of the pamphlet. Id. at ¶ 21.

Plaintiff claims that “the Letters and legal materials related to the Letters” were “out in plain view in his cell” during McGregory’s search. Id. at ¶ 21. He contends that while he was being escorted to Lt. Karanzan’s office, he “repeatedly requested that McGregory give him the opportunity to secure the Letters and legal materials related to the Letters.” Id. at ¶ 22. He claims that “McGregory denied this request, but assured Monroe that his cell was secured.” Id. at ¶ 23. Plaintiff claims that after McGregory left him at Lt. Karanzan’s office, “McGregory returned to Plaintiff’s cell and either seized or destroyed the Letters” and related legal materials. Id. at ¶ 25. Plaintiff asserts that he knew McGregory had entered his cell because “McGregory then returned to Lt. Karanzan’s office bearing Plaintiff’s typewriter which had been stored in Plaintiff’s cell.” Id. at ¶ 26.

After he was interviewed about the pamphlets, plaintiff was placed in the restricted housing unit. Id. He remained in the RHU for the remainder of the events alleged in his complaint. Id. at ¶ 29. Plaintiff claims that upon his arrival in the RHU he immediately “sent a written request to Lt. Karanzan, requesting permission to secure the Letters” and related legal materials or to heave them sent to him in the RHU. Id. at ¶¶ 27, 28. His requests were denied. Id.

Plaintiff claims that on or around June 22, 2008, inmate Matthew Smith observed two corrections officers (John Does 1 and 2) removing plaintiff’s belongings, including his legal materials, from his former cell. Id. at ¶ 30. Smith allegedly told “[p]laintiff that neither the Letters nor the legal materials related to the Letters were placed in storage by John Does 1 and 2.” Id. at ¶ 30. On July 3, 2008, plaintiff sent a written request to SCI Graterford’s Property Room, asking to have his legal materials and letters delivered to him. Id. at ¶ 31. The Property Room sent him a box of legal materials that did not include the letters or related legal materials on or around July 10, 2008. Id. at ¶ 32. Plaintiff then requested and received permission to access the Property Room on July 31, 2008, where he claims he discovered that his letters and related legal materials were missing. Id. at ¶¶ 33-34.

Plaintiff filed a formal grievance related to the missing letters and legal materials (No. 239288) on August 12, 2008. Id. at ¶ 35. It was denied. Id. Plaintiff subsequently filed two appeals, a Grievance Appeal and a Final Grievance Appeal, on August 22 and October 31, 2008, respectively. Id. at ¶¶ 36-38. He alleges that “after reviewing the Grievance Appeal, Superintendent DiGuglielmo refused to remedy the wrongs committed against Plaintiff ...

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