United States District Court, D. Kansas
FLOYD S. BLEDSOE, Plaintiff,
JEFFERSON COUNTY, KANSAS, RANDY CARRENO, TROY FROST, ORIN TURNER, ROBERT POPPA, ROY DUNNAWAY, JIM VANDERBILT, GEORGE JOHNSON, JIM WOORDS, TERRY MORGAN, MICHAEL HAYES, JEFFREY HERRIG, and UNKNOWN OFFICERS OF THE JEFFERSON COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT and KANSAS BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
D. CRABTREE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the court on defendants Michael Hayes,
Jim Vanderbilt, Terry Morgan, Jim Woods, and George
Johnson's separate Motions to Dismiss (Docs. 76, 80, 83,
85, 86) plaintiff Floyd Bledsoe's First Amended Complaint
(Doc. 75). For reasons explained below, the court denies
following facts are taken from plaintiff's First Amended
Complaint (Doc. 75). Because the current dismissal motions
rely on Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the court must accept the
pleaded facts as true and view them in the light most
favorable to plaintiff. See Ramirez v. Dep't of
Corr., 222 F.3d 1238, 1240 (10th Cir. 2000) (explaining
that, on a motion to dismiss, the court must “accept
the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint as true and
construe them in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff” (citation omitted)). The court emphasizes
that this standard controls the facts at this stage of the
case. In short, the court expresses no opinion on whether
they represent the true facts.
lawsuit follows plaintiff's wrongful conviction for
sexual abuse and murder of a fourteen-year-old girl named
Camille Arfmann. A state court jury convicted plaintiff in
April 2000, and he was sentenced to life in prison. Plaintiff
was released from prison in 2015 after DNA testing exonerated
him, and instead identified his brother, Thomas Bledsoe
(“Tom”), as the likely wrongdoer.
November 1999, plaintiff was 23 years old and married to his
wife, Heidi. The couple had two young sons, and plaintiff
worked as a farmhand at a dairy farm in McLouth, Kansas. The
couple invited Heidi's younger sister, Camille, to live
with them in hopes of improving her school attendance.
Plaintiff's older brother, Tom, then 25 years old, lived
nearby with their parents. Tom had little social life, and he
suffered from some intellectual limitations and partial
deafness. Tom had a history of abnormal sexual behavior that
included pursuit of young girls, though he was an active
member of the Sunday school group for children at the
Countryside Baptist Church.
November 5, 1999, Camille took the bus home from school. She
arrived at plaintiff's home around 4:20 p.m. Her friend
Robin Meyer stopped by to visit at 5:00 p.m., but Camille was
not there. Plaintiff and Heidi reported Camille's
disappearance to the Jefferson County Sherriff's
Department and spent the next 48 hours trying to find
Camille. They stopped the search on November 7, 1999, after
Tom confessed that he had murdered Camille.
parents arranged for defense attorney defendant Michael
Hayes to represent Tom. Later that evening, Tom
and Mr. Hayes met with personnel at the Jefferson County
Sheriff's Department. Defendants Robert
Poppa and Roy Dunnaway attended this meeting, as
well as others including defendant officer Jim
Woods. Through Mr. Hayes, Tom informed these
defendants that he had murdered Camille and that he knew the
location of her body. Tom also revealed other details about
Camille's murder, including that he had shot her in the
head and moved her body to bury it in a trash dump. Tom and
Mr. Hayes took Mr. Poppa, Mr. Woods, Mr. Dunnaway, and
others, to his parents' property where he had been
living. They found Camille's body underneath a foot of
dirt, plywood, and garbage that included an X-rated movie and
t-shirt that read: Countryside Baptist Church. The wounds on
Camille's body matched Tom's description of her
murder. The defendants found three of four missing bullet
casings at Camille's burial site.
coroner recovered semen from inside Camille's vagina, but
he was unable to determine whether Camille had been sexually
abused. Mr. Hayes surrendered the murder weapon-Tom's
newly purchased Jennings 9mm firearm-to the police officers.
