United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Evansville Division
Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge United States District Court
William Hurt, Deadra Hurt, and Andrea Hurt allege in this
action that they were wrongfully targeted, arrested, and
prosecuted for the death of their uncle, Marcus Golike, whose
body was found in the Ohio River in June 2012. The parties
have filed several motions in advance of the two-week trial
scheduled to begin on April 20, 2020, including: (1) Motions
in Limine filed by Defendants Zachary Jones and Matthew Wise
(the “KSP Defendants”), [Filing No.
391]; (2) Motions in Limine filed by Defendants Jeff Vantlin,
Jack Spencer, William Arbaugh, and Jason Pagett (the
“EPD Defendants”), [Filing No.
397]; (3) a Motion to Take Judicial Notice and Motion
for Determination on Collateral Estoppel filed by the KSP
Defendants and the EPD Defendants, [Filing No. 398]; (4)
Agreed Motions in Limine filed by all parties, [Filing No.
401]; (5) Motions in Limine filed by Plaintiffs, [Filing No.
407]; and (6) Supplemental Motions in Limine filed
by the EPD Defendants, [Filing No. 420]. These motions are
now ripe for the Court's ruling.
the evidentiary vacuum in which denials of motions in limine
are made, such a denial is not final. Hawthorne Partners
v. AT&T Technologies, Inc., 831 F.Supp. 1398, 1400
(N.D.Ill. 1993). A court's ruling on a motion in limine
is subject to reconsideration “as events at trial
unfold.” Moore v. General Motors Corp., Delco Remy
Div., 684 F.Supp. 220, 220 (S.D. Ind. 1988).
Accordingly, none of the Court's rulings here precludes
counsel from objecting to offers of evidence during trial or
from offering excluded evidence outside the presence of the
jury as part of an offer of proof. Indeed such acts are
required for preservation of the record for purposes of
Issues Regarding Underlying Criminal Proceedings
outset, the Court addresses the issue of which components of
Plaintiffs' criminal proceedings may be admissible at
trial. These issues are raised throughout all parties'
Motions in Limine and Defendants' Motion to Take Judicial
Notice and Motion for Determination on Collateral Estoppel.
Each side is seeking exclusion of parts of the criminal
proceedings that may be unfavorable to their case, yet
arguing that favorable parts should be admitted for
consideration by the jury. The following chart reflects
issues related to the underlying criminal proceedings, and
which parties seek their exclusion:
Defendants Seeking Exclusion
Plaintiffs Seeking Exclusion
Probable cause existed for Plaintiffs' arrests
No criminal charges were filed against Andrea
State court judge suppressed Deadra's confession
State court judge did not suppress William's
Jury could not reach verdict on William's
obstruction of justice charge
Jury acquitted William on murder and robbery charges
the issues for which Defendants seek exclusion - that no
criminal charges were filed against Andrea, that the state
court judge suppressed Deadra's confession, and that the
jury acquitted William on the murder and robbery charges -
Plaintiffs argue that this evidence is relevant in order to
provide the jury with important context. Plaintiffs also
assert that they expect Defendants to contend at trial that
Plaintiffs are guilty of murdering Mr. Golike, and so
Plaintiffs should be permitted to explain that they were
subjected to an adversarial criminal legal system and
prevailed. They argue that absent this context, the jury may
speculate that Plaintiffs were found guilty, but were
released on a technicality. Additionally, Plaintiffs note
that the jury will need to consider whether William and
Deadra's confessions were used in their criminal
proceedings in connection with their Fifth Amendment claims.
Plaintiffs also argue that evidence regarding the outcome of
the criminal cases is relevant to their damages, which
include the anxiety of facing criminal charges and waiting to
learn their fates. They assert that this evidence is also
relevant to show that Detective Vantlin continued to try to
dig up evidence after the criminal proceedings were over.
Finally, Plaintiffs suggest that the Court can instruct the
jury that favorable terminations of the criminal proceedings
cannot be used to determine whether Defendants had probable
cause to arrest Plaintiffs, but may be used for other
response to Plaintiffs' arguments seeking exclusion of
other issues related to the underlying criminal proceedings -
that probable cause existed for Plaintiffs' arrests, that
the state court judge did not suppress William's
confession, and that the jury was unable to reach a verdict
on the obstruction of justice charge against William -
Defendants argue that the jury has a right to know the
information, and that Defendants should be able to present
the information to counter Plaintiffs' arguments
regarding a lack of probable cause or that Defendants should
have known the confessions were coerced. Defendants also note
that if Plaintiffs are allowed to present evidence regarding
issues from the criminal proceedings that are favorable to
them, then Defendants should be permitted to do the same.
