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King v. Taylor

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

May 24, 2013

ALLEN KING and BRUCE KING, as Administrators of the Estate of Roger King, Plaintiffs,
v.
ERIC TAYLOR, in his individual capacity as a Kentucky State Trooper, Defendant.

OPINION & ORDER

KARL S. FORESTER, Senior District Judge.

Currently before the Court is the motion in limine of the Plaintiffs, Allen King and Bruce King, as Administrators of the Estate of Roger King ("Plaintiffs"), to exclude various evidence at trial [DE #76]. This motion is fully briefed and is ripe for review.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On November 25, 2009, in Boyle County, Kentucky, KSP Trooper Eric Taylor and officers from the Boyle County Sheriff's Office attempted to serve an emergency protective order and an arrest warrant on Roger King ("King"). However, when the officers went to serve the EPO and arrest warrant on King at his home, King did not answer the front door or a side door. The officers moved to the rear of the house and saw a set of double-paned glass doors at the top of the porch that provided a line of sight to the interior of the house. Through the glass doors, one of the officers saw King lying down on a couch with a blanket partially covering him. With Trooper Taylor providing cover, one of the other officers approached the glass door, knocked loudly, announced that he was with the Sheriff's Department and called for King to come to the door, while also pressing his shoulder against the door pane so that his reflective Boyle County Sheriff's Office patch would be visible through the glass, and illuminating the interior of the home with his hand-held flashlight. Trooper Taylor alleges that, upon seeing the police officers at the rear of his house, King sat up on his couch, looked at the officers angrily, retrieved a large, fully-loaded firearm (a Taurus Judge revolver) from his left side and turned toward the officers, pointing his weapon at them. Trooper Taylor alleges that he responsively fired his M-16 at King. King died of the gunshot wound. Plaintiffs do not contest that King had a gun with him on the couch. Rather, Plaintiffs argue that Taylor shot King from King's back porch while King was lying on his couch. According to Plaintiffs, King was not extending a gun in the officers' direction and may have been sleeping when he was shot.

Plaintiffs filed this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983, alleging the following claims against Trooper Taylor: (1) unreasonable search and seizure in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution (Count I); (2) assault and battery (Count II); and (3) negligence (Count III) [DE #1]. Plaintiffs are seeking compensatory and punitive damages from Trooper Taylor [ Id. ].

II. STANDARDS

In Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993), the Supreme Court discussed the admissibility of evidence as follows:

Rule 402 provides the baseline:
All relevant evidence is admissible, except as otherwise provided by the Constitution of the United States, by Act of Congress, by these rules, or by other rules prescribed by the Supreme Court pursuant to statutory authority. Evidence which is not relevant is not admissible.
"Relevant evidence" is defined as that which has "any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence." Rule 401. The Rule's basic standard of relevance thus is a liberal one.

Id. at 587. Many years ago, the Sixth Circuit recognized that a court should not "deprive plaintiffs of their legitimate right to place before the jury the circumstances and atmosphere of the entire cause of action which they have brought into the court, replacing it with a sterile or laboratory atmosphere...." In re Beverly Hills Fire Litigation, 695 F.2d 207, 217 (6th Cir. 1982).

However, even relevant evidence may be excluded "if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, or misleading the jury, or by considerations of undue delay, waste of time, or needless presentation of cumulative evidence." Fed.R.Evid. 403. Federal courts have held that Rule 403 is an extraordinary remedy and carries a strong presumption in favor of admissibility. U.S. v. Grant, 256 F.3d 1146, 1155 (11th Cir. 2001). In In re Air Crash Disaster, 86 F.3d 498 (6th Cir. 1996), the Sixth Circuit noted:

Rule 403 does not exclude evidence because it is strongly persuasive or compellingly relevant - the rule only applies when it is likely that the jury will be moved by a piece of evidence in a manner that is somehow unfair or inappropriate. The truth may hurt, but Rule 403 does not make it inadmissible on that account.

Id. at 538. "Virtually all evidence is prejudicial or it isn't material. The prejudice must be unfair.'" Koloda v. General Motors Parts Div., General Motors ...


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