Tom was charged with Camille's murder and taken to the
Jefferson County Jail. Despite the evidence against Tom, the
defendants planned to frame plaintiff for Camille's
The plan to frame plaintiff
days after Tom's arrest, Mr. Hayes, along with Jefferson
County prosecutor Jim Vanderbilt,  and other unknown
defendants, met to devise a plan to fabricate Tom's
testimony. The lead detective on Camille's murder case,
Randy Carreno from the Jefferson County Sheriff's
Department, had focused his investigation on plaintiff even
after Tom turned himself in. Mr. Hayes, Mr. Carreno, and
other defendants conspired to obtain false statements from
Tom which would pin Camille's murder on plaintiff.
Allegedly, Mr. Hayes previously had helped Mr. Vanderbilt
avoid exposure for misappropriating county funds. So, Mr.
Vanderbilt was indebted to Mr. Hayes and became a willing
ally in the plan to frame plaintiff.
plan went like this: Tom would recant his confession and
claim that he had run into plaintiff on Saturday, November 6,
1999, at a roadside intersection. Tom would say that
plaintiff had confessed to Camille's murder and had given
him extensive details about the crime. Then, Tom would say
that plaintiff persuaded him to take the blame for the murder
by threatening to expose his deviant sexual history-including
viewing X-rated movies and attempting to have sex with a dog.
Mr. Hayes, Mr. Vanderbilt, and other defendants planned and
coached Tom on his recantation. Tom was manipulated easily.
Shortly before Tom recanted his confession, Mr. Hayes told
plaintiff something about how he planned to take Tom off the
“hot seat” and replace him with plaintiff.
Terry Morgan, Jim Woods, and George Johnson worked as law
enforcement officers for the Kansas Bureau of Investigation
(“KBI”) at this time. Mr. Morgan, Mr. Woods, and
Mr. Johnson (collectively, the “KBI defendant
officers”) were integral and active participants in the
investigation of Camille's death. The KBI defendant
officers gathered physical evidence, executed search
warrants, photographed the crime scene and victim, conducted
and reviewed polygraph examinations and interviews, completed
police reports, and directed Mr. Carreno to interview certain
Johnson administered polygraph examinations to
both Tom and plaintiff on November 12, 1999. At some point
during his examination, Tom recanted his confession with the
story that Mr. Hayes and others had coached him to give.
During the examination, Tom exhibited deception on this
question: “Did you kill Camille Arffmann?”
with guilt following the examination, Tom confessed again to
Mr. Johnson, Mr. Vanderbilt, and other defendants, that he
had murdered Camille. Mr. Johnson instructed Tom to continue
lying to implicate plaintiff, and Tom acquiesced. Then,
plaintiff took the polygraph examination and truthfully
denied any involvement in Camille's murder.
evening, Mr. Vanderbilt released Tom from jail and dropped
the charges against him. Mr. Dunnaway and other defendants
arrested plaintiff, and they continued to use Tom's
fabricated statements to frame plaintiff. Specifically, Mr.
Carreno and other defendant officers falsified Tom's
statements about meeting plaintiff at the roadside
intersection so that they fit the timeline for the period
when they believed plaintiff lacked an alibi. Additionally,
defendants coached Tom to provide false explanations for how
he had known so many details about Camille's death.
Tom's false account became the prosecution's central
piece of evidence against plaintiff.
trial, the defendant officers withheld evidence of Tom's
guilt from plaintiff's defense. For example, Mr. Woods
and other defendant officers withheld Tom's detailed
description about how he had tried to have sex with Camille
in his truck and shot her when she laughed at him. The
defendant officers also withheld evidence of Tom's
history of pursuing young girls and that he had made sexual
advances on Camille just a few weeks before her murder. The
defendant officers also withheld Tom's statements to them
on the night he turned himself in, where he described
Camille's wounds and the location of her body. The
defendant officers also withheld information about Tom's
activities between November 8 and November 12, 1999,
including his statements during the polygraph examination.
the defendant officers suppressed physical evidence of
Tom's guilt. This evidence included the shovel that Tom
had used to bury Camille's body and other physical
evidence taken from Tom's truck. In furtherance of the
conspiracy to frame plaintiff, Mr. Morgan and other defendant
officers never conducted a rigorous forensic examination of
Tom's bedroom or home. Instead, Mr. Morgan and other
defendants recovered evidence like Tom's weapons and
ammunition by letting Tom's father turn them in.