Court addresses each component of the criminal proceedings
The Existence of Probable Cause
finding of probable cause is especially intertwined with
Plaintiffs' claims for wrongful pretrial detention and
false arrest. The Seventh Circuit has held that an arrest
“is constitutional if the arresting officers (1) have
probable cause to arrest the person sought and (2) reasonably
believe that the person arrested is the person sought.”
Tibbs v. City of Chicago, 469 F.3d 661, 664 (7th
Cir. 2006) (citation and quotation omitted). The Seventh
Circuit has also held, however, that when a claim under 42
U.S.C. § 1983 related to probable cause “is more
accurately characterized as a challenge to the integrity of
the evidence than to its sufficiency, ” collateral
estoppel does not bar the § 1983 claim. Schertz v.
Waupaca Cty., 875 F.2d 578, 581 (7th Cir. 1989); see
also Brokaw v. Weaver, 305 F.3d 660, 670 (7th
the state court judge's finding of probable cause has no
preclusive effect in this case, the Court finds that it is
not relevant to the issues in this case and that its risk of
prejudicial effect substantially outweighs any probative
value. Betts v. City of Chicago, Ill., 784 F.Supp.2d
1020, 1032 (N.D.Ill. 2011) (granting motion in limine to
preclude evidence of state court judge's finding that
probable cause did not exist); Hillard v. City of
Chicago, 2010 WL 1664941, at *5 (N.D.Ill. 2010)
(“Some courts have found it appropriate to advise the
jury of the disposition of a plaintiff's criminal charge
in a false arrest case to prevent the jury from assuming the
plaintiff was found guilty. Notifying the jury of the
‘no probable cause' finding is unnecessary to meet
this purpose…. There is no need to delve into the
specifics of the state court disposition….
[I]ntroduction of the ‘no probable cause' finding
risks a substantial prejudicial effect, as the jury may
equate the state court's finding with a determination as
to the propriety of the defendant officers' actions.
[Plaintiff] insists the court can address this concern with a
limiting instruction. However, the tenuous relevance of this
evidence does not outweigh the risk that it will confuse and
mislead the jury”).
Court finds that evidence that the state court judge found
that probable cause existed for Plaintiffs' arrests is
inadmissible at the trial in this case.
The Absence of Criminal Charges Against Andrea
seek to exclude any mention of the fact that criminal charges
were not filed against Andrea. The underlying criminal
proceedings are intertwined with the claims that Plaintiffs
assert in this case in such a way that the Court cannot
conceive of a scenario where the jury is able to determine
those claims without knowing the outcome of the criminal
proceeding, which began with Andrea's detention but was
concluded without charges. Additionally, the jury needs to
know Andrea's fate in order to be able to evaluate her
damages. Evidence that no criminal charges were filed against
her will be admissible at trial.
The Fact That Deadra's Confession Was Suppressed
also seek to prevent the jury from knowing that Deadra's
confession was suppressed by the state court judge. Civil
rights cases often involve issues regarding the admissibility
of events that took place during the underlying criminal
proceeding. However, rarely are the determinations made by
the state court judge so closely related to the very issues
the jury must decide in the civil rights case. Here, the
admission of the fact that Deadra's confession was
suppressed by the state court judge may very well lead jurors
to conclude that because a judge found the confession to be
inappropriate for use at the criminal trial, the jury should
also conclude that the confession was coerced. But the state
court judge's grant of Deadra's suppression motion
does not have a preclusive effect in this case. See
Paige v. City of Fort Wayne, 2010 WL 3522526, at *5,
n.9 (N.D. Ind. 2010) (court noting that it must look to
Indiana's law of collateral estoppel to determine whether
state court's denial of motion to suppress had a
preclusive effect in a § 1983 action, and that Indiana
law requires a final judgment for collateral estoppel to
apply). While the fact that Deadra's confession was
suppressed could be relevant to her damages claim, the Court
finds that this probative value is substantially outweighed
by the risk of prejudicial effect this evidence could have.
