United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Greenville Division
ORDER OF DISMISSAL
PERCY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter is before the Court, sua sponte, for
consideration of dismissal. Plaintiff Bildrick Jackson, an
inmate in the custody of the Mississippi Department of
Corrections, has filed suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983
alleging Defendants have denied him his State-created right
to DNA testing. Plaintiff having consented to U.S. Magistrate
Judge jurisdiction in this case in accordance with 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(c), the undersigned has the authority to enter
this order and the accompanying final judgment.
Jackson was accused of murdering Natalia Little in 2001,
though her body was never discovered. To establish
Little's death at trial, the prosecution presented blood
evidence from rock and soil samples near where Little was
purportedly murdered, the mitochondrial DNA testing of which
matched the DNA of the victim or someone in her maternal
lineage. Jackson was ultimately convicted of murder and
sentenced to a term of life imprisonment. The judgment of the
trial court was affirmed on appeal. Jackson v.
State, 924 So.2d 531 (Miss. Ct. App. 2005),
reh'g denied January 3, 2006, cert
denied March 23, 2006.
September 12, 2016, Jackson filed an application for leave to
proceed in the trial court on a motion for forensic DNA
testing pursuant to the Mississippi Uniform Post-Conviction
Relief Act, Miss. Code Ann. § 99-39-5(1)(f). In the
application, he argued that “advancements in DNA
forensic testing since [his] trial” would prove his
innocence. Doc. #1 at 8. Specifically, Jackson requested that
an expert be permitted to perform nuclear DNA testing, which
would allow examiners to obtain complete DNA profiles from
the previously-tested samples in Jackson's case.
Id. at 10-11. On June 6, 2017, the Mississippi
Supreme Court denied Jackson's application for leave to
proceed in the trial court on a motion for forensic DNA
testing. Id. at 61.
about July 12, 2018, Jackson filed the instant complaint,
arguing that the Mississippi Supreme Court's denial of
his postconviction application deprived him of his rights to
due process. He asks the Court to issue declaratory and
injunctive relief entitling him to nuclear DNA
Jackson was incarcerated when he filed the instant lawsuit,
it is subject to sua sponte dismissal under the
Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”).
See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Pursuant to the PLRA,
the Court is obligated to evaluate the complaint and dismiss
it if it is “frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a
claim upon which relief may be granted, ” or if it
“seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is
immune from such relief.” § 1915A(b)(1) & (2).
A claim is frivolous if it “lacks an arguable basis
either in law or in fact.” Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). A complaint fails to
state a claim upon which relief may be granted if relief
could not be granted to the plaintiff “under any set of
facts that could be proven consistent with the
allegations” in the complaint. Bradley v.
Puckett, 157 F.3d 1022, 1025 (5th Cir. 1998) (citation
omitted); see also Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007) (holding that complaint fails to
state a claim only where it does not plead “enough
facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
initial matter, the Court finds that Defendants, as judges of
the Mississippi Supreme Court, are immune from suit for
actions taken in their judicial capacities. See
Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 11(1991). Inasmuch
as ruling on a motion is clearly a “function normally
performed by a judge, ” the defendants' actions
were judicial in nature. Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S.
349, 362 (1978). Therefore, Defendants are immune from suit
and are entitled to be dismissed from this action.
Court otherwise notes that Mississippi law permits a
convicted inmate to file a motion requesting forensic DNA
testing if, as is relevant here, “there exists
biological evidence secured in relation to the investigation
or prosecution attendant to the petitioner's conviction
not tested, or, if previously tested, that can be subjected
to additional DNA testing, that would provide a reasonable
likelihood of more probative results, and that testing would
demonstrate by reasonable probability that the petitioner
would not have been convicted or would have received a lesser
sentence if favorable results had been obtained through such
forensic DNA testing at the time of the original
prosecution.” Miss. Code Ann. § 99-39-5(1)(f).
United States Supreme Court has recognized that when a State
provides procedures for convicted inmates to demonstrate
their innocence with new evidence, a limited liberty interest
in postconviction relief is created. Dist. Atty's
Office for Third Judicial Dist. v. Osborne, 557 U.S. 52,
67-69 (2009) (noting in such circumstances, an inmate
possesses an “liberty interest in demonstrating his
innocence with new evidence under state law”). Federal
courts may upset a State's postconviction relief
procedure only if it is “fundamentally inadequate to
vindicate the substantive rights provided.”
Id. at 69. That is, a court may intervene only if
consideration of the plaintiff's claim “within the
framework of the State's procedures for postconviction
relief ‘offends some principle of justice so rooted in
the traditions and conscience of our people as to be ranked
as fundamental,' or ‘transgresses any recognized
principle of fundamental fairness in operation.'”
Id. at 69 (citation omitted).
Osborne, the Supreme Court upheld Alaska's
postconviction relief procedures under this standard, since,
in part, the statute provided for relief if the defendant
made a “clear and convincing” showing that new
evidence established innocence, and the procedures exempted
defendants from otherwise applicable time limits. See
id. at 64-65. Therefore, the Court found, Alaska's
procedures were similar to other states and “not
inconsistent with the ‘traditions and conscience of our
people' or with ‘any recognized principle of
fundamental fairness.'” Id. at 70. Here,
the Mississippi statute requiring only a “reasonable
probability” that the newly tested evidence would
establish innocence, is less stringent than that upheld in
Osborne. It similarly allows an exemption for
otherwise untimely motions. See Miss. Code Ann.
§ 99-39-5(2). Accordingly, Mississippi's
postconviction procedures are sufficiently similar on their
face to those upheld in Osborne so as not to violate
crux of Jackson's complaint, however, is not that
Mississippi's statutory procedure is inadequate, but
rather, that the judicial decision rejecting his request is
wrong. Jackson's argument is that, if nuclear testing
were allowed in this case, it would show that the blood
evidence presented at his trial did not originate with
Natalia Little, and therefore, the State could not prove her
death. However, nuclear DNA testing would not demonstrate
that Natalia Little is alive. Mitochondrial DNA testing has
established that the blood evidence belonged to Little or
someone in her maternal line. There is no suggestion that any
female other than Little is missing from the family's
maternal line, and Little has not been seen since 2001.
See Doc. #1 at 49. Additionally, at trial, witness
Tavares Love testified that Little and Jackson left his
vehicle together, that he later heard a shot and looked up to
see Jackson holding a gun, and that he subsequently assisted
Jackson in moving a body and throwing it in the river.
Jackson v. State, 92 ...