United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division
P. SIMON, JUDGE
November 1, 2019, I issued an Order [DE 89] granting
Defendant Lajuan Fitzpatrick's Motion in Limine,
in part, and denied the Government's Motion in
Limine. The primary issue is whether the Government
could seek to admit evidence relating to Fitzpatrick's
flight from police at the time of his arrest and obtain a
jury instruction that evidence of flight could be considered
as consciousness of guilt. In order to allow the parties to
promptly prepare for trial, I issued that Order and indicated
a written opinion would follow. This is that opinion.
Fitzpatrick is charged with Conspiracy to Distribute a
Controlled Substance in violation of 21 U.S.C. §
841(a)(1) and with using a firearm during and in relation to
that conspiracy in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). [DE
1.] Because the incident in question is alleged to have
resulted in the murder of Rolando Correa, Fitzpatrick faces a
life sentence under 18 U.S.C. § 924(j).
Correa was murdered on December 2, 2013. Nearly three years
later, on November 18, 2016, a sealed arrest warrant for
Fitzpatrick was issued out of the Northern District of
Indiana. [DE 64.] On November 22, 2016, police attempted to
execute the arrest warrant in this case. They proceeded to
the home of one of Fitzpatrick's relatives in Hammond,
Indiana, but he was not there. Police spoke with
Fitzpatrick's relatives and let them know there was a
warrant for his arrest. Coincidentally-and apparently
unbeknownst to the United States Attorney's Office for
this district until approximately a week ago-a search warrant
out of the Central District of Illinois was executed on a
home in Danville, Illinois that same day. [DE 87.] That home
was owned by Fitzpatrick's brother's girlfriend.
Fitzpatrick had been staying there but he was not present
when the warrant was executed. [Id.] It is unclear
from the briefing exactly how the search in Danville related
to this case. But I have to assume that since the U.S.
Attorney in this district was unaware of it at the time, it
was unrelated the investigation that resulted in this case.
December 1, 2016, the Government held a press conference in
which the arrest warrant for Fitzpatrick was unsealed. [DE
64.] Defendant disputes whether this event should be called a
“press conference” at all, given that there was
no national, state or local media present or which ran the
story. Likewise, Fitzpatrick notes that the press release
concerning the warrant for his arrest received, at best, very
modest attention on Facebook. [DE 74.] In any event, it
occurred on December 1, 2016, and in connection with it, law
enforcement displayed a photograph of Fitzpatrick.
went by and the police were unable to locate Fitzpatrick. But
on November 26, 2017, in a bit of luck for the police, they
attempted a traffic stop of a White Cadillac for failure to
display a license plate. [DE 64.] This also occurred in
Danville, Illinois. The car did not stop when the police
tried to pull it over for the minor traffic infraction, and
instead went down an alley before the driver exited the
vehicle and entered a nearby building. Police obtained a
search warrant for the building and found Fitzpatrick inside,
although Fitzpatrick refused to identify himself by name at
the time of his arrest. At the time of Fitzpatrick's
arrest, he had two additional state warrants for his arrest
out of Lake County, Indiana and Vermillion County, Illinois.
[Id.] The Government does not appear to contest
Fitzpatrick's assertion that at the time of his arrest he
was aware of the Vermillion County warrant for failure to
appear for a court date.
Seventh Circuit, any discussion of the admission of
“evidence of flight” as probative evidence begins
with the principles laid down in United States v.
Jackson, 572 F.2d 646 (7th Cir. 1978). In that case, the
Seventh Circuit adopted the reasoning of the Fifth Circuit in
United States v. Myers, 550 F.2d 1036 (5th Cir.
1977) and held that “the probative value of flight as
circumstantial evidence of guilt depends on the degree of
confidence with which four inferences can be drawn: (1) from
the defendant's behavior to flight; (2) from flight to
consciousness of guilt; (3) from consciousness of guilt to
consciousness of guilt concerning the crime charged; and (4)
from consciousness of guilt concerning the crime charged to
actual guilty of the crime charged.” Jackson,
572 F.2d at 639; see also United States v. Russell,
662 F.3d 831, 850 (7th Cir. 2011) (reiterating the same
standard for the admission of evidence of flight as
consciousness of guilt). If those inferences cannot be drawn,
then the evidence should not be admitted “[b]ecause the
probative value of flight evidence is often slight” and
“there is a danger that a flight instruction will
isolate and give undue weight to such evidence.”
United States v. Williams, 33 F.3d 876, 879 (7th
it should be noted that the Supreme Court cast suspicion on
the probative value of such evidence long ago. Wong Sun
v. United States, 371 U.S. 471, 483, n.10 (1963)
(“we have consistently doubted the probative value in
criminal trials of evidence that the accused fled the scene
of an actual or supposed crime”).
the arrest and flight took place nearly four years after the
crime in question was committed and nearly a year after
Fitzpatrick's arrest warrant was unsealed. That's
much longer than the three and a half months between the
crime and the arrest in Jackson. 572 F.2d at 640.
And the court in Jackson held that allowing the jury
to consider the flight as evidence was improper. “As
the interval between the crime charged and the flight
expands, evidence of the defendant's knowledge that he is
being sought for the crime becomes an increasingly important
must look at whether there is evidence that Fitzpatrick had
knowledge that he was being pursued for the crime at
issue-the home invasion murder that took place in December
2013. The evidence is thin. First, there is the “press
conference, ” which appears to have had a modestly
sized audience. And second, there are the two warrants
executed on homes occupied by Fitzpatrick's relatives.
The Government asks that I infer that because police executed
warrants at two locations, “[i]t stretches the bounds
of credulity to believe that Defendant could have remained
unaware that there was a federal warrant for his
arrest.” [DE 87 at 2.] I disagree. For starters, as I
noted above, it is unclear whether the warrant that was
executed in Danville had anything to do with this case. And
if it didn't, then no inference from that incident can be
drawn about Fitzpatrick's knowledge of the warrant in
events, there is simply no evidence that any family member
ever communicated anything about the warrants to Fitzpatrick.
As Fitzpatrick says, “no internet browser history, no
intercepted communication, no social media, no text
message[s] or recorded communication[s] which indicate the
defendant” knew what happened or was told about either
the warrants or the press release. [DE 74 at 2.] Is it
possible they spoke with Fitzpatrick? Of course, it is
possible. Is it probable they spoke with Fitzpatrick?
That's a closer call. Is there any actual evidence that
Fitzpatrick's family told him about the warrants? No,
there isn't. And that is the determinative fact for me.
in United States v. Brown, 744 F.3d 474 (7th Cir.
2011), a case relied on by the Government, requires a
different conclusion. In Brown, less than a week
lapsed between the execution of a search and the evidence of
the defendant's flight. 744 F.3d at 479. In this case,
the time between the execution of the warrants at the
relative's homes and Fitzpatrick's arrest was more
than eleven months. Furthermore, Fitzpatrick had two other
outstanding state warrants for his arrest, including the one
from Vermillion County (where he was arrested), which he knew
about at the time of his arrest. Finally, I'm not blind
to the fact that many individuals simply have an aversion to
the police, whether that aversion is well founded or not.
They flee even when they're not wanted for ...