Court notes that Defendants do not specifically seek to
exclude evidence that the charges against Deadra were
dismissed after her confession was suppressed. Much like the
absence of charges against Andrea, the Court finds that the
fact that Deadra ultimately did not go to trial because the
charges against her were dismissed is relevant. Evidence of
why the charges were dismissed - because her confession was
suppressed - will not be admissible.
The Fact That William's Confession Was Not
surprisingly, despite not wanting the jury to know that
Deadra's confession was suppressed by the state court
judge, Defendants would like the jury to know that
William's confession was not suppressed. The Court's
analysis of this issue mirrors its analysis above, in
connection with Deadra's confession being suppressed. The
state court's denial of William's motion to suppress
does not have a preclusive effect in this case. Id.
(plaintiff's acquittal denied him the “full and
fair opportunity to litigate” the ruling on his motion
to suppress, which was necessary for collateral estoppel to
apply). Additionally, given that the jury in this case will
consider the very issue of the legality of William's
confession, allowing the jury to know that the state court
judge did not suppress the confession would be prejudicial,
and this prejudice would substantially outweigh any probative
value. Accordingly, evidence that William's confession
was not suppressed will not be admissible at trial.
Evidence That the Jury Acquitted William on Certain
seek to exclude evidence that the jury acquitted William on
the murder and robbery charges at his criminal trial. Much
like the fact that Andrea was not ultimately charged, the
Court finds that William's acquittal on the murder and
robbery charges would provide the jury with context that it
will need to resolve the issues in this case. The fact of the
acquittal is part of the story of what took place in this
case, and not knowing William's ultimate fate would make
it impossible for the jury to determine damages should they
find liability. Additionally, William could not have pursued
his § 1983 claim in this case if he had been convicted
in the criminal proceeding. Rodriguez v. Cook Cty.,
Ill., 664 F.3d 627, 630 (7th Cir. 2011) (“When a
person has been convicted and imprisoned, a § 1983 claim
that is inconsistent with the validity of that conviction
does not accrue until the conviction has been set aside in
some other manner…”) (citation omitted).
Further, a finding of acquittal does not equate with a
finding that William's confession was coerced, so the
Court does not find the evidence unduly prejudicial. But the
evidence is highly relevant to William's damages. Cf.
Coffey v. Callaway, 2015 WL 1970566, at *3 (D. Conn.
2015) (in excessive force case, granting defendants'
motion in limine to exclude evidence of the outcome of
plaintiff's criminal trial because “the fact of
[plaintiff's] guilt or innocence of the charges for which
he was arrested is of no consequence in determining whether
the officers' use of force in arresting him was
objectively unreasonable or unreasonable”).
of William's acquittal on the murder and robbery charges
will be admissible at trial.
Evidence That the Jury Was Unable to Reach a Verdict on
William's Obstruction of Justice Charge
found that William's acquittal on the murder and robbery
charges is admissible, the Court also finds that the fact
that the jury was unable to reach a verdict on William's
obstruction of justice charge is also admissible. There is no
sound reason to distinguish between the two types of
evidence, and if one type of evidence is admissible then the
other one will be as well.
the following evidence related to the underlying criminal
proceedings will be admissible at trial: (1) the fact that no
criminal charges were filed against Andrea; (2) the fact that
the jury acquitted William on the murder and robbery charges;
(3) the fact that the charges against Deadra were dismissed;
and (4) the fact that the jury was unable to reach a verdict
on William's obstruction of justice charge. The following
evidence will not be admissible at trial: (1) the fact that
the state court judge found there was probable cause to
arrest Plaintiffs; (2) the fact that Deadra's confession
was suppressed; and (3) the fact that William's
confession was not suppressed.
KSP Defendants' Motions in Limine [Filing No.
Defendants seek to exclude seven categories of evidence at
trial, which the Court will consider in turn.
Detective Jones' Reassignment
the KSP Defendants seek to exclude evidence of Detective
Jones' reassignment from his position as a detective to
trooper in 2014, after the events relevant to the lawsuit
took place. They argue that the reassignment is not related
to Detective Jones' ability to conduct criminal
investigations or to his job performance, and is instead
related to a personal dispute with a supervisor. [Filing No.
391 at 1.]
argue in response that evidence of the reassignment is
relevant because Detective Jones' “level of
experience in conducting homicide investigations” both
at the time of the investigation and by the time of trial, is
relied upon by Detective Jones to justify his conduct during
the investigation. [Filing No. 426 at 17.]
