Argued: June 21, 2017
from the United States District Court for the Middle District
of Tennessee at Columbia. No. 1:14-cv-00150-William J. Haynes
Jr., District Judge.
Michael J. Wall, BRANSTETTER, STRANCH & JENNINGS, PLLC,
Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellant. .
Jordan, OFFICE OF THE TENNESSEE ATTORNEY GENERAL, Nashville,
Tennessee, for Appellee.
Michael J. Wall, James G. Stranch III, BRANSTETTER, STRANCH
& JENNINGS, PLLC, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellant.
Jordan, OFFICE OF THE TENNESSEE ATTORNEY GENERAL, Nashville,
Tennessee, for Appellee.
Before: BOGGS, GRIFFIN, and WHITE, Circuit Judges.
suit involves three main questions:
(1) whether plaintiff Randall Mills sufficiently pleaded a
claim for malicious prosecution under 42 U.S.C. § 1983;
(2)whether Mills sufficiently pleaded a claim for fabrication
of evidence under § 1983; and
(3)whether Mills sufficiently pleaded a Brady claim.
The district court found that Mills had not so pleaded and
granted defendant Sharon Jenkins's motion to dismiss on
those claims. We reverse the district court on all three
issues, holding that the complaint contains the requisite
facts to constitute viable claims on all counts.
evening of March 15, 1999, twelve-year-old C.M. slipped out
of her house while her mother was out of town. Her sister
Jennifer, and her sister's boyfriend, Robert Hodge,
realized that C.M. was missing and searched the house and
neighborhood for her. Upon their return to the house, the two
found C.M. sitting on the front doorstep, disoriented. When
asked where she had been, C.M. initially told her sister that
she had been in the backyard but changed her story when
confronted with the fact that Jennifer and Robert had
searched the backyard. C.M. then stated that she had been at
the house of Randall Mills, her next-door neighbor, and he
had smoked marijuana with her and fondled her. Jennifer and
Robert went to Mills's home and confronted him in front
of his two sons, accusing him of providing drugs to and
sexually assaulting C.M. The Lewisburg, Tennessee, police
were informed and began an investigation, during which C.M.
also alleged that Mills provided her with Valium. A few days
into the investigation, Mills turned himself over to the
custody of law enforcement.
21, 1999,  Mills was indicted for digital and oral
sexual contact with a minor and casual exchange of a
controlled substance. According to Mills, on August 16, 1999,
the Lewisburg Police Department received a report from the
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation ("TBI") that
semen had been found in C.M.'s underwear. An officer from
the police department then spoke with C.M., and C.M.
explained that Mills had engaged in sexual intercourse with
her but that she had not reported it because she was afraid
that she would get in trouble. As a result, on August 18,
1999, a grand jury indicted Mills once more and added the
charge of rape of a child by penile penetration.
same day, the Marshall County Circuit Court granted an order
for the taking of saliva and blood samples from Mills. Sharon
Jenkins was the DNA analyst assigned by TBI to review the
evidence in Mills's case. After examining the underwear,
Jenkins stated that there were two sources of DNA found: C.M.
and a male contributor, whose DNA profile was consistent with
Mills. Jenkins testified at trial that the likelihood of an
unrelated Caucasian individual having the same DNA profile
was 1 in 290, and that there was only a 0.3% chance that the
DNA belonged to a Caucasian male other than Mills. Complaint
¶¶ 46, 63. Jenkins also testified that her analysis
of the underwear yielded "inconclusive data":
twelve of the thirteen markers she tested were inconclusive.
