United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
June 9, 2004.
TYRONE SAUNDERS, Plaintiff,
CITY OF CHICAGO, CHICAGO POLICE DEPARTMENT, OFFICER ROONEY, OFFICER FERRARO, AND 4 UNKNOWN OFFICERS, Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: ELAINE E. BUCKLO, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Tyrone Saunders moves to exclude evidence of his
three prior felony convictions and of his misdemeanor conviction
for resisting arrest in the incident at issue in this case. As a
general rule, felony convictions less than ten years old are
admissible to impeach the credibility of a witness, such as Mr.
Saunders. FED. R. EVID. 609(a)(1). Mr. Saunders argues that his
three convictions should nonetheless be excluded because they are
more prejudicial than probative. However, he does not cite any
cases supporting his argument that the prejudice resulting from
the admission of the conviction substantially outweighs their
probative value; such convictions are routinely admitted to
impeach. See Charles v. Cotter, 867 F. Supp. 648, 656 (N.D.
Ill. 1994) (Castillo, J.).
The central issue in this case is whether the defendant
officers used excessive or reasonable force in arresting Mr.
Saunders. Mr. Saunders' actions and resistance during the
incident go directly to the heart of this issue. His misdemeanor
conviction for resisting arrest is admissible as prima facie
evidence of the facts on which the conviction was based.
Calusinski v. Kruger, 24 F.3d 931, 934 (7th Cir. 1994)
(holding, on very similar facts, that a district court properly
admitted evidence of plaintiff arrestee's conviction for
resisting arrest in civil case against defendant officers for use
of excessive force). Thus, plaintiff's motion in limine is
DENIED in its entirety.
Defendant Officers Joseph Ferraro and Eugene Rooney have filed
twenty-five brief motions in limine seeking to bar evidence.
1. Defendants' motion to bar reference to defense counsel as
"assistant corporation counsel" or as city employees in order to
avoid the improper inference that a judgment against the
defendants might be paid out of the city's "deep pockets" is
GRANTED. Walker v. Saenz, No. 91-C3669, 1992 U.S. Dist. LEXIS
16454, at *11 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 27, 1992) (Williams, J.).
2. Defendants' motion to bar mention of the city's possible
indemnification of the defendants is likewise GRANTED. This
information is not probative on any issue in the case-in-chief,
and may only be admitted with a limiting instruction if
defendants' finances become relevant to the calculation of
punitive damages. Townsend v. Benya, 287 F. Supp.2d 868, 874
(N.D. Ill. 2003) (Denlow, J.). 3. Defendants' motion to bar any argument that the jury should
"send a message" to or punish the city and its officers with its
verdict is DENIED. The defendants correctly point out that a
local entity such as the city cannot be made to pay punitive
damages. 745 ILL. COMP. STAT. 10/2-102 (2004). However, they fail
to show why a jury could not "send a message" to the city by
requiring it to pay actual damages. Furthermore, the cited law
does not state that punitive damages may not be assessed against
4. Defendants' motion to bar any testimony that challenges Mr.
Saunders' arrest and prosecution or testimony that the arrest
caused physical or mental distress is DENIED; this motion is
vague and overly broad. The lawfulness of the arrest itself has
already been decided, and it may not be questioned; the surviving
claims in this matter are excessive force and assault and
battery. However, testimony as to conditions surrounding the
contested arrest will be permitted to the extent that it is
probative on these issues.
5. Defendants' motion to bar mention of the disposition of the
battery charge against Mr. Saunders is DENIED. While the
disposition of the charge is not relevant to whether the
defendants used excessive force, if the battery charge is
mentioned, the disposition must be included in order to prevent
the jury from assuming that Mr. Saunders was found guilty.
Townsend, 287 F. Supp.2d at 874-75. 6. Defendants' motion to bar testimony as to excessive force or
assault committed by officers other than the defendants on Mr.
Saunders is DENIED as overly broad. Such testimony, if it
provides context for the actions of the defendants, may be
permitted with a limiting instruction that Mr. Saunders may only
seek recovery for injuries caused by the defendants. Id. at
7, 8. Defendants' motions to bar evidence that Mr. Saunders
suffered permanent injury or will need future medical treatment
9. Defendants' motion to bar evidence of any medical treatment
or medical bill is GRANTED. Defendants argue that the motion is
justified because Mr. Saunders failed to respond to an
interrogatory seeking such information. Mr. Saunders does not
deny that this information is in his possession, and he offers no
explanation for his failure to produce it during discovery.
