United States District Court, N.D. Illinois
February 23, 2004.
DAMYON BROWN, Plaintiff
D. JOSWIAK, Officer, Individually, Defendant
The opinion of the court was delivered by: CHARLES KOCORAS, District Judge
Before the court are eleven motions in limine brought by Plaintiff
Damyon Brown ("Brown") and nineteen motions in limine brought by
Defendant Donald Joswiak ("Joswiak"). For the reasons set forth below,
the parties* motions are granted in part and denied in part.
This case arises out of an incident that occurred on June 3, 2001. On
that date, Brown was driving his vehicle when he was stopped and
subsequently arrested by Joswiak, an officer with the Calumet City Police
Department. The traffic stop and arrest involved an altercation between
Brown and Joswiak, the details of which are disputed. Brown has sued
Officer Joswiak for use of excessive force, false arrest, and
malicious prosecution, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Joswiak has filed a
counterclaim against Brown for battery. Discovery has been completed and
the cased is poised for trial. The parties have filed various motions in
A federal district court's authority to manage trials includes the
power to exclude evidence pursuant to motions in limine. Falk v. Kimberly
Services. Inc., 1997 WL 201568, *1 (N.D. Ill. 1997). However, a court has
the power to exclude evidence in limine only when that evidence is
clearly inadmissible on all potential grounds. Hawthorne Partners v. AT
& T Technologies. Inc., 831 F. Supp. 1398, 1400 (N.D. Ill. 1993). A
district court should be mindful that some proposed evidentiary
submissions cannot be accurately evaluated in a pretrial context via a
motion in limine. Tzoumis v. Tempel Steel Co., 168 F. Supp.2d 871, 873
(N.D. Ill. 2001). For this reason, certain evidentiary rulings should be
deferred to trial so that questions of foundation, relevancy, and
potential prejudice may be resolved in proper context. Hawthorne Partners
at 1400. Denial of a motion in limine does not automatically mean that
all evidence contemplated by the motion will be admitted at trial. Id. at
1401. Instead, the court will entertain objections to individual proffers
as they occur at trial. Id. In any event "the district judge is free, in
the exercise of sound judicial discretion, to alter a previous in limine
ruling." Luce v. U.S., 469 U.S. 38, 41-42 (1984).
Several of the parties' motions are not disputed and are therefore
granted. The parties are barred from having witnesses testify who were
not previously identified in discovery (Pl. Mot, 3 and Def. Mot. 19).
The parties are barred from referring to or using any photographs that
were not produced or identified in discovery (Pl. Mot. 4). Joswiak is
barred from introducing testimony or evidence concerning Brown's conduct
before June 3, 2001, if such conduct does not relate to Brown's conduct
during the incident in dispute (Pl. Mot. 5). Joswiak is barred from
introducing testimony or evidence concerning the conduct of Brown's
witnesses prior to the incident in dispute if such conduct does not
relate to their conduct surrounding the incident (Pl. Mot. 6). Joswiak
is barred from introducing evidence or testimony concerning the gang
affiliation or tattoos of Brown or his witnesses (Pl. Mot. 8). The
parties are barred from referring to any other lawsuit or complaints that
Brown has filed against police officers (Pl. Mot. 9). The parties are
barred from referring to any prior problems that Brown or his witnesses
have had with the police prior to the incident in question (PL Mot. 10).
Brown is barred from referring to the criminal case against him
stemming from this incident unless Joswiak first refers to the case or
its outcome (Def. Mot. 1). The
parties are barred from referring to the fact that the traffic citation
issued to Brown on the date in question was later dismissed, unless
Joswiak first refers to the outcome of the citation (Def. Mot. 2). The
parties are barred from referring to Brown's loss in wages as a result of
the incident in question (Def. Mot. 4). The parties are barred from
introducing evidence that Brown was deprived of medical care while in the
custody of the Calumet City Police Department (Def.'s Mot. 5). Brown is
barred from referring to a prior citizen compliant filed against Joswiak
unless Joswiak introduces evidence relating to his positive record as a
police officer (Def. Mot. 6). The parties are barred from introducing
evidence suggesting that Joswiak's police training was inadequate or
deficient (Def. Mot. 7). The parties are barred from introducing any
testimony relating to Brown's or his witnesses' prior contact with any
law enforcement agency (Def. Mot. 10). The parties are barred from
referring to Joswiak's prior arrest for public intoxication (Def. Mot.
12). Brown is barred from referring to medical or psychological
conditions of Joswiak that are unrelated to the incident in question
(Def. Mot. 13). The parties are barred from introducing evidence implying
that Brown's car was stopped by Officer Joswiak because of the race of
Brown or his car's occupants (Def. Mot. 14). The parties are barred from
referring to the .1 gram of chunky white substance that was found in
Brown's car that subsequently tested negative for a controlled substance
(Def. Mot. 16). The parties are barred from introducing testimony
or evidence that Joswiak has liability insurance (Def. Mot. 17).
All non-party witnesses shall be excluded from the courtroom until called
upon to testify (Def. Mot. 18).
Brown's first and second motions respectively seek to preclude any
reference to the prior criminal record of Brown or his witnesses. Brown
claims that references to the criminal records of himself and his
witnesses would be immaterial and prejudicial under Federal Rule of
Evidence 403. These motions are denied as a witness' credibility can be
challenged under Federal Rule of Evidence 609 through introduction of
evidence of the witness' prior criminal felony convictions.
Brown's seventh motion seeks to bar Joswiak from referring in closing
argument that Brown has asked for more money than he actually expects to
be awarded. Joswiak objects to this motion but has not proffered any
reason for his objection. We will grant Brown's motion as any potential
argument of this sort would be irrelevant and prejudicial.
Brown's eleventh motion seeks to bar any reference to any awards or
commendations that Joswiak has received as a police officer. This motion
is denied, but if Joswiak introduces such evidence, Brown will then be
allowed to present evidence concerning Joswiak's negative history as a
police officer (See Def. Mot. 6).
Joswiak's third motion seeks to bar any suggestion or inference that
there was no probable cause for Joswiak to arrest Brown on June 3, 2001.
This motion is denied as such evidence could be relevant to Brown's claim
for false arrest.
Joswiak's eighth motion seeks to bar any reference to any Calumet City
Police Department officer using profanity during the incident in
question. In support of this motion Joswiak offers various cases standing
for the proposition that harassing, abusive, or indecent language by the
police, in itself, cannot form the basis of a civil rights claim.
However, Joswiak provides no evidentiary reason for excluding such
evidence and his motion is thus denied.
Joswiak's ninth motion seeks to bar evidence concerning the policies
and procedures of the Calumet City Police Department on the grounds that
such evidence could be irrelevant, immaterial, or prejudicial. This
motion is denied as whether Joswiak deviated from police procedures is
potentially relevant to Brown's claim of improper use of pepper spray.
Joswiak's eleventh motion seeks to exclude evidence referencing Brown's
heart surgeries in 1998 on the grounds that such evidence is immaterial
and irrelevant to Brown's claims. This motion is granted and we will
require that Brown first demonstrate the relevance of Brown's 1998
surgery before introducing evidence of this sort.
Joswiak's fifteenth motion seeks to bar evidence relating to Carol
Smith's sister being a deputy sheriff or Brown's father being a Cook
County employee. This motion is denied but may be resubmitted at trial
when it may be resolved in fuller and more appropriate context.
Based on the foregoing analysis, the parties' motions in limine are
granted in part and denied in part.
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