United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ORDER ON MOTION IN LIMINE
Patrick Hanlon United States District Judge
government has filed a motion in limine, seeking to bar
Defendant Bryant Pinner from introducing evidence and making
arguments about the necessity defense. Dkt. . For
the reasons that follow, that motion is GRANTED in
part and DENIED in part.
Facts and Background
Pinner is charged with being a felon in possession of a
firearm. Dkt. 24. Trial is set for October 7, 2019. Dkt. 97.
The government has filed a motion in limine, seeking to bar
Mr. Pinner from introducing evidence and making arguments
about the necessity defense. Dkt. 88 at 1.
Pinner has responded, providing a factual proffer, dkt. 103,
which the Court accepts for this order, see United States
v. Tokash, 282 F.3d 962, 968 (7th Cir. 2002). He
explains that on March 19, 2017, Mr. Pinner was living at the
Meadowlark Apartments in Indianapolis with his girlfriend
R.G. Id. at 2. R.G.'s sister, C.M., also lived
at the Meadowlark Apartments, but in a different building
separated by a parking lot and courtyard. Id. at
morning of March 19, C.M. and her then-boyfriend Justin
Covington were arguing and intruded uninvited into Mr.
Pinner's apartment. Id. at 3. Five people-Mr.
Pinner, Mr. Covington, C.M., R.G., and R.G.'s teenage
son-soon left Mr. Pinner's apartment and walked across
the courtyard toward C.M.'s apartment. Id. Mr.
Covington walked in the back with his hand in his jacket,
threatening to kill those in front of him. Id.
into the walk, Mr. Pinner turned and punched Mr. Covington.
Id. Others joined in the scuffle, but when C.M. fell
on top of Mr. Covington everyone else backed away.
Id. Then Mr. Covington shot C.M. in the leg and R.G.
in the stomach and fired several shots at Mr. Pinner.
Id. at 3-4. Mr. Covington tried to shoot R.G. in the
head, but the gun was empty or misfired. Id. at 4.
then hid between two cars while C.M. hid elsewhere.
Id. Mr. Pinner sought help from bystanders and tried
to get back into his apartment, but the door was locked.
Id. Mr. Pinner, R.G., and R.G.'s son did not
have cell phones with them. Id. Finally, a bystander
offered Mr. Pinner a pistol. Mr. Pinner took the gun and
moved around the apartment complex for about three minutes.
Id. at 5. He then gave the pistol back to the
bystander. Id. Mr. Covington was “on the
scene” during that time and came back into the parking
lot after Mr. Pinner returned the gun. Id. A few
minutes later, IMPD officers arrived. Id. at 6.
evidence “clearly would be inadmissible for any
purpose, ” the Court may issue a pretrial order in
limine excluding it from further consideration. Jonasson
v. Lutheran Child & Family Servs., 115 F.3d 436, 440
(7th Cir. 1997). Orders in limine thus “ensure the
expeditious and evenhanded management of the trial
proceedings” by focusing preparation for trial and
streamlining the trial itself. Id. They “are
of course common, and frequently granted, in criminal as in
civil trials.” United States v. Warner, 506
F.3d 517, 523 (7th Cir. 2007). Still, orders in limine are
preliminary and “subject to change when the case
unfolds” because actual testimony may differ from a
pretrial proffer. Luce v. United States, 469 U.S.
38, 41 (1984). The Court may also defer ruling until trial,
“when the trial judge can better estimate [the
evidence's] impact on the jury.” Jonasson,
115 F.3d at 440.
supporting a defense should be excluded in limine
“unless all of its elements can be established.”
Tokash, 282 F.3d 962, 968 (7th Cir. 2002) (citation
and quotation omitted). Otherwise, the jury would be burdened
with a potpourri of irrelevant evidence and the trial would
be derailed. Id.
government argues that Mr. Pinner cannot proffer facts
showing an immediate threat, so he cannot satisfy the
elements of a necessity defense. Dkt. 88 at 7. Mr. Pinner
responds that he only held the gun for about three minutes,
and during that time he and others remained threatened by
greater harm from Mr. Covington. Dkt. 103 at 9.
necessity defense is narrow. United States v.
Kilgore, 591 F.3d 890, 893 (7th Cir. 2010). So narrow
that it has only been applied “to the individual who in
the heat of a dangerous moment disarms someone else, thereby
possessing a gun briefly in order to prevent injury to
himself.” Id. (quotation and citation
omitted). The defense will “rarely” apply outside
that situation. Id. (quoting United States v.
Perez, 86 F.3d 735, 737 (7th Cir. 1996)). But
“rarely” is not “never”-the necessity
defense can be at issue when there's some ...