10. Defendants' motion to bar evidence relating to any loss of
income as a result of defendants' conduct is GRANTED. Mr.
Saunders claims that he lost three months of wages, totaling
$5400. However, he cannot link those lost wages to the allegedly
improper actions of the defendants. He was jailed for several
weeks pursuant to his lawful arrest, not because of any excessive
force the officers may have used. Nor can he argue that he lost
wages due to injuries inflicted by the defendants; such an
argument would require the testimony of a medical expert that the defendants' actions were
causally related to his inability to work.
11, 12. Defendants' motion to bar any mention of the
investigation by the Office of Professional Standards regarding
the disputed incident is GRANTED to the extent that the
investigation may only be mentioned if necessary for impeachment
or rebuttal. Similarly, defendants' motion to bar evidence that
the defendants breached Chicago Police Department regulations or
directives is GRANTED except where necessary for impeachment or
rebuttal. The issue in this case is whether the defendants
violated Mr. Saunders' rights, not whether they violated
standards of professional conduct. Walker, 1992 U.S. Dist.
LEXIS 16454, at *11-12; Charles, 867 F. Supp. At 664.
13. Defendants' motion to bar any implication that the city of
Chicago failed to train, monitor or discipline its officers is
GRANTED as unopposed.
14. Defendants' motion to bar any testimony or evidence
relating to the payment of attorney's fees incurred during Mr.
Saunders' criminal court proceedings is GRANTED. Those costs
resulted from the lawful arrest, not from the alleged excessive
force or assault and battery. Thus, they may not properly be
considered as damages in this case.
15. Defendants' motion to bar plaintiff from questioning any
police officer witnesses regarding the Fraternal Order of Police disclaimer included in reports used in internal investigations
and to redact said disclaimer from any exhibits which may contain
it is GRANTED. Basile v. Ondrato, No. 02-C3795, 2003 U.S. Dist.
LEXIS 22396, at *5-6 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 11, 2003) (Kocoras, J.). The
disclaimer, which states that the officer is making the statement
upon the order of a superior, is essentially boilerplate and
discussion of it will serve only as a distraction from the
relevant information that may appear in the reports. This ruling
does not bar the introduction of the reports themselves.
16. Defendants' motion to bar reference to any duty, failure to
act, or standard of care other than the standard defined in the
jury instructions for the claims alleged in this case is GRANTED
with the same exceptions as motion 12, which appears to address
the same issue.
17. Defendants' motion to bar reference to any claims other
than excessive force, assault, or battery is DENIED as overly
broad. Such references are permissible to the extent that they
provide context for the claims still at issue; the jury will be
instructed to decide only those claims.
18. Defendants' motion to bar any reference to prior instances
of alleged misconduct by Officers Ferraro and Rooney is DENIED as
overly broad. Such evidence may be admitted in conformity with
Rule 404(b); it is inadmissible to show that the officers
repeated prior bad conduct during the incident in question, but
may be admitted to show intent, absence of mistake, etc. However, any such proposed
evidence must be set forth in a written proffer prior to trial.
19. Defendants' motion to bar testimony that police officers in
general or these officers in particular conspire to cover up one
another's bad acts through a "code of silence" is DENIED as
overly broad. The plaintiff may explore the possibility that the
defense witnesses in this case are biased because of loyalty to
20. Defendants' motion to bar testimony as to settlement
attempts is GRANTED as unopposed.
21. Defendants' motion to bar testimony that defendants'
alleged actions were racially motivated is DENIED without
22. Defendants' motion to bar testimony or evidence suggesting
that defendants or other police officers conspired to falsify
police reports or to give false testimony is DENIED. Defendants
argue that Mr. Saunders should not be permitted to pursue this
theory because he did not file a § 1983 conspiracy claim.
However, the existence of a conspiracy to falsify reports or give
false testimony is relevant to the claims in this case because it
affects the weight the jury may choose to give to such reports or
23. Defendants' motion to bar testimony or evidence regarding
other cases of police misconduct or the absence of a videotape of
the contested incident is GRANTED. Mr. Saunders argues that such evidence will help the jury decide how badly punitive damages are
needed in order to deter similar conduct by other police
officers. This evidence is marginally probative at best, and it
is highly inflammatory and prejudicial.
24, 25. Defendants' motions to exclude non-party witnesses from
the courtroom during testimony and to bar Mr. Saunders from
calling any witness or introducing any exhibits not listed in the
final pretrial order are GRANTED as unopposed.
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