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Williams v. Lancaster County

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

October 11, 2019

KEVIN WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
LANCASTER COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA; CRAIG W. STEDMAN, District Attorney; LANCASTER CO. POLICE DEPARTMENT; and “ALL KNOWN AND UNKNOWN RESPONDENTS, ” in their official capacities, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          EDWARD G. SMITH, J.

         The pro se plaintiff is a life prisoner currently confined in a Pennsylvania state correctional institution. He has lodged a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 primarily challenging his 1999 extradition pursuant to a fugitive warrant, his criminal prosecution, and his conviction for first-degree murder. He is also seeking leave to proceed in forma pauperis.

         The plaintiff appears to be attempting to assert claims on behalf of a co-defendant and another individual, which he cannot do as a non-attorney. In addition, he purports to assert section 1983 claims even though his claims are only cognizable in a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Accordingly, although the court will grant the plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis, the court will dismiss the complaint as frivolous pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and not provide him with leave to amend the complaint because doing so would be futile.

         I.ALLEGATIONS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         In 1999, the pro se plaintiff, Kevin Williams (“Williams”), was arrested and charged with criminal homicide (18 Pa. C.S. § 2501).[1] See Docket, Commonwealth v. Stewart, No. CP-36-CR-4395-1999 (Lancaster Cty. Ct. Com. Pl.) (“CCP Docket”), available at https://ujsportal.pacourts.us/DocketSheets/CPReport.ashx?docketNumber=CP-36-CR-0004395-1999&dnh=pjhd%2fi3CLR4SrDe0HjqEEA%3d%3d (last visited Oct. 10, 2019). After a non-jury trial before the Honorable Lawrence F. Stengel in the Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas, Judge Stengel convicted Williams of first-degree murder and imposed a life sentence. See CCP Docket; Williams v. Kerestes, No. 1407 MDA 2014, 2015 WL 6134278, at *1 (Pa. Super. Apr. 24, 2015) (“On March 29, 2000, the court convicted Appellant of first-degree murder, in connection with Appellant's instruction to his associates to kill Victim in retaliation for Victim's theft of money and guns from a crack house maintained by Appellant.”).[2] Although Williams appealed from his judgment of sentence, his appeal was unsuccessful. See CCP Docket; Williams, 2015 WL 6134278, at *1 (indicating that Superior Court affirmed Williams's judgment of sentence on March 30, 2001, and Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied petition for allowance of appeal on August 20, 2001).

         Since his conviction became final, Williams has filed numerous petitions for post-conviction relief and petitions for writs of habeas corpus, none of which have been successful. See CCP Docket; Williams, 2015 WL 6134278 (“From 2001-2012, [Williams] unsuccessfully litigated multiple PCRA petitions.”); see also Aug. 7, 2017 Order, Williams v. Madenspacher, Civ. A. No. 17-691 (E.D. Pa.), Doc. No. 9 (adopting report and recommendation which recommended dismissing Williams's petition for writ of habeas corpus with prejudice because it was second or successive petition and Third Circuit Court of Appeals had denied Williams permission to file second or successive habeas petition); Sept. 8, 2008 Order, Williams v. Rozum, Civ. A. No. 07-3716 (E.D. Pa.), Doc. No. 19 (adopting report and recommendation which recommended dismissing Williams's petition for writ of habeas corpus). His appeals of adverse decisions and his motions to reopen his habeas cases were also unsuccessful, as were his applications to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals to file a second or successive habeas corpus petition. See Docket, In re Kirby Stewart, No. 11-3904 (3d Cir.) (application for leave to file second or successive petition dismissed on January 24, 2012, due to failure to file certain documents); Docket, In re Kevin Williams, No. 13-3315 (3d Cir.) (order denying Williams's application for leave to file second or successive motion to vacate sentence entered on October 30, 2013; order denying petition for en banc hearing and panel rehearing entered on November 13, 2013); Docket, In re Kevin Williams, No. 17-1617 (3d Cir.) (order denying Williams's application for leave to file second or successive habeas petition entered on May 16, 2017; order denying petition for en banc hearing and panel rehearing entered on June 16, 2017); see also Compl. at ECF p. 10 (describing unsuccessful state post-conviction collateral proceedings and federal habeas proceedings); id. at ECF p. 17 (“[Williams] has filed six (PCRA's)[, ] three (HABEAS CORPUS's [sic])[, and] two (RULE-60(b)'s)[.]”).

