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Holmes v. United States

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

August 1, 2018

Michael James Holmes Movant-Appellant
v.
United States of America Respondent-Appellee Michael James Holmes Movant-Appellant
v.
United States of America Respondent-Appellee

          Submitted: March 14, 2018

          Appeals from United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri - St. Louis

          Before WOLLMAN, SHEPHERD, and ERICKSON, Circuit Judges.

          SHEPHERD, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         In 2011, Appellant Michael Holmes's 2006 sentence for drug and firearm possession was vacated following investigations into former St. Louis Metropolitan Police Officers Shell Sharp and Bobby Garrett, who were found to have engaged in illegal activity while employed at the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. After his sentence was vacated, Holmes sought a certificate of innocence, which the district court[1] denied. He subsequently filed a Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b) motion for relief from the district court's judgment, which the court also denied. Holmes appeals, arguing that the district court abused its discretion when it found he was not actually innocent of the crimes for which he was charged and when it denied his Rule 60(b) motion. We disagree and affirm.

         I. Background

         In December 2003, Sharp, Garrett, and Officer Alan Ray arrested Holmes in a residence located at 5894 Cates Avenue (the "Cates Residence") and searched the home. During the search, officers found mail addressed to Holmes at the Cates Residence in addition to cash, drugs, drug paraphernalia, and a gun. In 2006, a jury found Holmes guilty of possessing more than 50 grams of cocaine base with intent to distribute in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and possession of firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). Sharp was the only witness who testified at Holmes's trial about the events leading up to Holmes's arrest. Ray was unavailable to testify because he was deployed with the military overseas.

         In 2009, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department began investigating allegations that Sharp had given perjured testimony and falsified affidavits in many of his cases. As a result, the St. Louis Circuit Attorney's office dropped the charges in criminal cases in which Sharp had been involved. Additionally, the same year, Garrett pled guilty to several federal crimes stemming from illegal activities he engaged in as a police officer. Following these investigations, the government no longer vouched for the testimony of the two officers.

         In 2011, Holmes filed a motion to vacate, correct, or set aside his 2006 sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Based on Sharp and Garrett's history of perjury and falsifying evidence, the district court granted Holmes's motion to vacate, concluding the remaining evidence absent Sharp's testimony was insufficient to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In 2012, Holmes moved for a certificate of innocence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1495, 2513.

         In response to Holmes's motion for a certificate of innocence, the Government submitted a declaration that Ray gave in 2011 recalling the events on the night of Holmes's arrest. Ray stated that he and Sharp: surveilled Holmes at the Cates Residence and watched him conduct what they believed to be drug transactions; saw Holmes drop a paper bag containing crack and run up the stairs to the third floor of the Cates Residence; and discovered mail addressed to Holmes, cash, drugs, drug paraphernalia, and a gun in the upstairs bedroom. He also stated that Holmes admitted to living at the Cates Residence and that the bedroom where they arrested him was his.

         Holmes testified that he was innocent and offered documentary evidence that he resided at a different location and photo evidence of the staircases in the Cates Residence in an attempt to prove that Ray's declaration was false. The district court credited Ray's declaration and accompanying evidence and denied Holmes's motion for a certificate of innocence.

         While the certificate of innocence proceedings were pending in the district court, Holmes, in a separate case, filed 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims against Sharp and Garrett, but not Ray. Following the district court's denial of a certificate of innocence, Holmes received a favorable verdict against Sharp and Garrett on his § 1983 claims. Based on this verdict, Holmes filed a Rule 60(b) motion for relief from the court's judgment on the certificate of innocence, arguing that the verdict was new evidence establishing his actual innocence. The district court denied the motion, finding that the jury verdict was not new evidence. Holmes appeals.

         II. Discussion

         Holmes identifies two issues on appeal. First, he challenges the district court's ruling on his certificate of innocence motion, asserting that the district court erred when it found he did not prove actual innocence. Second, he claims that the district court erred when it denied his Rule 60(b) motion for relief from its judgment on his certificate of innocence request because the ...


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