According to the complaint, toxicology reports contradicted
C.M.'s initial claim that she had taken Valium and that
Mills had smoked marijuana.
convicted Mills of rape of a child, aggravated sexual
battery, and casual exchange of a controlled substance, and
he was sentenced to serve twenty years in prison. Mills
unsuccessfully appealed his convictions in state court and
later sent a petition for a writ of habeas corpus to the
Office of the Federal Public Defender for the Middle District
of Tennessee. The Federal Public Defender, working together
with the Innocence Project, sent the preserved DNA evidence
and underwear from Mills's trial to a private DNA
laboratory, the Serological Research Institute
("SERI"). The SERI analysts were unable to retest
the exact portions of the underwear that Jenkins had used
because, according to Gary Harmor (an expert from SERI),
those samples were "gone." Additionally,
Mills's own samples had biodegraded, and he provided new
samples to SERI. In performing the tests, Harmor took one
sample from a portion of the underwear adjacent to the sample
taken by Jenkins and three other samples from different
locations on C.M.'s underwear. Using the "same
analysis techniques as those used by" Jenkins, Harmor
concluded that the underwear contained semen from two
different male contributors and that neither of those
contributors was Mills.
2009, Mills filled a petition for a writ of error coram nobis
before the state court. After evidentiary hearings, the
Marshall County Circuit Court on post-conviction review
granted Mills a new trial on the rape-of-a-child charge on
January 26, 2011, but denied relief on the remaining charges.
Mills appealed. In April 2011, after having served eleven
years in prison, Mills was released on time served in
exchange for signing a release of claims while his appeal was
pending. In November 2013, the Tennessee Court of Criminal
Appeals overturned all of Mills's convictions, finding
that the new DNA evidence called into question the critical
testimony of C.M. at trial. Mills v. State, 2013 WL
6069276, at *26. In 2014, Mills filed a motion to dismiss the
indictment, and the State responded with a nolle
prosequi motion. The Marshall County Circuit Court
entered a nolle prosequi order on April 4, 2014.
November 19, 2014, Mills filed suit under 42 U.S.C.
§§ 1981, 1983, and 1985 in the United States
District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee. In his
action, he named as defendants Weakley Barnard (the Assistant
District Attorney General for the Tennessee Seventeenth
Judicial District, including Marshall County), Jenkins (the
TBI DNA analyst), and Beth Rhoton (a police investigator with
the Lewisburg Police Department) in both their individual and
official capacities; Mark Gwyn (the Director of the TBI) in
his official capacity; Marshall County; and the City of
Lewisburg. Mills claimed that: (1) he was subjected to
malicious prosecution and "a conspiracy to cover-up the
truth" in contravention of the Fourth, Thirteenth, and
Fourteenth Amendments; (2) Barnard, Jenkins, and Rhoton
conspired to deprive Mills of his constitutional rights; (3)
the City of Lewisburg and Marshall County ratified and
condoned the unconstitutional actions taken against Mills;
and (4) Barnard and Jenkins falsely imprisoned Mills in
violation of Tennessee state law. The district court
construed Mills's assertion that Barnard, Jenkins, and
Rhoton manufactured "knowingly false inculpatory
evidence" against him and suppressed "exonerating
exculpatory evidence" as a claim under Brady v.
Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). After all defendants moved
to dismiss Mills's suit, the district court granted the
motions. The court determined that the Fourth Amendment
false-arrest and false-imprisonment claims were time barred
by the statute of limitations; Mills's claims for money
damages against Jenkins, Gwyn, and Barnard were barred by the
Eleventh Amendment; Gwyn was protected by absolute
prosecutorial immunity; probable cause existed and therefore
defeated Mills's malicious-prosecution claims against the
defendants; any Brady claim failed because the new
DNA findings were based on "material that Jenkins did
not have" or test; and the other constitutional claims
were insufficiently pleaded to survive a Rule 12(b)(6)
motion. Mills timely appealed the district court's
judgment "only insofar as [it] dismissed the claims
against . . . Jenkins" and only in her individual
capacity. Appellant's Br. 13.
examine de novo the grant of a motion to dismiss under Rule
12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Bickerstaff v. Lucarelli, 830 F.3d 388, 395-96 (6th
Cir. 2016). In order to defeat a motion to dismiss, a
plaintiff must "allege facts that 'state a claim
to relief that is plausible on its face' and that, if
accepted as true, are sufficient to 'raise a right to
relief above the speculative level.'" Handy-Clay
v. City of Memphis, 695 F.3d 531, 538 (6th Cir. 2012)
(quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544,
555, 570 (2007)). In reviewing a complaint, we construe it
"in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, ...