United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. Hood, Senior U.S. District Judge
Darrell Leath objected to the inclusion of multiple exhibits
listed on Defendant Webb's exhibit list [DE 72]. The only
objection remaining after the final pretrial conference is an
objection to the introduction of an Offender Index as an
exhibit that contains Leath's prior criminal history.
[See DE 85]. Specifically, Webb intends to introduce
a prior conviction for manslaughter for impeachment. But
because more than ten years have passed since Leath's
release from custody and truthfulness is not an element of
the offense of manslaughter, Leath's objection to the
inclusion of the Offender Index [DE 37-5] is
matter is set for trial beginning on October 30, 2018. The
parties have briefed their arguments pertaining to objections
to certain exhibits. [See DE 87; DE 88].
Additionally, the parties provided oral argument on the
objections to certain exhibits at the final pretrial
conference. [DE 89]. As such, this matter is ripe for review.
Rule of Evidence 609(b) limits the use of evidence of a prior
conviction for impeachment, “if more than 10 years have
passed since the witness's conviction or release from
confinement for it, whichever is later.”
“[E]vidence of convictions more than ten years old
should be admitted ‘very rarely and only in exceptional
circumstances.'” United States v. Sloman,
909 F.2d 176, 180 (6th Cir. 1990) (quoting United States
v. Sims, 588 F.2d 1145, 1149 (6th Cir. 1978)).
was convicted of manslaughter in the second degree on June
24, 1999. He was released from incarceration in May 2005.
Thus, nineteen years have passed since Leath was convicted
and thirteen years have passed since Leath was released from
custody on the manslaughter conviction. Thus, more than ten
years have passed since both the date of conviction and the
date of release from confinement.
Leath was not convicted of a crime involving dishonesty or
false statements. To be guilty of manslaughter in the second
degree, a defendant must have “wantonly cause[d] the
death of another person . . . .” KRS § 507.040.
The elements of manslaughter in the second degree under
Kentucky law do not involve proof of dishonesty, false
statements, or untruthfulness.
the Court must determine whether the probative value of the
evidence substantially outweighs its prejudicial effects. FRE
609(b)(1); United States v. Peatross, 377 Fed.Appx.
477, 489 (6th Cir. 2010). Courts weigh the following factors
when making a decision on whether to admit evidence under FRE
609(b): “(1) the impeachment value of the prior crime,
(2) the point in time of the conviction and the witness's
subsequent history, (3) the similarity between the earlier
crime and the charged offense, (4) the importance of the
defendants' testimony, and (5) the centrality of the
credibility issue.” Sloman, 909 F.2d at 181
(citing Gordon v. United States, 383 F.2d 936, 940
(D.C. Cir. 1967)).
proof of the prior conviction has little impeachment value.
This matter is a civil case for excessive force and state law
assault and battery. Leath's criminal conviction for
manslaughter is not relevant and does little to inform the
jury about Leath's character for truthfulness. In fact,
the Offender Index would primarily serve as inadmissible
character evidence that would likely distract the jury from
the main issue at hand. Ultimately, the fact that proof of
the prior conviction does little to inform the jury of
Leath's character for truthfulness weighs against
admission of the exhibit.
Leath's conviction and subsequent release from custody
for manslaughter were over nineteen and thirteen years ago
respectively. Thus, the fact that the conviction was nearly
two decades ago weighs against admission.
there is no similarity between Leath's conviction for
manslaughter and this case. Leath's manslaughter
conviction is a criminal matter under state law.
Alternatively, the current matter is a civil action in
federal court for excessive force and state law assault and
battery. Thus, the lack of similarity between the two matters
weighs against admission.
Leath's testimony is important to this trial as he is the
alleged victim of excessive force and assault and battery by
a police officer. Still, the incident of the alleged throat
grab, and the events leading up to the incident, are captured
on the officers' body cameras. As such, while Leath's
testimony is important to this case, the jury can view videos
of the events leading up to and including the alleged throat
grab and can make an independent determination about
Leath's credibility based on the videos and other
evidence that will be introduced at trial.
and finally, the credibility of Leath's testimony
pertaining to the alleged throat grab is not central for
reasons already discussed. The events that give rise to this
case are captured on the officers' body cameras.
Leath's testimony is more important to the issue of the
damages he allegedly suffered than it is to the events that
led up to the alleged throat grab. As such, considering the
video evidence, Leath's credibility as a witness is not a
central issue to the trial.
for the foregoing reasons, IT IS ORDERED:
objection to the inclusion of the Offender Index as an
exhibit at ...