Meanwhile, the defendant officers subjected plaintiff's
home and vehicle to thorough examinations.
prosecution also generated false evidence against plaintiff.
Mr. Johnson reported to Mr. Vanderbilt that plaintiff had
exhibited deception during the polygraph examination, and
that Tom had exhibited truthfulness. But Mr. Johnson knew
this characterization was false. Jefferson County defendants
Troy Frost and Orin Turner signed an affidavit supporting a
request for a search warrant. It falsely claimed that
plaintiff had confessed to visiting his home around the time
Camille disappeared from it. The prosecution used the
manufactured evidence about plaintiff's confession to
bring charges against plaintiff.
Vanderbilt offered plaintiff a plea deal: plaintiff would
serve five years in exchange for pleading guilty. Plaintiff
rejected the deal and, in April 2000, a jury convicted him
for murder, aggravated kidnapping, and taking indecent
liberties with a child. The trial judge sentenced plaintiff
to life in prison plus 16 years.
2008, a federal district court granted plaintiff habeas
relief and he was released on bond. The Tenth Circuit Court
of Appeals reversed the ruling in July 2009, and plaintiff
was forced to return to prison. Then, in October 2015,
plaintiff obtained additional forensic testing for some of
the physical evidence officers collected from the crime
scene. New DNA test results indicated Tom was the likely
source of the semen found on Camille's vaginal swab. The
test also excluded plaintiff as the source of the semen. Tom
committed suicide shortly after this new DNA testing. He left
a note that read:
I sent an innocent man to prison. The Jefferson County police
and county attorney Jim Vanderbelt made me do it. I was told
by Vanderbelt to keep my mouth shut. Now I am going to set
I killed Camille Arfmann on November 5, 1999. I had sex with
her and killed her.
. . . I drove up to the ditch where the family dump trash and
tried to convince her not to tell. . . . I went to my truck
and got my 9mm gun that was behind my seat and pushed her to
the ground to try to scare her, but it failed [and] the gun
went off behind her head. . . . I as well might go ahead and
say it I raped and murdered a 14 year girl.
I tried telling the truth but no one would listen. I was told
to keep my mouth shut. It tore me up doing it. I would ask
forgiveness, but I know none will come. Not even from God.
Floyd S Bledsoe is an innocent man.
Tom E Bledsoe is the guilty one.
also drew a diagram depicting where he shot Camille before
moving her body to the trash dump. Using Tom's diagram,
the police found the fourth missing bullet casing. The
Jefferson County court vacated plaintiff's conviction on
December 8, 2015 and the Jefferson County Attorney dismissed
the charges against him. Plaintiff left prison, but returned
home from prison having missed his sons' childhoods and
many years with his loved ones. Plaintiff continues to suffer
physiological pain and suffering, humiliation, constant fear,
anxiety, deep depression, despair, rage, and other physical
and physiological effects.
brings the following claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
against the defendants: (Count I) due process violation for
fabricating Tom's testimonial evidence; and (Count II)
conspiracy to deprive plaintiff's constitutional rights
by fabricating Tom's testimonial evidence.
brings the following § 1983 claims against the defendant
officers: (Count III) Brady v.
