United States District Court, D. Delaware
ISAIAH W. MCCOY, Plaintiff,
R. David FAVATA, et al., Defendants.
Herbert W. Mondros, Margolis Edelstein, Wilmington, DE -
attorneys for Plaintiff
R. Goldstein, Joseph C. Handlon, Deputy Attorneys General,
State of Delaware Department of Justice, Wilmington, DE -
attorneys for Defendants Matthew Denn, Gregory Babowal,
Stephen Smith, and Deborah Weaver
Michael F. McTaggart, Deputy Attorney General, State of
Delaware Department of Justice, Wilmington, DE - attorney for
Defendants Nathaniel McQueen, Jr. and Mark Ryde
P. Connell, Deputy Attorney General, State of Delaware
Department of Justice, Wilmington, DE - attorney for Robert
M. Coupe, David Pierce, Marcello Rispoli, Todd Drace, and
NOREIKA, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court are four motions: three motions to dismiss for
failure to state a claim, filed on September 29, 2017, by (1)
Defendants Nathaniel McQueen, Jr. and Mark Ryde (“DSP
Defendants”) (D.I. 17), (2) Defendants Gregory Babowal,
Matt Denn, and Stephen Smith (“Prosecutor
Defendants”) (D.I. 20), and (3) Defendants Robert M.
Coupe, David Pierce, Marcello Rispoli, Todd Drace, and George
Gill (“DOC Defendants”) (D.I. 23), as well as one
motion (D.I. 28), filed on October 20, 2017, by Defendant
Deborah Weaver (D.I. 28), to join the Prosecutor
Defendants' motion to dismiss. Plaintiff opposes the
motions to dismiss (D.I. 36, 37, 38), but does not oppose
Weaver's motion to join.
reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS the motions to
dismiss of DSP Defendants (D.I. 17), Prosecutor Defendants
(D.I. 20), and DOC Defendants (D.I. 23).
litigation stems from the investigation, prosecution,
conviction, and incarceration of Plaintiff Isaiah McCoy
(“Plaintiff or “McCoy”) for the May 4, 2010
murder of James Munford. (D.I. 1 ¶ 85; see also
Id. ¶¶ 1-3). On July 6, 2010, Plaintiff was
indicted for the murder of Munford. See State v.
McCoy, No. 1005008059A, 2012 WL 5552033, at *1 (Del.
Super. Ct. Oct. 11, 2012). The first trial was prosecuted by
Defendants Favata and Weaver. (D.I. 1 ¶¶ 39, 49).
Plaintiff represented himself pro se with the aid of
stand-by counsel. (See, e.g., Id. ¶ 169). On
June 29, 2012, the jury returned a guilty verdict against
Plaintiff for the murder of James Munford. (Id.
¶ 164). On October 11, 2012, the court sentenced
Plaintiff to death. (Id. ¶ 171).
filed for post-conviction relief and, on January 20, 2015,
the Delaware Supreme Court reversed his conviction and
remanded the case for a new trial. (Id. ¶ 153).
Explaining the reversal, the Delaware Supreme Court noted
that the trial court had committed a
“reverse-Batson” error and that Defendant Favata
engaged in a number of improper actions during the
prosecution of the case. See generally McCoy v.
State, 112 A.3d 239 (Del. 2015). The Delaware Supreme
Court also found that, “[a]lthough there was no
physical evidence linking McCoy to the crime, the record does
not support McCoy's argument that the evidence was
insufficient to convict him.” Id. at 268.
remand, Plaintiff's second trial - a ten-day bench trial
- began on January 9, 2017. (D.I. 1 ¶ 192). The second
trial was prosecuted by Defendants Babowal and Smith.
(Id. ¶¶ 52, 56-57). McCoy was represented
by counsel. After trial, on January 19, 2017, Plaintiff was
found not guilty of the murder of Munford and released from
prison. (Id. ¶ 194, 197).
28, 2017, Plaintiff filed the Complaint in this case. (D.I.
1). Plaintiff's Complaint includes seven counts against
twelve defendants, and the counts raise various theories of
liability arising under federal and state law.
twelve Defendants in this action had roles in the
investigation, prosecution or incarceration of Plaintiff. The
individual defendants are briefly summarized below.
• Defendant Ryde was a homicide detective employed with
the Delaware State Police. (D.I. 1 ¶ 59).He was assigned
as lead investigator in the shooting death of Munford.
(Id. ¶ 61).
