United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division
PARNELL R. MAY PLAINTIFF
ARKANSAS STATE CRIME LABORATORY, et al. DEFENDANTS
Parnell R. May, in custody in the Pulaski County Detention
Center, filed a pro se complaint pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. No. 2.) He also filed a motion to
proceed in forma pauperis, which was granted. (Doc.
Nos. 1, 3.)
law requires courts to screen in forma pauperis
complaints, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), and prisoner complaints
seeking relief against a governmental entity, officer, or
employee, 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Claims that are legally
frivolous or malicious; that fail to state a claim for
relief; or that seek money from a defendant who is immune
from paying damages should be dismissed before the defendants
are served. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.
A claim is legally frivolous if it “lacks an arguable
basis in either law or fact.” Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 328 (1989). Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)
requires only “a short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” In
Bell Atlantic Corporation v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544,
555 (2007) (overruling Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41
(1957), and setting new standard for failure to state a claim
upon which relief may be granted), the court stated, “a
plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds'
of his ‘entitle[ment]to relief' requires more than
labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do. . . . Factual
allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above
the speculative level, ” citing 5 C. Wright
& A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1216,
pp. 235- 236 (3d ed. 2004). A complaint must contain enough
facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face, not merely conceivable. Twombly at 570.
However, a pro se plaintiff's allegations must
be construed liberally. Burke v. North Dakota Dept. of
Corr. & Rehab., 294 F.3d 1043, 1043-1044 (8th Cir.
2002) (citations omitted).
allegedly murdered Anna Marie Mireles; the first trial in
State v. May, No. 60CR-17-169,  ended in a
mistrial in January 2018. State criminal proceedings against
May are ongoing; he has objected to retrial based on double
jeopardy and the matter is currently on appeal.
§ 1983 action, May sued the Arkansas State Crime
Laboratory (“ASCL”) and multiple ASCL employees.
(Doc. No. 2). He alleges that Defendants failed to comply
with Ark. Code Ann. § 12-12-312, which requires a
“full report of the facts developed by the State
Medical Examiner. . . .” (Id. at 4-5.)
According to May, Mireles's autopsy report omitted the
most significant fact for his defense-the amount of
N-Proponal in her heart blood sample. (Id. at 5).
May asserts that N-Proponal results would preclude a finding
that Mireles died of blunt-force trauma in lieu of a
determination that her death was caused by alcohol poisoning;
he believes that the inclusion of N-Proponal levels would
establish his actual innocence. (Id. at 10, 12). He
further believes that the autopsy report was improperly
admitted at his January 2018 trial, as the report was
purportedly defective. May alleges Defendants violated his
due process rights by not including all facts in the autopsy
report as required by Ark. Code Ann. § 12-12-312. He
seeks damages. (Id. at 18.)
Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 43-45 (1971), the
Supreme Court held that federal courts should abstain from
interfering in ongoing state proceedings. The Court explained
the rationale for such abstention as follows:
[The concept of federalism] represent[s] . . . a system in
which there is sensitivity to the legitimate interests of
both State and National Governments, and in which the
National Government, anxious though it may be to vindicate
and protect federal rights and federal interests, always
endeavors to do so in ways that will not unduly interfere
with the legitimate activities of the States.
Id. at 44.
a federal court must abstain from entertaining constitutional
claims when: (1) there is an ongoing state judicial
proceeding; (2) the state proceeding implicates important
state interests; and (3) there is an adequate opportunity in
the state proceedings to raise the constitutional challenges.
Yamaha Motor Corp. v. Stroud, 179 F.3d 598, 602 (8th
Cir. 1999); Yamaha Motor Corp. v. Riney, 21 F.3d
793, 797 (8th Cir. 1994). If all three questions are answered
affirmatively, a federal court should abstain unless it
detects “bad faith, harassment, or some other
extraordinary circumstance that would make abstention
inappropriate.” Middlesex County Ethics Comm'n
v. Garden State Bar Ass'n, 457 U.S. 423, 435 (1982).
involved in ongoing state criminal proceedings, and Arkansas
has an important interest in its criminal justice procedures.
May can raise the autopsy report's alleged defects-and
thus its admissibility-in his state-court criminal
proceedings. As such, this Court should abstain from
entertaining plaintiffs constitutional claims. Further, there
is no indication of bad faith, harassment, or any other
extraordinary circumstance that would make abstention
determined that the Court should abstain from entertaining
plaintiffs claims, it must decide whether to dismiss, or to
stay, the case. Where only injunctive or equitable relief is
sought, dismissal is appropriate. Night Clubs, Inc. v.
City of Fort Smith, 163 F.3d 475, 481 (8th Cir. 1998).
May, however, seeks damages. Accordingly, May's case is
stayed and administratively terminated. Stroud, 179
F.3d at 603-04.
Clerk of the Court is directed to stay and administratively
terminate this proceeding pending final disposition ...