United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
matter is before the Court upon Plaintiff United States of
America's (“the Government”) Consolidated
Motion in Limine. [R. 20.] Defendant James Eakes responded.
[R. 22.] This matter is ripe for adjudication. For the
reasons stated herein, the Government's Consolidated
Motion in Limine, [R. 20], is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN
case resulted from an altercation that occurred between James
Eakes, a former corrections officer with the Fulton County
Detention Center (“FCDC”), and an inmate, L.B.,
on August 14, 2016. [R. 1 at 1; R. 20 at 1; R. 22 at 1.]
Although the parties disagree about the factual details of
what happened prior to Eakes's use of a taser, they
appear to agree that, at some point during the incident,
Eakes used a taser on L.B. [R. 20 at 1; R. 22 at 1.] The
Government contends that this constituted an act of excessive
force in violation of the Eighth Amendment prohibition of
cruel and unusual punishment. [R. 20 at 3.] On August 14,
2018, Eakes was indicted on one count of deprivation of
rights under color of law in violation of 18 U.S.C. §
242. [R. 1 at 1.] A jury trial for this matter is scheduled
on April 29, 2019. [R. 18.] Currently before the Court is the
Government's Consolidated Motion in Limine. [R. 20.]
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). 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).
is “relevant” if it has “any tendency to
make a fact [of consequence] more or less probable than it
would be without the evidence.” Fed.R.Evid. 401. The
standard for relevancy is “liberal” under the
Federal Rules of Evidence. Churchwell v. Bluegrass Marine,
Inc., 444 F.3d 898, 905 (6th Cir. 2006); United
States v. Whittington, 455 F.3d 736, 738 (6th Cir.
2006). A piece of evidence “does not need to carry a
party's evidentiary burden to be relevant; it simply has
to advance the ball.” Dortch v. Fowler, 588
F.3d 396, 401 (6th Cir. 2009).
speaking, all relevant evidence is admissible. See
Fed.R.Evid. 402. No. rule, however, is without exception:
Even relevant evidence may be excluded “if its
probative value is substantially outweighed by [the] danger
of . . . unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, misleading
the jury, undue delay, wasting time, or needlessly presenting
cumulative evidence.” Fed.R.Evid. 403. The Court enjoys
broad discretion when it decides questions of relevance and
possible prejudice. See Tompkin v. Philip Morris USA,
Inc., 362 F.3d 882, 897 (6th Cir. 2004).
Government's Consolidated Motion in Limine consists of
five requested evidentiary rulings prior to trial.
Altogether, the Government moves the Court to exclude:
1) any mention of potential witness L.B.'s prior
convictions (other than felony convictions fewer than ten
years old) and prison disciplinary history; 2) any mention of
potential witness Amber Morgan's prior inadmissible
convictions and irrelevant misconduct; 3) any mention of the
Defendant's prior irrelevant experiences with other
inmates or experience in dangerous prison working conditions;
4) any mention of FCDC's decision not to discipline or
terminate the Defendant following this incident; and 5) any
improper propensity/character evidence.
[R. 20 at 1.] The Court will address each request in turn.
L.B.'s Criminal and Disciplinary History
L.B.'s Criminal History
L.B.'s criminal history, the Government states that both
sides have agreed that L.B. may not be impeached with his
“misdemeanor convictions or convictions greater than
ten years old, but that he may be properly impeached by being
cross-examined regarding three felony convictions from the
last ten years.” [R. 20 at 4.] Furthermore, the
Government states that “the parties also agree that any
impeachment must be limited to the fact that the victim was
convicted of three felonies and may not discuss the
underlying offenses or circumstances of conviction.”
[Id.] In response, Eakes appears to agree, citing
Federal Rule of Evidence 609 for the contention that
“delving into the inmate's criminal history is
permissible under FRE 609 to the extent he has a felony
conviction over the last ten years, whether Defendant knew
about it or not.” [R. 22 at 2.] The Court agrees with
the parties and acknowledges that any evidence that should be
excluded under Rule 609, shall be excluded at trial.
L.B.'s Disciplinary History
L.B.'s disciplinary history as an inmate, the Government
argues that “[t]hese records are not relevant to the
case against the Defendant, and, even if they were relevant,
are far more prejudicial than probative.” [R. 20 at 4.]
In support, the Government cites to this Court's findings
in Moore v. Parker, in which the Court found that
the plaintiff inmate's disciplinary record had little to
do with the issue of whether correctional officers used
excessive force against him and, in addition, presented a
distinct risk of unfair prejudice. Moore v. Parker, No.
5:13-CV-00081-TBR, 2016 WL 6871264, at *3 (W.D. Ky. Nov.
21, 2016). Therefore, the Court excluded the introduction of,
and testimony relating to, the plaintiff inmate's
disciplinary record. Id.
response, Eakes contends that the exclusion of L.B.'s
disciplinary history “would effectively deny Defendant
a right ...