• Defendant Coupe was the Superintendent of the Delaware
State Police at the time of its investigation into
Plaintiff's involvement in Munford's death.
(Id. ¶ 69). He later went on to become
Commissioner of the Department of Corrections in early 2013.
(Id. ¶ 72). Defendant McQueen was the
Superintendent of the Delaware State Police from December 20,
2012 during the investigation into Plaintiff, and he
continued to hold that position during Plaintiff's
retrial. (Id. ¶ 73). According to the
Complaint, both Coupe and McQueen were responsible for
training and supervising all Delaware State Police
detectives, including Ryde. (Id. ¶¶ 70,
• Defendant Favata was a prosecutor with the Delaware
Department of Justice, and he was the “lead
prosecutor” in the first trial of Plaintiff.
(Id. ¶ 39).
• Defendant Weaver was likewise a prosecutor with the
Department of Justice and worked on Plaintiff's first
trial. (Id. ¶ 49).
• Defendant Denn was the Attorney General for the State
of Delaware from January 2015 until January 2019.
(Id. ¶ 25). According to the Complaint, Denn
was involved in overseeing the retrial of Plaintiff, and
“Denn and his predecessor” were also purportedly
responsible for training and supervising Department of
Justice prosecutors including, inter alia, Favata
and Weaver. (Id. ¶ 33).
• Defendants Babowal and Smith were prosecutors with the
Department of Justice who worked on Plaintiff's second
trial. (See Id. ¶¶ 52, 55-56). According
to the Complaint, Smith was specifically hired by Denn to
prosecute Plaintiff in the second trial. (Id. ¶
• Defendant Pierce was the Warden of the James T. Vaughn
Correctional Center where Plaintiff was incarcerated until he
was released in January of 2017. (Id. ¶¶
• Defendants Rispoli, Drace and Gill were corrections
officers at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center while
Plaintiff was incarcerated there. (Id. ¶¶
Allegations re: the Investigation and the First
alleges that Defendants Ryde, Favata, and Weaver conducted a
constitutionally deficient investigation into Munford's
death. (D.I. 1 ¶ 110). Plaintiff contends,
inter alia, that the investigation identified
several eyewitnesses to the shooting who did not identify him
as being present at the scene, and the investigation included
no forensic or physical evidence placing him at the scene.
(Id. ¶¶ 93-95, 98). Plaintiff acknowledges
that two witnesses, Deshaun White and Reykeisha Williams,
identified him as being present at the shooting.
(Id. ¶ 96). Plaintiff alleges, however, that
Defendant Ryde “failed to conduct an investigation to
discover evidence that would have corroborated or refuted the
patently incredible and ever-changing versions of the stories
told by White and Williams” (id. ¶ 67),
and that Defendants Ryde, Weaver, and Favata “employed
discredited interrogation techniques including lying to White
and Williams in order to induce them to provide false
testimony against Plaintiff McCoy” (id. ¶
118). Plaintiff alleges that White and Williams received
“sweet plea deals” in exchange for their
testimony against Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 96).
According to Plaintiff, Defendants Ryde, Weaver and Favata
suggested to those witnesses that Plaintiff was responsible
for the murder. (Id. ¶ 97).
11, 2010, based inter alia on information from White
and Williams, Defendant Ryde swore an affidavit in support of
an arrest warrant, which was issued by a Justice of the
Peace. (Id. ¶¶ 121-22). Plaintiff alleges
that the “affidavit in support of the arrest warrant
for Plaintiff McCoy contained material misstatements
concerning the content of the surveillance of the videotape
and the statements given to Defendant Ryde by Reykeisha
Williams.” (Id. ¶ 121). Plaintiff further
alleges that Ryde did not consult “several detectives
who were trained in the technology of gunshot residue,
” that “no detective was asked to reconstruct the
shooting of Mr. Munford and no detective made any attempt to
reconstruct that crime, ” and that Ryde failed to
re-interview certain eyewitnesses. (Id. ¶¶
124, 129, 138).
also contends that Favata engaged in prosecutorial misconduct
during the first trial by belittling Plaintiff, vouching for
witnesses, interfering with Plaintiff's right to
represent himself at trial, interfering with his
communications with stand-by counsel, lying to the trial
judge, and provoking and threatening Plaintiff. (Id.
¶ 6). Favata was reprimanded by the trial judge for his
conduct. (Id. ¶ 153).
