CHARLES RAY CRAWFORD a/k/a CRAWFORD, CHUCK a/k/a CHARLES CRAWFORD
MARSHALL L. FISHER, COMMISSIONER, MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY; EARNEST LEE, SUPERINTENDENT, MISSISSIPPI STATE PENITENTIARY, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY; THE MISSISSIPPI STATE EXECUTIONER, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY; AND UNKNOWN EXECUTIONERS, IN THEIR OFFICIAL CAPACITIES
OF JUDGMENT: 10/29/2014
COURT OF THE FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT OF HINDS COUNTY HON.
TOMIE T. GREEN JUDGE.
COURT ATTORNEYS: JAMES W. CRAIG VANESSA JUDITH CARROLL WILSON
DOUGLAS MINOR HAROLD EDWARD PIZZETTA, III
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: JAMES W. CRAIG VANESSA JUDITH
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY:
WILSON DOUGLAS MINOR HAROLD EDWARD PIZZETTA, III JASON L.
DAVIS JAMES M. NORRIS.
Charles Ray Crawford, a Mississippi death row inmate, filed a
civil lawsuit, pursuant to Title 42, United States Code,
Section 1983, in the Chancery Court of the First Judicial
District of Hinds County, alleging various federal
constitutional claims relating to the anesthetic, a
compounded version of pentobarbital not approved by the
United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), to be
utilized in his execution. The chancery court, following a
hearing, transferred the case to the Circuit Court of the
First Judicial District of Hinds County where the Mississippi
Department of Corrections (MDOC) renewed its motion to
dismiss. The circuit court granted the motion to dismiss,
holding that the Section 1983 claims were the same as or
similar to issues which were at the time pending in the
Mississippi Supreme Court. For the reasons articulated below,
we reverse the judgment and remand the case to the circuit
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
In 1994, a jury convicted Charles Ray Crawford of capital
murder, rape, burglary, and sexual battery, and he received a
death sentence in the Circuit Court of Tippah County.
Crawford v. State, 716 So.2d 1028 (Miss. 1998),
cert. denied, 525 U.S. 1021, 119 S.Ct. 550, 142
L.Ed.2d 458 (1998), reh'g denied, 525 U.S. 1021,
119 S.Ct. 1100, 143 L.Ed.2d 99 (1999). On appeal, the
Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed Crawford's conviction
and death sentence. Id. at 1053.
Crawford sought a writ of habeas corpus in the
United States District Court for the Northern District of
Mississippi, which was denied in 2008. Crawford v.
Epps, 2012 WL 3777024, *4 (N.D. Miss. Aug. 29, 2012)
(citing Crawford v. Epps, 228 WL 4419347 (N.D. Miss.
Sept. 25, 2008)). The United States Court of Appeals for the
Fifth Circuit vacated judgment and remanded the case for
further consideration. Crawford, 2012 WL 3777024, at
*4 (citing Crawford v. Epps, 353 Fed.App'x 977,
994 (5th Cir. 2009)). On remand, the district court dismissed
Crawford's petition for writ of habeas corpus
with prejudice. Crawford, 2012 WL 3777024, at *11.
The Fifth Circuit affirmed. Crawford v. Epps, 531
Fed.App'x 511, 522 (5th Cir. 2013), cert.
denied, 134 S.Ct. 1281, 188 L.Ed.2d 313 (2014).
The State's February 24, 2014, Motion to Reset Execution
Date was denied by the Mississippi Supreme Court on March 31,
2014, because Crawford's direct appeal from his rape
conviction remained pending. Crawford v. State,
2014-DP-01016-SCT (Miss. Mar. 31, 2014). This Court affirmed
Crawford's rape conviction. Crawford v. State,
192 So.3d 905 (Miss. 2015), cert. denied, 136 S.Ct.
2527 (Mem.) (2016).
Crawford sought leave in the Mississippi Supreme Court to
file a successive petition for post-conviction relief on
February 25, 2014. This Court denied Crawford leave to
proceed on August 4, 2016. See Crawford v. State,
2016 WL 4141748 (Miss. Aug. 4, 2016). Crawford's motion
for rehearing was denied by this Court on November 10, 2016.
Crawford, along with Michelle Byrom,  filed the present Complaint
for Equitable and Injunctive Relief in the Chancery Court of
the First Judicial District of Hinds County on March 28,
2014. The complaint was filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and
alleged "violations and threatened violations of . . .
rights to due process and to be free from cruel and unusual
punishment under the First, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth
Amendments to the United States Constitution and art. 3,
sections 14, 24, and 28 of the Mississippi
The MDOC filed a motion to dismiss under Mississippi Rules of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6).The Chancery Court of
the First Judicial District of Hinds County, after a hearing
on June 12, 2014, acknowledged in an order entered on July
21, 2014, that Crawford had sought equitable and declaratory
relief, but ruled that the "Complaint is actually based
upon alleged violations of Plaintiffs' constitutional
rights and seeks a determination of the same."
Accordingly, finding the claims to be "legal in
substance, " the chancery court determined it lacked
subject matter jurisdiction and transferred the case to the
Circuit Court of the First Judicial District of Hinds County.
The MDOC renewed its motion to dismiss and the Circuit Court
of the First Judicial District of Hinds County granted the
MDOC's motion to dismiss on October 30, 2014, "as
Plaintiff Charles Crawford currently has the same or similar
issues under review before the Mississippi Supreme
Court." Crawford appealed both the chancery court's
order of transfer and the circuit court's order of
dismissal on November 12, 2014.
The circuit court erred in finding that Crawford had
the same or similar claims pending before
this Court at the time the present Section 1983 lawsuit was
The circuit court granted the MDOC's motion to dismiss
because "Plaintiff Charles Crawford currently has the
same or similar issues under review before the Mississippi
Supreme Court." Crawford argues on appeal that no
factual basis exists for the ruling because Crawford's
motion for leave to file a successive petition for
post-conviction relief did not include the
method-of-execution claim challenging Mississippi's
lethal injection protocol, which was advanced in the present
Section 1983 civil suit. The MDOC's brief does not
respond to Crawford's first assignment of error.
To consider Crawford's argument, this Court must look
outside the record to Crawford's Motion for Leave to File
Successive Petition For Post-Conviction Relief, filed in this
Court on February 25, 2014. "This Court takes judicial
notice of its files." In re Dunn, 166 So.3d
488, 492 n.6 (Miss. 2013). In his motion for leave to file a
successive petition for post-conviction relief, Crawford
presented no argument relating in any manner to the
method-of-execution issue that is pled in his Section 1983
suit. The circuit court's order therefore is factually
mistaken. "'When considering jurisdictional issues
the Court sits in the same position as the trial court,
"with all facts as set out in the pleadings or exhibits,
and may reverse regardless of whether the error is
manifest."'" Canadian Nat'l Ry. Co. v.
Waltman, 94 So.3d 1111, 1115 (Miss. 2012) (quoting
Knight v. Woodfield, 50 So.3d 995, 998 (Miss.
Because the dismissal clearly was erroneous, we reverse. We
remand for a consideration of the legal sufficiency of
Crawford's complaint under Mississippi Rule of Civil
Challenges to the constitutionality of the
State's method of execution may be
brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in state
The MDOC argues that the Uniform Post-Conviction Collateral
Relief Act (UPCCRA) provides Crawford's exclusive remedy:
"[t]he purpose [of the UPCCRA] is to revise, streamline
and clarify the rules and statutes pertaining to
post-conviction collateral relief law and procedures, to
resolve any conflicts therein and to provide the courts of
this state with an exclusive and uniform procedure for the