Maryland violation for withholding exculpatory
evidence and fabrication of evidence; and (Count VI) failure
brings the following claims under § 1983 against the
defendant officers and Mr. Hayes: (Count IV) malicious
prosecution; and (Count V) conspiracy to deprive
plaintiff brings a claim for municipal liability (Count VII)
against Jefferson County, and a state law claim for
defendants ask the court to dismiss the case under
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for “failure to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6). Though defendants assert different reasons why the
court should dismiss the claims against them, each defendant
also asserts that plaintiff has failed to plead one or more
of the elements necessary to state his claims for relief.
Failure to State a Claim
Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires a complaint to
contain “a short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”
Although this Rule “does not require ‘detailed
factual allegations, '” it demands more than
“[a] pleading that offers ‘labels and
conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action.'” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).
survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'”
Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).
“A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff
pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “Under this
standard, ‘the complaint must give the court reason to
believe that this plaintiff has a reasonable
likelihood of mustering factual support for these
claims.'” Carter v. United States, 667
F.Supp.2d 1259, 1262 (D. Kan. 2009) (quoting Ridge at Red
Hawk, LLC v. Schneider, 493 F.3d 1174, 1177 (10th Cir.
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) the court must assume
that a complaint's factual allegations are true. But
legal conclusions are different. The court need not accept
pure legal conclusions as true. Id. at 1263.
“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements” are
not enough to state a claim for relief. Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 678. In addition to the complaint's factual
allegations, the court also may consider “attached
exhibits and documents incorporated into the complaint by
reference.” Smith v. United States, 561 F.3d
1090, 1098 (10th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted).
Hayes, Mr. Morgan, Mr. Woods, and Mr. Johnson assert
qualified immunity as a defense to plaintiff's claims.
“The doctrine of qualified immunity protects government
officials ‘from liability for civil damages'”
as long as “‘their conduct does not violate
clearly established'” constitutional rights that
“‘a reasonable person would have
known.'” Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S.
223, 231 (2009) (quoting Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457
U.S. 800, 818 (1982)). This doctrine developed as way to
balance “two important interests-the need to hold
public officials accountable when they exercise power
irresponsibly and the need to shield officials from
harassment, distraction, and liability when they perform
their duties reasonably.” Id. Qualified
immunity is “immunity from suit rather than a mere
defense to liability.” Id. at 237 (quoting
Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 526 (1985)). So,
courts should resolve qualified immunity questions “at
the earliest possible stage in litigation.”
Id. at 231.
Saucier v. Katz,  the Supreme Court
“mandated a two-step sequence for resolving government
officials' qualified immunity claims.”
Callahan, 555 U.S. at 232. First, a court must
decide whether plaintiff has alleged facts sufficient to
support a violation of a constitutional right. Id.
Second, if plaintiff satisfies this first step, the court
must determine whether the right at issue was “clearly
established” at the time of defendant's misconduct.
Id. Unless the official's alleged conduct
violated a clearly established constitutional right,
qualified immunity applies. Id.
Saucier, the Supreme Court has concluded that the
two-step sequence for resolving an official's qualified
immunity claims is still appropriate, but not mandatory.
Id. at 236. Judges may use their discretion to
decide “which of the two prongs” should be
addressed first “in light of the circumstances in the
particular case at hand.” Id. At trial, the
“plaintiff bears the burden of persuasion ‘to
overcome qualified immunity by showing a violation of clearly
established federal law.'” Stoedter v. Gates
et. al., No. 15-4020, slip op. at * 11 (10th Cir. Aug.
Estate of Booker v. Gomez, 745 F.3d 405, 411 (10th
brings four claims under § 1983 against Mr. Hayes,
Tom's court-appointed attorney: (Count I) due process
violation for fabrication of evidence; (Count II) conspiracy
to violate plaintiff's constitutional rights by
fabricating testimony; (Count IV) malicious prosecution; and
(Count V) conspiracy to violate plaintiff's
constitutional rights by withholding exculpatory information.
Mr. Hayes asserts four arguments to support his motion to
dismiss. First, Mr. Hayes asserts that he is not a state
actor for the purpose of § 1983. Second, he contends he
is entitled to qualified immunity. Third, he contends that
plaintiff has not pleaded a sufficient ...