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Naselroad v. Mabry

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington

September 26, 2019

JOEL D. NASELROAD, Plaintiff,
v.
DENNIS MABRY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          DANNY C. REEVES, CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         Defendant Kentucky State Police Trooper Dennis Mabry shot Plaintiff Joel Naselroad during an investigation at Naselroad’s home. A jury trial is scheduled to commence on February 25, 2020, during which Naselroad will present the following claims: 1) excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; 2) state-law assault and battery; and 3) state-law malicious prosecution. Mabry has filed a motion in limine seeking exclusion of certain evidence at trial. [Record No. 185');">185] The motion will be granted, in part, and denied, in part, for the reasons that follow.

         I.

         This action arises out of events that occurred on October 8, 2013, at the residence where Naselroad lived with his parents in Winchester, Kentucky. The details concerning the incident have been relayed in previous opinions, so only the basic facts will be repeated here. Defendant Mabry, along with officers Mark Craycraft, John Gurley, and Robert Puckett went to the Naselroad residence to investigate a tip that marijuana was growing on the property. The officers did not have a search warrant but intended to conduct a knock and talk.

         Craycraft and Gurley knocked on the door, which was answered by the plaintiff’s mother Jeannie. The officers introduced themselves and explained that they were there to investigate a report of marijuana growing on the property. Around that same time, the plaintiff, armed with a handgun and dressed in camouflage, exited through the back door of the residence. The parties dispute what happened next, but Naselroad concedes that he held his gun in the “low ready” position when confronted by Mabry and Craycraft in the backyard. Ultimately, Mabry shot Naselroad once in the chest when he did not drop his weapon.

         Naselroad was transported to a hospital and officers continued their investigation at the residence. Naselroad was later indicted on state charges of cultivation and possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, and three counts of wanton endangerment. He was convicted on the possession charges, but acquitted on the three counts of wanton endangerment. Naselroad subsequently filed suit against the officers and their employers alleging a host of federal civil rights and state law claims. Following a somewhat arduous procedural history, which includes two trips to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, the matter is ready to proceed to trial. As noted above, Naselroad’s only remaining claims are against Defendant Mabry for use of excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment, assault and battery, and malicious prosecution.

         II.

         “A motion in limine is ‘any motion, whether made before or during trial, to exclude anticipated prejudicial evidence before the evidence is actually offered.’” Louzon v. Ford Motor Co., 718 F.3d 556, 561 (6th Cir. 2013) (quoting Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 40 n.2 (1984)). Courts should exclude evidence on a motion in limine only when the challenged evidence is clearly inadmissible. Morningstar v. Circleville Fire & EMS Dep’t, No. 2: 15-cv- 3077, 2018 WL 3721077, at *1 (S.D. Ohio Aug. 6, 2018). Motions in limine which seek to exclude broad categories of evidence are usually denied. When there is an arguable basis for admitting the challenged evidence, “[t]he better practice is to deal with questions of admissibility as they arise.” Id. (quoting Sperberg v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 519 F.2d 708, 712 (6th Cir. 1975)). Whether to grant a motion in limine falls within the trial court’s discretion. Id. (citing Delay v. Rosenthal Collins Grp., LLC, No. 2: 07-CV-568, 2012 WL 5878873, at *2 (S.D. Ohio Nov. 21, 2012)).

         III.

         A. Undisputed Issues

         Mabry seeks exclusion of any evidence suggesting that the knock and talk or the officers’ entry onto the Naselroad property was wrongful or unlawful. The plaintiff agrees that introduction of such evidence would be improper, in light of the Sixth Circuit’s determination that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity regarding his claims of unlawful intrusion onto the property. While the plaintiff may not introduce evidence regarding the propriety of this conduct (e.g., whether police exceeded the “scope” of the knock and talk), some testimony concerning the events may be admissible as res gestae of the case.

         Naselroad also agrees that evidence concerning unrelated police misconduct, other police shootings, or prior lawsuits involving Mabry or any of the other officers will not be introduced. Additionally, Naselroad concedes that evidence of “other bad acts” by Mabry or any other police officer is inadmissible, with the exception of Mabry’s alleged conduct that forms the basis of Naselroad’s malicious prosecution claim. Likewise, the plaintiff agrees to refrain from offering evidence concerning Mabry’s retirement from the Kentucky State Police and Mabry’s right to statutory indemnity.

         B. Disputed Issues

         Naselroad opposes Mabry’s request to exclude any evidence regarding “facts that did not involve Mabry and were unknown to him.” The Court agrees that this is an overly-broad request, which is not excludable based on a motion in limine. As Mabry points out, the reasonableness of his use of deadly force depends on the facts known to him at the time of the shooting. However, which facts he knew at that time is a question for the jury. Additionally, some information not known to Mabry may be necessary to tell a complete story of the ...


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