United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ENTRY ON PENDING MOTIONS IN LIMINE
WALTON PRATT, JUDGE
matter is set for jury trial on Tuesday, October 15,
2019, on Plaintiff Dylan Sinn’s claim for
deliberate indifference in violation of the Eighth Amendment
to the United States Constitution. Before the Court are the
parties’ Motions in Limine. Plaintiff Dylan
Sinn (“Sinn”) moves to exclude all evidence of
his criminal record and current incarceration. (Filing
No. 133.) Defendant John Brush (“Brush”)
seeks an order in limine on fifteen different
matters during the trial. (Filing No. 145;
Filing No. 146.) For the following reasons, both
Motions in Limine are granted in part and
denied in part.
Court has the power to exclude evidence in limine
only when evidence is clearly inadmissible on all potential
grounds. Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 n.
4, 105 S.Ct. 460, 463 n. 4, 83 L.Ed.2d 443 (1984) (federal
district courts have authority to make in limine
rulings pursuant to their authority to manage trials).
See Hawthorne Partners v. AT&T Technologies,
Inc. 831 F.Supp. 1398, 1400 (N.D. Ill. 1993). Unless
evidence meets this exacting standard, evidentiary rulings
must be deferred until trial so questions of foundation,
relevancy, and prejudice may be resolved in context.
Id. at 1400-01. Moreover, denial of a motion in
limine does not necessarily mean that all evidence
contemplated by the motion is admissible; rather, it only
means that, at the pretrial stage, the court is unable to
determine whether the evidence should be excluded.
Id. at 1401.
Sinn’s Motion in Limine (Filing No.
Rule of Evidence 609 allows the admission of evidence of
prior criminal convictions when used to impeach a witness,
but different standards apply depending on whether the prior
conviction is more or less than ten years old. Rule 609
states that when attacking a witness’s truthfulness,
“evidence of a criminal conviction . . . must be
admitted in a criminal case in which the witness is a
defendant, if the probative value of the evidence outweighs
its prejudicial effect to that defendant.” Fed.R.Evid.
[I]f more than 10 years have passed since the witness’s
conviction or release from confinement for it, whichever is
later [then the] [e]vidence of the conviction is admissible
only if: (1) its probative value, supported by specific facts
and circumstances, substantially outweighs its prejudicial
effect; and (2) the proponent gives an adverse party
reasonable written notice of the intent to use it so that the
party has a fair opportunity to contest its use.
Fed. R. Evid. 609(b). Within the ten-year lookback period,
the conviction’s probative value must outweigh the
prejudicial effect. And beyond ten years, the
conviction’s probative value must
substantially outweigh the prejudicial effect. A
limiting instruction which tells the jury that the prior
convictions may only be used in determining the credibility
of the defendant reduces the prejudicial effect of admission.
United States v. Redditt, 381 F.3d 597, 601 (7th
filed his Motion, Sinn was incarcerated in the Vigo County
Jail after being charged but not convicted of several
offenses. (Filing No. 133 at 1.) He has since been
convicted on June 26, 2019 of Auto Theft, a level 6 felony in
No. 84D05-1803-F6-00687 and sentenced on that count to one
year, consecutive to another matter, for a total sentence of
two years. Sinn received credit for time already
served and was released from custody.
argues that evidence of his incarceration and evidence of
convictions to misdemeanor offenses and offenses that are
more than 10 years old is irrelevant to his civil suit and
should be excluded at trial. Id. at 2. He also
argues that evidence of these convictions and pleas would be
prejudicial if admitted. Id. With respect to his
convictions of crimes within the last 10 years, Sinn argues
they should also be excluded. Id. at 2-3. His 2016
felony conviction for criminal confinement resulted in his
incarceration at Putnamville Correctional Facility, where he
suffered the injuries that have led to this case.
Id. Sinn argues that “[w]hy he was
incarcerated and whether he had a criminal record has no
bearing upon the duties owed to Plaintiff by Defendant Brush,
and whether Defendant Brush violated such duties, resulting
in Plaintiff’s injuries. Evidence of Plaintiff’s
criminal record would serve only the purpose of unfairly
prejudicing the jury against him.” Id. at 3.
responds that he has no intention of offering evidence
regarding Sinn’s incarceration or pending charges, any
misdemeanors Sinn has been convicted of or pled guilty to, or
any crimes older than 10 years Sinn has been convicted of or
pled guilty to. (Filing No. 139 at 1-2.) Thus,
Sinn’s Motion as to those categories of evidence is
however, seeks to present evidence of Sinn’s 2011
convictions for Class D felony possession of marijuana and
Class D felony maintaining a common nuisance in cause number
84D03-1103-FD-00830 and his 2016 conviction of Level 6 felony
criminal confinement as well as the June 2019 conviction of
Level 6 felony auto theft. Brush argues that because these
convictions were punishable by imprisonment of more than one
year, they “must be admitted, subject to Rule 403, in a
civil case.” Fed.R.Evid. 609(a)(1)(A).
Federal Rules of Evidence allow admission of felonies less
than 10 years old if they are punishable by death or more
than one year of imprisonment. The Seventh Circuit has
explained that “a person who has committed a serious
crime is more likely than a law-abiding person to lie on the
stand even if the case in which he is testifying has nothing
to do with that crime.” Schmude v. Tricam
Indus., Inc., 556 F.3d 624, 627 (7th Cir. 2009). It has
outlined a five-factor test to
guide the district court in the exercise of its discretion in
determining whether the probative value of a conviction
outweighs its prejudicial effect: (1) the impeachment value
of the prior crime; (2) the point in time of the conviction
and the witness’s subsequent history; (3) the
similarity between the past crime and the charged crime; (4)
the importance of the defendant’s testimony; and (5)
the centrality of the credibility issue.
U.S. v. Montgomery, 390 F.3d 1013, 1015 (7th Cir.
2004). Factors (3) and (4) are irrelevant to this civil
proceeding, but the Court will evaluate Sinn’s prior
convictions under factors (1) the impeachment value, (2) the