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McGown v. Arnold

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division

October 30, 2014

ROY McGOWN, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
JAMES ARNOLD, et al., Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

ROGER B. COSBEY, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court[1] on the motions in limine filed by Plaintiff Roy McGown, Jr. (Docket # 34, 35), and Defendants City of Fort Wayne and Fort Wayne Police Officers James Arnold, Douglas Weaver, and Chris Felton (Docket # 33). For the following reasons, the motions in limine will each be GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

McGown is suing Defendants under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 for use of excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment and for state law battery, or in the alternative, for failure to intervene to prevent the use of excessive force. McGown's claims arise out of events that occurred on or about October 1, 2011, around 2:30 a.m., when he pulled over while driving in the area of Wayne Trace and Oxford Street in Fort Wayne, Indiana, because he allegedly became ill. McGown contends that the Officer Defendants approached his vehicle while it was stopped southbound on Wayne Trace, and then used excessive force against him until he became unconscious. He contends that when he awoke, he was in the hospital emergency room with injuries to his ribs and head. ( See Docket # 36.)

Defendants dispute McGown's version of events. According to Defendants, McGown was intoxicated and passed out in a running vehicle stopped in a travel lane at an intersection. Defendants claim McGown ignored the Officers' instructions to exit the vehicle, and then violently and forcefully resisted the Officers' efforts to remove him from the vehicle, direct him to the ground, and handcuff him. Defendants contend that the force they used was reasonable to gain control of McGown. ( See Docket # 37.)

II. NATURE OF AN ORDER IN LIMINE

"A motion in limine is a request for guidance by the court regarding an evidentiary question." Wilson v. Williams, 182 F.3d 562, 570 (7th Cir. 1999) (Coffey, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part) (citation omitted). "Federal district courts have the power to exclude evidence in limine pursuant to their authority to manage trials." Dartey v. Ford Motor Co., 104 F.Supp.2d 1017, 1020 (N.D. Ind. 2000) (citation omitted).

"[A]s the term in limine' suggests, a court's decision on such evidence is preliminary in nature and subject to change." Id .; see United States v. Connelly, 874 F.2d 412, 416 (7th Cir. 1989) (emphasizing that an order either granting or denying a motion in limine is "a preliminary decision... subject to change based upon the court's exposure to the evidence at trial"). In fact, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has specifically noted that "a ruling [ in limine ] is subject to change when the case unfolds, particularly if the actual testimony differs from what was contained in the proffer." Connelly, 874 F.2d at 416 ("[E]ven if nothing unexpected happens at trial, the district judge is free, in the exercise of sound judicial discretion, to alter a previous in limine ruling.").

Thus, a ruling on a motion in limine is not a final ruling on the admissibility of the evidence that is the subject of the motion; rather, an order on a motion in limine is essentially an advisory opinion, "merely speculative in effect." Wilson, 182 F.3d at 570-71 (citing Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 (1984)).

III. MCGOWN'S MOTION IN LIMINE

A. Unopposed Portions of McGown's Motion in Limine (Nos. 3-6)

Defendants do not object to McGown's efforts to preclude references or allusions to attorney fees; settlement negotiations; tax considerations; or "send a message" arguments in opening or closing statements. As such, McGown's motion is GRANTED as to these matters.

B. Narrative Reports of the Officer Defendants (No. 1)

McGown first seeks to bar any narrative reports by the Officer Defendants, claiming they are biased, prejudicial, and constitute inadmissible hearsay. In response, Defendants contend that the reports are admissible under Federal Rules of Evidence 803(8) (public records and reports) and 803(5) (recorded recollection).

The reliability of police reports is "neither automatic nor presumed." Downie v. Klincar, 759 F.Supp. 425, 428 (N.D. Ill. 1991). "Police reports of any kind are inherently more subjective than laboratory reports of chemical tests, and... a police officer's description of events as he witnessed them lacks... objective certainty...." Id. (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). They "may be demonstrably reliable evidence of the fact that an arrest was made, [but] they are significantly less reliable evidence of whether the allegations of criminal conduct they contain are true." Id. (alteration in original) (quoting United States v. Bell, 785 F.2d 640, 644 (8th Cir. 1986)). Indeed "such evidence is dripping with motivations to misrepresent' and accordingly lacks the trustworthiness necessary to qualify under the business records exception." Id. (citation omitted).

Presumably, the narrative reports may indeed be admissible, at least in part, under Rule 803(8) as public records and reports, although certain hearsay statements within the reports may need to be redacted. However, without having an opportunity to rule in the context of the trial, the admissibility of the documents and the prejudicial effect of the imbedded statements cannot be ascertained. Therefore, at this juncture, McGown's motion in limine is GRANTED. Counsel are directed to confer in an effort to reach a stipulation concerning suitable ...


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