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Lauderdale v. Russell

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

January 8, 2020




         This matter is before the Court on a Motion in Limine filed by Defendants William Russell, Thomas Williams, Devon Clark, and Jeremy Street (“Defendants”). (Filing No. 157.) The Motion asks the Court to rule on various evidentiary issues in anticipation of the trial scheduled to begin on February 3, 2020. Plaintiff Lamone Lauderdale (“Lauderdale”) did not respond to the Motion. For the following reasons, Defendants' Motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The facts of this case are set forth at length in the Court's Entry on Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. (SeeFiling No. 139.) In summary, while incarcerated in the Marion County Jail, Lauderdale alleges he was assaulted by the Defendants, all of whom are Marion County Sheriff Deputies, and that he was retaliated against and denied proper medical treatment. This matter is scheduled for trial by jury on February 3, 2020 on Lauderdale's claims of excessive force and deliberate indifference.


         “[J]udges have broad discretion in ruling on evidentiary questions during trial or before on motions in limine.” Jenkins v. Chrysler Motors Corp., 316 F.3d 663, 664 (7th Cir. 2002). The court excludes evidence on a motion in limine only if the evidence clearly is not admissible for any purposes. 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.


         Defendants ask the Court to rule on the admissibility of ten categories of evidence: (1) evidence related to use of force incidents by any Defendants against individuals other than Lauderdale; (2) evidence related to high-profile allegations of law enforcement misconduct, strained law enforcement-community relationships, or how prisons operate; (3) evidence related to the lack of surveillance footage of the use of force incidents Lauderdale alleges; (4) evidence relating to lawsuits filed against the Marion County Sheriff's Office (“MCSO”); (5) evidence relating to any other lawsuits filed against any Defendant; (6) expert testimony from Lauderdale's medical witnesses; (7) witnesses or exhibits that were not included on Lauderdale's preliminary witness and exhibit lists; (8) evidence related to Defendants' violation of any MCSO policy, procedure, rule, or regulation; (9) argument that Defendants are indemnified by the MCSO or the City of Indianapolis; and (10) argument that the jury should “punish” the Defendants. (Filing No. 157.)

         1. Use of Force Incidents Against Other Individuals

         Defendants ask the Court to “prohibit any reference, evidence, or testimony relating to use of force incidents by any Defendant against any other individuals that do not include any Defendants' alleged uses of force at issue in this case.” (Filing No. 157 at 2-3.) The Court agrees that any such evidence is irrelevant and therefore excluded by Federal Rule of Evidence 401. Such evidence would also be impermissible character evidence properly excluded under Fed.R.Evid. 404. Absent argument to the contrary, the Court grants the motion in limine on the issue of reference to any other use of force incidents.

         2. Allegations of Law Enforcement Misconduct or Strained Law Enforcement-Community Relationships

         Defendants assert that “[t]he Court should prohibit any reference, evidence, or testimony relating to high-profile allegations of law enforcement misconduct; strained law enforcement-community relationships; or how prisons operate.” (Filing No. 157 at 3-4.) They argue that this case “must be decided on the evidence presented at trial and not based on media reports or social media posts about other incidents or biases fueled by a party's rhetoric.” Id. at 4. Although there is no indication that Lauderdale intends to tie this case to other instances of alleged law enforcement misconduct or problems in other prisons, this type of evidence could confuse the jury, delay the trial, and mislead the jury to regard the conduct of Defendants in this case to conduct of others. See Duran v. Town of Cicero, 653 F.3d 632, 645 (7th Cir. 2011) (upholding exclusion of evidence of misconduct complaints against officer in excessive-force case because introduction “risked creating a sideshow and sending the trial off track”); Treece v. Hochstetler, 213 F.3d 360, 363-64 (7th Cir. 2000) (upholding exclusion of officer's past misconduct because conduct not sufficiently similar to permit inference of pattern). Defendants' Motion in Limine is granted on this issue and such evidence is excluded pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 401 and Rule 402, which govern the inadmissibility of irrelevant evidence, and Rule 403, which governs the exclusion of unfairly prejudicial evidence.

         3. Lack of Surveillance Footage

         Defendants assert that the “[p]laintiff, his attorneys, and witnesses should be precluded from making any suggestion that the jury should make a negative inference from the lack of … video footage” of the use of force incidents alleged in Lauderdale's complaint. (Filing No. 157 at 6.) No evidence indicates Defendants intentionally or negligently mishandled or erased any video footage of these alleged incidents. Any reference to the lack of such footage is both irrelevant and ...

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