Allegations re: the Second Trial
asserts that certain Defendants improperly tried him a second
time for the death of Munford. (See D.I. 1
¶¶ 172-193). In particular, Plaintiff alleges that
Defendants Denn, Ryde, Babowal and Smith knew there was
“no credible evidence to support the charges that
Plaintiff McCoy was involved in the shooting” but
nevertheless attempted to retry Plaintiff and again seek the
death penalty. (Id. ¶ 172). Plaintiff contends
that, although these four Defendants knew that crucial
eyewitness testimony implicating Plaintiff was
“completely unreliable, ” the Defendants made no
attempt to search for evidence that would either corroborate
or refute the eyewitness testimony. (Id.
¶¶ 173-175). In fact, according to Plaintiff,
Defendants Denn, Ryde, Babowal and Smith had knowledge of
“independent evidence” that contradicted the
eyewitness testimony. (Id. ¶ 177). According
the Complaint, the retrial and continued pursuit of the death
penalty was “in bad faith” because Defendants
Denn, Ryde, Babowal and Smith knew there was
“insufficient evidence to convict Plaintiff.”
(Id. ¶ 178).
the pursuit of the second trial, according to Plaintiff,
Defendants Denn, Ryde, Babowal and Smith attempted to
negotiate a plea deal with Plaintiff. (Id. ¶
181). Plaintiff alleges that he was “threatened”
with a sentence of life in prison (if convicted at trial) in
the hopes that would plead guilty to manslaughter.
(Id. ¶ 184). Plaintiff suggests that this plea
offer, which was allegedly authorized by Denn, was an attempt
to “save face” and avoid an acquittal in the
retrial. (Id. ¶¶ 187-188). In response to
the plea offer, Plaintiff alleges that he offered to take a
polygraph test if the eyewitnesses implicating him would do
the same. (Id. ¶ 189). According to Plaintiff,
Defendants rejected the polygraph offer because they knew
their “star witnesses . . . were not being
truthful.” (Id. ¶ 190). Plaintiff alleges
that, during the second trial where he was ultimately
acquitted, “the State” knowingly,
“maliciously” and “in bad faith”
offered eyewitness testimony that was “unreliable,
biased, contradictory, incredible, unsupported by any
forensic evidence and refuted by eyewitness
statements.” (Id. ¶ 193).
Allegations re: Incarceration
May 2010 until his release on January 19, 2017, Plaintiff was
incarcerated in the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center
(“JTVCC”) in Smyrna, Delaware. (D.I. 1 ¶ 13;
see also Id. ¶¶ 15, 24). Plaintiff alleges
that, for “the vast majority of [his incarceration, he]
was held in solitary confinement in the [security housing
unit] at JTVCC, ” including the time “while he
was a pre-trial detainee.” (Id. ¶¶
199-200). In the security housing unit, Plaintiff was
“permitted to leave his cell for only forty-five
minutes, three times a week.” (Id. ¶
201). Moreover, Plaintiff alleges that while he was in the
security housing unit, certain unnamed “Prison
Defendants” “beat and tortured [him], ”
“allowed other Department of Corrections personnel and
other inmates to beat and torture [him], ”
“denied [him] proper medical care, ”
“emotionally and psychologically abused [him], ”
“spat in [his] food, ” “denied [him] access
to the law library and denied him access to his legal
counsel, ” “transported [him] . . . in small and
highly dangerous prison vans, ” and “provoked
[him], and charged him with and convicted him of disciplinary
violations without just cause or due process.”
(Id. ¶¶ 203-210).
complaint is challenged by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss,
the Court conducts a two-part analysis. Fowler v. UPMC
Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). First, the
Court separates the factual and legal elements of a claim,
accepting “all of the complaint's well-pleaded
facts as true, but [disregarding] any legal
conclusions.” Id. at 210-11. Second, the Court
determines “whether the facts alleged in the complaint
are sufficient to show . . . a ‘plausible claim for
relief” Id. at 211 (quoting Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009)). To withstand a Rule
12(b)(60 motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain
“sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to
‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
fact.'” Iqbal, 556, U.S. at 678 (quoting
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007)). A claim is facially plausible where “plaintiff
pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
“A pleading that offers ‘labels and
conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do.'”
deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court must consider only
the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of
public record, as well as undisputed authentic documents if
the complainant's claims are based upon these
documents.” Mayer v. Belichick, 605 F.3d 223,
230 (3d Cir. 2010). The Court is not obligated to accept as
true “bald assertions” or “unsupported
conclusions and unwarranted inferences.” Morse v.
Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir.
1997). Instead, “[t]he complaint must state enough
facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will
reveal evidence of ...