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United States v. Greenwell

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville

May 2, 2018




         This matter comes before the Court on three pretrial motions filed by Defendant David Greenwell, [DN 39; DN 40; DN 41.] The United States responded to each motion, [DN 43; DN 44; DN 46.] Fully briefed, these matters are now ripe for adjudication. For the reasons discussed in detail below, Greenwell's motion to compel disclosure of informants' identities, [DN 39], is GRANTED; his motion for immediate disclosure of evidence affecting the credibility of prosecution witnesses, [DN 40], is DENIED AS MOOT; and his motion in limine to exclude testimony and argument about community harm, [DN 41], is DENIED.


         The indictment in this case charges Defendant Greenwell with five separate counts, all allegedly committed while Greenwell was serving as the Sheriff of Bullitt County. [DN 1 (Indictment).] The charges include conspiracy to knowingly and intentionally distribute 1000 kilograms or more of marijuana (Count 1), attempting to obstruct, influence, and impede the federal criminal prosecution of Christopher Mattingly, a Bullitt County Special Deputy (Counts 2, 3, and 5), and acting with intent to obstruct, impede, and interfere with the criminal investigation of Mattingly by disclosing to him the contents of wire communications intercepted pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 2516. This matter is scheduled for a jury trial beginning May 8, 2018. [DN 42.]


         Using the inherent authority to manage the course of trials before it, this Court may exclude irrelevant, inadmissible, or prejudicial evidence through in limine rulings. See Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 n.4 (1984) (citing Fed.R.Evid. 103(c)); Louzon v. Ford Motor Co., 718 F.3d 556, 561 (6th Cir. 2013); Mahaney ex rel. Estate of Kyle v. Novartis Pharm. Corp., 835 F.Supp.2d 299, 303 (W.D. Ky. 2011). Unless such evidence is patently “inadmissible for any purpose, ” Jonasson v. Lutheran Child & Family Servs., 115 F.3d 436, 440 (7th Cir. 1997), though, the “better practice” is to defer evidentiary rulings until trial, Sperberg v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 519 F.2d 708, 712 (6th Cir. 1975), so that “questions of foundation, relevancy and potential prejudice may be resolved in proper context, ” Gresh v. Waste Servs. of Am., Inc., 738 F.Supp.2d 702, 706 (E.D. Ky. 2010). A ruling in limine is “no more than a preliminary, or advisory, opinion.” United States v. Yannott, 42 F.3d 999, 1007 (6th Cir. 1994) (citing United States v. Luce, 713 F.2d 1236, 1239 (6th Cir. 1983), aff'd, 469 U.S. 38). Consequently, the Court may revisit its in limine rulings at any time and “for whatever reason it deems appropriate.” Id. (citing Luce, 713 F.2d at 1239).


         As the Court noted above, Greenwell has three motions currently pending. The Court will address each of these motions in turn.

         1. Motion to Compel Disclosure of Informants' Identities

         First, Greenwell argues that, since he “is accused . . . of revealing the identities of informants in a drug trafficking investigation to the target of that investigation, ” Christopher Mattingly, the United States must disclose the identities of those informants so that Greenwell can properly prepare his defense for trial. [DN 39 at 1-3.] In response, the United States does not oppose Greenwell's motion. [DN 46.] Rather, the United States responds that “the motion should be granted.” Accordingly, there being no opposition thereto, Greenwell's motion is granted.

         2. Motion For Immediate Disclosure of Evidence Affecting the Credibility of Prosecution Witnesses

         Second, Greenwell moves the Court to order the United States to immediately disclose all Brady evidence, [DN 40.] In response, the United States contends that “all such evidence has been disclosed except for a supplemental plea agreement with Christopher Mattingly, which was filed under seal. The United States does not object to providing the supplemental plea agreement to the defendant after it is unsealed, and will file a motion to unseal forthwith.” [DN 44.] Therefore, with the understanding that the United States has provided and will provide all Brady material, Greenwell's motion is denied as moot.

         3. Motion in Limine to Exclude Testimony and Argument About Community Harm

         Finally, Greenwell moves to exclude any testimony or argument “that conduct of the sort attributed to Mr. Greenwell threatens the safety of law enforcement officers and jeopardizes the success of drug investigations.” [DN 41 at 1.] According to Greenwell, while this principle “is true in the abstract . . . [t]estimony and argument about this fact have no place in the trial.” In support of this argument, Greenwell cites United States v. Lawrence, in which the Sixth Circuit stated that, “by invoking the need to protect community values and deter criminal conduct by others and by asking the jury to communicate messages to [the deceased victim]'s family, the police community and the community in general, the prosecutor invited the jurors to consider arguably irrelevant factors.” 735 F.3d 385, 433 (6th Cir. 2013). According to Greenwell, therefore, “[e]vidence or commentary about the potentially dire ...

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