         In April 2019, Williams filed a motion in the state court under 42 Pa. C.S. § 5505[3] seeking to reopen his case to obtain “‘full and complete discovery' from the prosecution's office, ” in particular, “exculpatory evidence” that he claimed was “vital to [his] case.” Compl. at ECF p. 11. He also filed a second motion for discovery seeking records and various items based on Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). Id. at ECF pp. 48-50. It appears that the state court denied both motions. See CCP Docket.

         In the instant civil action, which Williams filed shortly before the denial of his most recent discovery motions, he brings claims for injunctive relief pursuant to section 1983 based on the criminal proceedings that led to his conviction. See Compl. at ECF p. 3 (indicating that Williams is bringing “this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Complaint for ‘Injunctive Relief'”). He has also filed an application for leave to proceed in forma pauperis (the “IFP Application”) and a prisoner trust fund account statement. Doc. Nos. 4, 5.

         In the caption of the complaint, Williams names as defendants (1) Lancaster County; (2) Craig W. Stedman, the District Attorney for Lancaster County; (3) the Lancaster County Police Department; and (4) “all known and unknown respondents.” Id. In the body of the complaint, Williams appears to seek to assert claims on behalf of (1) Kawame Coe (“Coe”), who appears to have been a co-defendant also convicted of murder, and (2) Michael Seabury (“Seabury”), who also appears to have been convicted of first-degree murder.[4] See Id. at ECF pp. 3-4; Docket, Commonwealth v. Coe, No. CP-36-CR-2189-1999 (Lancaster Cty. Ct. Com. Pl), available at https://ujsportal.pacourts.us/DocketSheets/CPReport.ashx?docketNumber=CP-36-CR-0002189-1999&dnh=CKDt7mkg2TwsgI9Udzsxkw%3d%3d (last visited Oct. 11, 2019); Docket, Commonwealth v. Seabury, No. CP-36-CR-2212-2000 (Lancaster Cty. Ct. Com. Pl.), https://ujsportal.pacourts.us/DocketSheets/CPReport.ashx?docketNumber=CP-36-CR-0002212- 2000&dnh=Xdoy35pweI7Vi7WF%2bKsLRw%3d%3d (last visited Oct. 11, 2019). Williams also provides numbers of criminal dockets for individuals other than himself. See Id. at ECF p. 3. Williams further lists additional “repsondents [sic]” whom he may have intended to include as defendants, including two judges who presided over his case.[5] See Id. at ECF p. 4.

         Williams raises claims based on events that occurred during the course of his state court criminal proceeding, in particular: (1) his extradition in 1999 from New York, where he was arrested, to Pennsylvania; (2) the Commonwealth's alleged failure to turn over exculpatory evidence in violation of Brady; and (3) various actions, including ineffectiveness of counsel, that allegedly undermined the fairness and constitutionality of his trial and post-conviction proceedings. See Id. at ECF pp. 7-10, 12, 16-17. Williams also alleges that Coe filed a motion seeking ballistics testing of projectiles based on allegedly new technology. See Id. at ECF p. 11. Williams asserts that this technology will prove his innocence as well as Coe's, but that Lancaster County refused to provide the testing. See Id. at ECF pp. 11. It appears that the Court of Common Pleas denied Coe's motion, and the Superior Court of Pennsylvania affirmed the decision on appeal. See Id. at ECF pp. 54-57 (attaching opinion in Commonwealth v. Coe, No. 1050 MDA 2018 (Pa. Super. Feb. 5, 2019)).

         In addition to these allegations, Williams refers to “prison bonds” taken out in 1997 that he suggests relate to this case. See Id. at ECF p. 16. He provides CUSIP numbers[6] and suggests that these numbers undermine his prosecution or conviction because officials in Lancaster County allegedly had a financial outcome in his case. See Id. However, the factual basis for that suggestion is entirely unclear.

         Williams requests various forms of injunctive relief. He seeks release from custody based on the alleged constitutional violations or, in the alternative, a hearing, discovery and certain unspecified forensic testing. See Id. at ECF p. 18. The request for forensic testing appears to refer to the ballistics testing Coe sought in his criminal case. The request for discovery appears to relate to the most recent motions Williams filed in state court seeking assorted discovery from the Commonwealth pursuant to Brady.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. The ...


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