Court finds that the fact that Detective Jones was reassigned
to a trooper position in 2014 is not relevant to the issues
in this case. The KSP Defendants' Motion in Limine No. 1,
relating to evidence of Detective Jones' reassignment, is
GRANTED. The KSP Defendants are cautioned,
however, that to the extent they attempt to bolster Detective
Jones' character, experience, or expertise, this evidence
may well become relevant.
Detective Jones' “If Not, You're Going to
the KSP Defendants seek to exclude Detective Jones'
statement to Deadra during her interrogation to tell the
truth and “if not, you're going to hang.”
They argue that the statement was not
“confession-inducing, ” because Deadra had
already confessed three times to driving the van on the night
in question. [Filing No. 391 at 1-2.]
argue in response that the statement is relevant to whether
they were improperly coerced into giving false confessions.
[Filing No. 426 at 18.]
Court finds that Detective Jones' statement “if
not, you're going to hang” is directly relevant to
the central issue in this case - whether or not Defendants
coerced Plaintiffs into giving false confessions. Indeed, the
KSP Defendants do not argue that the statement is not
relevant. Whether the statement was
“confession-inducing” is precisely a question for
the jury. And, despite what Deadra may have said before
Detective Jones' statement, the statement is still
relevant to present the full picture of what took place
during the interrogation. The KSP Defendants' Motion in
Limine No. 2 is DENIED.
Internal Disciplinary Action Against Detectives Wise and
the KSP Defendants argue that evidence related to their
disciplinary histories should be excluded, including: (1)
Detective Jones being disciplined by the Kentucky State
Police in 2007-2008 for not properly turning on the videotape
recording equipment in his car; (2) Detective Jones being
disciplined by the Kentucky State Police in 2014 for
mishandling of recovered property; (3) Detective Wise being
disciplined by the Kentucky State Police in 2009 for not
checking his email promptly; and (4) Detective Wise being
disciplined in 2007 for failing to attend a court date. They
argue that these incidents of discipline were not related to
Detectives Wise and Jones' actions in this case and are
not relevant. [Filing No. 391 at 2-3.]
argue in response that the KSP Defendants' disciplinary
histories are relevant because their “truthfulness, and
their conduct and competence as law enforcement officers is
squarely at issue in this trial - as are their ability to
obtain evidence, appropriately document it, and honestly
report it.” [Filing No. 426 at 20.]
regarding internal disciplinary action taken against
Detectives Wise and Jones is classic “bad acts”
evidence, and is inadmissible under Fed.R.Evid. 404. The KSP
Defendants' Motion in Limine No. 3 is
GRANTED. Once again, however, the KSP
Defendants are cautioned that this evidence may become
admissible to the extent they present evidence aimed at
bolstering the character, experience, and/or expertise of
Detectives Wise and Jones.
Suppression of Deadra's Confession in Criminal
reasons discussed above, the Court GRANTS
the KSP Defendants' Motion in Limine No. 4.
Citizen Complaints Against Defendants
Defendants argue that evidence regarding any citizen
complaints against any of the Defendants should be excluded.
[Filing No. 391 at 3.]
respond that they do not intend to present evidence of
citizen complaints filed against Defendants, and if that
changes - i.e., if they decide to elicit such
evidence for impeachment, to refresh Defendants'
recollections, or to attack Defendants' credibility -
they will raise the issue with the Court outside the presence
of the jury. [Filing No. 426 at 22-23.]
regarding citizen complaints against Defendants constitutes
“bad acts” evidence, and is inadmissible under
Fed.R.Evid. 404. The KSP Defendants' Motion in Limine No.
5 is GRANTED, but the KSP Defendants are
cautioned that this evidence may become admissible for
Evidence Supporting or Bolstering Plaintiffs'
Defendants seek to exclude “evidence…supporting
or bolstering Plaintiffs' character as it would be
unfairly prejudicial.” [Filing No. 391 at 3.]
argue that the KSP Defendants' motion is too vague, and
so they cannot provide a specific response. [Filing No. 426
at 23.] They also argue that they “do not intend to
present any gratuitous evidence of their own good character,
” but that some character evidence, including
“what Plaintiffs have done with their lives since these
criminal cases ended, ” is relevant to their damages.
[Filing No. 426 at 23-24.]
Court cannot discern what type of evidence the KSP Defendants
are referring to in their one-sentence motion, ...