United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
REBECCA GRADY JENNINGS, DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Shaunt Gasaway's
(“Gasaway”) Motion to Exclude Evidence [DE 51].
The United States responded. [DE 53]. This matter is ripe.
For the reasons below, Gasaway's Motion to Exclude
Evidence [DE 51] will be DENIED.
jury charged Gasaway in a single-count indictment with being
a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§ 922(g). [DE 1]. The United States alleges that
Gasaway, a felon, possessed a Smith and Wesson, Model SW40VE,
.40 caliber pistol, bearing serial No. RAN 5462. Gasaway
entered a plea of not guilty and disputes the allegations.
district courts have the power to exclude irrelevant,
inadmissible, or prejudicial evidence in limine under their
inherent authority to manage trials. 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). That said, the “better practice”
is to defer evidentiary rulings until trial unless the
evidence is clearly inadmissible on all potential grounds.
Sperberg v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 519 F.2d
708, 712 (6th Cir. 1975); Jonasson v. Lutheran Child
& Family Servs., 115 F.3d 436, 440 (7th Cir. 1997);
Bouchard v. Am. Home Prods. Corp., 213 F.Supp.2d
802, 810 (N.D.Ohio 2002) (citing Luce, 469 U.S. at
41 n. 4). This posture is favored 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). When this
Court issues a ruling in limine, it is “no more than a
preliminary, or advisory, opinion.” United States
v. Yannott, 42 F.3d 999, 1007 (6th Cir. 1994) (citing
Luce, 713 F.2d at 1239). Thus, even where a motion
in limine is denied, the Court may return to its previous
ruling at trial “for whatever reason it deems
appropriate.” Id. (citing Luce, 713
F.2d at 1239). Likewise, the Court has discretion to alter or
amend a prior in limine ruling at trial. Luce, 469
U.S. at 41-42.
moves the Court to “exclude the firearm seized on the
night of [his] arrest, unless the government can establish a
chain of custody to authenticate the firearm.” [DE 51
at 214]. Gasaway argues that the United States cannot
establish the required chain of custody for two reasons.
First, Gasaway suggests that the United States cannot
sufficiently establish the first link in the chain-that is,
the officer who recovered the firearm. Id. Gasaway
notes that, during the suppression hearing, “Officer
Corniel testified for the government . . . [and] claimed the
firearm was collected by LMPD “Homicide”
Detective(s).” Id. But, “Corniel was not
able to identify the specific detective(s) who collected the
firearm.” Id. Gasaway also asserts that the
body-camera footage showing a “female supervisor
officer instructing Officer Coleman to “photograph and
collect the firearm” contradicts Officer Corniel's
testimony. Id. Under Gasaway's logic, if Officer
Corniel is to be believed, Officer Coleman could not have
recovered the firearm because he is not a homicide detective.
Second, Gasaway implies that, assuming Officer Coleman
retrieved the firearm, the United States cannot authenticate
the firearm because Officer Coleman is no longer an officer
with LMPD and thus will not be available to testify during
the trial. Id.
United States objects to the Motion, arguing that
“Gasaway's argument implies a contradiction even
though none exists. One officer can retrieve an item despite
another officer being asked to do it. This is particularly
true of a crime scene were over a dozen officers were
present.” [DE 53 at 220]. The United States further
argues that Gasaway's argument is unavailing because it
goes “to the weight of the evidence, not admissibility
. . . [A] jury can decide who retrieved the gun and how
relevant that fact is to the elements of the crime.”
Id. at 220-221.
must be authenticated before it may be admitted. Fed.R.Evid.
901. “To satisfy the requirement of authenticating or
identifying an item of evidence, the proponent must produce
evidence sufficient to support a finding that the item is
what the proponent claims it is.” Id.
“Where a . . . physical object is offered as evidence
in a criminal prosecution, an adequate foundation for the
admission of that object requires testimony first, that such
object is the same object which was involved in the alleged
incident, and that the condition of that object is
substantially unchanged.” United States v.
Trotter, 721 F.3d 501, 505 (8th Cir. 2013) (finding that
the United States established that the weapon introduced at
trial were the same because the agent testified that it was
the same gun and that it was in the same condition as it was
on the day he handed it to the defendant).
United States need not establish a perfect chain of custody
for evidence to be admitted at trial. United States v.
Kinnard, Nos. 91-6221, 91-6263, 1992 WL 162558, at *3.
Rather, “[p]hysical evidence is admissible when the
possibility of misidentification or alteration is eliminated,
not absolutely, but as a matter of reasonable
probability.” United States v. Combs, 369 F.3d
925, 938 (6th Cir. 2004) (quoting United States v.
Allen, 106 F.3d 695, 700 (6th Cir.1997)) (internal
quotation marks omitted). “Chain of custody issues are
jury questions and the possibility of a break in the chain of
custody of evidence goes to the weight of the evidence, not
its admissibility.” United States v. Allen,
619 F.3d 518, 525 (6th Cir. 2010).
the Court cannot determine before trial whether the firearm
should be excluded because the United States has not yet had
an opportunity to authenticate it. If, during the trial, the
United States fails to authenticate the firearm, Gasaway may
at that time object to its admission. But because
“[c]hain of custody issues are jury questions, ”
the Court will defer ruling on this issue unless Gasaway
objects to it at trial.
reasons set forth above, and being otherwise sufficiently