United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
GREGORY K. FRIZZELL, JUDGE.
the court is the Motion for Partial Summary Judgment filed by
plaintiff Michelle Dawn Murphy (“Murphy”) [Doc.
#92]. In her First Amended Complaint, Murphy alleges she was
wrongfully convicted for the murder of her infant son. Her
conviction was vacated by an agreed order entered in state
district court in 2014. She served twenty years of a sentence
of life without parole.
now asserts a claim for relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983, alleging violations of her right to a fair trial under
the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment on seven
(7) enumerated grounds, and of her right not to incriminate
herself under the Fifth Amendment.
to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), “[a] party may move for summary
judgment, identifying each claim or defense-or the part of
each claim or defense-on which summary judgment is
sought.” A motion for summary judgment shall be granted
“if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute
as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.” Id. The rule
“mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate
time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails
to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an
element essential to that party's case, and on which that
party will bear the burden of proof at trial.”
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986);
Adler v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 144 F.3d 664, 670
(10th Cir. 1998). The inquiry for the court is “whether
the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require
submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one
party must prevail as a matter of law.” Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986).
moves for partial summary judgment for two stated purposes:
“First, to preclude the City from ‘retrying'
[Murphy] for murder.” [Doc. #92, p. 6]. “Second,
to find that [Murphy] may present her claim of a coerced
confession.” [Id.]. Upon consideration of the
briefs and authorities submitted, the court concludes the
motion must be denied for the following reasons.
initial matter, Murphy has not identified any claims or
defenses, or elements of claims or defenses, on which she
seeks summary judgment. Thus, Murphy has failed to satisfy
the threshold requirement contained in Rule 56(a). See
Stormo v. City of Sioux Falls, 2016 WL 7391980, *12
(D.S.D. Dec. 21, 2016) (plaintiff “does not identify
any claims or defenses in his motion for summary
judgment” and “seeks summary judgment on factual
and legal ‘issues' that are inappropriate to decide
on summary judgment.”); Sec. and Exchange Comm. v.
Capital Holdings, L.L.C., 2006 WL 1660541, *1 (D. Colo.
June 12, 2006) (movant “has failed to even identify any
of the claims or defenses as to which he seeks summary
judgment, much less set forth the elements of any such claim
or defense or the party who bears the burden of
proof.”); Medeiros v. City and County of
Honolulu, 2013 WL 12139152, *4 (D. Haw. Apr. 19, 2013)
(“[t]he motion does not . . . discuss how . . . [the
findings of an administrative review board] would entitle
Plaintiff to judgment as a matter of law as to a particular
claim or portion thereof.”).
Murphy has not identified the claims or defenses on which she
seeks summary judgment, the court is left to make what it
believes to be reasonable inferences as to the defenses
subject to the motion. It appears that Murphy's first
request for partial summary judgment-to preclude the City
from “retrying” Murphy for murder-is meant to
address the following defense in the City's Amended
Answer: “Irrespective of any alleged wrongdoing,
sufficient evidence was admitted at trial that would sustain
the conviction of Plaintiff on the charges of which she was
convicted.” [Doc. #84, p. 47, ¶ 13]. If that be
the case, Murphy has not met her burden under Rule 56. No
court has held there was insufficient evidence to sustain
Murphy's conviction. The state court judge who vacated
her conviction entered a Journal Entry of Dismissal, in which
he found that Murphy had made a prima facie showing
of actual innocence for the purposes of initiating a claim
under the Oklahoma Governmental Tort Claims Act
(“OGTCA”). [See Doc. #92-19, p. 1].
Murphy's motion relies on that finding. However, under
Oklahoma law, the state court judge's finding was not a
final determination of Murphy's actual innocence, much
less a conclusion that there was insufficient evidence to
sustain Murphy's conviction. As the Oklahoma Supreme
Court explained in Courtney v. State, 307 P.3d 337,
341 (Okla. 2013):
While the Legislature does require clear and convincing
evidence of actual innocence to pursue a claim [under the
OGTCA], we do not believe that the Legislature intended the
court to make a final adjudication of actual innocence at
this stage. When viewed in the context of the larger tort
claims process, it appears the Legislature intended the court
to act as gatekeeper. The gatekeeper role of the court is to
determine whether the petitioner had made a prima facie case
the state judge's finding that Murphy had made a
prima facie showing of actual innocence does not
entitle Murphy to summary judgment on the City's defense
that there was sufficient evidence to sustain her conviction.
Murphy's second request-that the court find she
“may present her claim of a coerced
confession”-she again identifies no claim or defense,
or part of a claim or defense, on which she seeks summary
judgment. However, the court notes the City asserts as a
defense that “[t]he doctrine of collateral
estoppel/issue preclusion bars liability against the City[,
]” a defense that if meritorious would preclude
relitigation of the trial court's decision that
Murphy's confession was voluntary.
challenged the voluntariness of her confession in a
Jackson v. Denno hearing prior to her trial. After
conducting an evidentiary hearing, the trial court determined
that the confession was voluntarily given and admissible.
Murphy appealed her conviction and raised the voluntariness
of her confession before the Oklahoma Court of Criminal
Appeals. The appeals court found no error in the trial
court's determination that the confession was voluntary.
courts give preclusive effect to state court judgments
whenever the courts of the State from which the judgments
emerged would do so. Allen v. McCurry, 449 U.S. 90,
96 (1980) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1738). Accordingly,
Oklahoma's law of issue preclusion applies in evaluating
the preclusive effect of a state court adjudication. To
establish issue preclusion, a party must prove: 1) that the
party against whom it is being asserted was either a party to
or a privy of a party to the prior action; 2) that the issue
subject to preclusion has actually been adjudicated in the
prior case; 3) that the adjudicated issue was necessary
and essential to the outcome of that prior case; and 4)
the party against whom it is interposed had a full and fair
opportunity to litigate the ...