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Arreola v. Choudry

March 3, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Matthew F. Kennelly, District Judge


Plaintiff Gilbert Arreola contends that in April 2001, while he was incarcerated at Hill Correctional Center, defendant Dr. Mohammed Choudry, a physician at the prison, denied Mr. Arreola medical care for a fractured ankle because he is Jewish. Dr. Choudry is originally from Pakistan (he is now an American citizen), and he is a practicing Muslim.

Mr. Arreola injured his ankle while playing soccer and was taken to the prison infirmary, where he was seen by Dr. Choudry. Arreola contends that Dr. Choudry learned Mr. Arreola's religion from his prison identification card and, as a result, ordered Mr. Arreola to be returned to his cell, without examining Arreola's ankle and without ordering an x-ray. Mr. Arreola alleges that as a result of Dr. Choudry's refusal to treat him, he suffered physical injury, as well as pain and suffering. Mr. Arreola has sued Dr. Choudry under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violation of his Eighth Amendment rights.

In the course of discovery, Mr. Arreola has identified Frank Tachau, a professor of political science at the University of Illinois at Chicago, as an expert who will testify on Mr. Arreola's behalf. Dr. Tachau's opinions may be summarized as follows:

- The Koran, Islam's holy book, holds that the Jews received the word of God but misunderstood or turned away from the "straight path" of God.

- Muslims believe that the community of faithful Muslims will ultimately prevail over non-Muslims.

- Jews were historically treated as a tolerated religious minority by Muslims. - Following the emergence of Israel, which Dr. Tachau says constituted a "psychological blow" to Muslims because of Israel's control over important Islamic holy sites, the passions of Muslims have become inflamed, and the resulting identification of Jews as an enemy of Islam has opened the way for Muslims to adopt vicious ethnic and religious stereotypes regarding Jews. - Pakistan, Dr. Choudry's country of origin, is a Muslim state that has tended to identify with Muslim causes in a variety of ways, including activities relating to extremist Islamic causes. - Pakistan does not recognize the state of Israel, and Pakistani society, which has never included a visible Jewish community, has a negative perception of Israel. - "Because of the very nature of [Pakistan's] origins as a Muslim state, and the continuing active role of militant Muslim groups, attitudes that reflect anti-Jewish prejudices are bound to be prominent in Pakistani society and to affect the individual Pakistanis."

See Def's Mot. to Bar Testimony of Frank Tachau, Ph.D., Ex. B (Tachau report). Dr. Tachau's report also includes several references to the hostility of certain groups in Pakistan toward Americans and toward people of Jewish faith; the United States invasion of Iraq; and the 2002 kidnapping and murder in Pakistan of American journalist Daniel Pearl, who was Jewish.

Dr. Choudry has moved to bar Dr. Tachau's testimony as irrelevant under Federal Rule of Evidence 402, and as unfairly prejudicial under Federal Rule of Evidence 403. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants Dr. Choudry's motion.


Evidence that a party to a suit is a member of a group that adheres to tenets that are probative of a relevant issue is admissible under the Federal Rules of Evidence. In United States v. Abel, 469 U.S. 45 (1984), the Supreme Court approved the admission of evidence that the defendant in a robbery case, and a defense witness, were members of a prison gang whose tenets required members to deny its existence and lie, cheat, steal, and kill to protect each other. The defense witness, Mills, was called to discredit the testimony of Ehle, another member of the gang who had testified as a prosecution witness and implicated the defendant in the robbery; Mills claimed that Ehle had told him he intended to falsely implicate the defendant. Ehle was recalled in rebuttal, testified that Mills was lying, and described the tenets of the prison gang. The Supreme Court held that the evidence of membership in the organization, and of the organization's tenets, was relevant and admissible because it "made the existence of Mills' bias towards [the defendant] more probable," and supported an inference that Mills' testimony was slanted in the defendant's favor. Id. at 52. The Court also rejected the defendant's argument that the testimony was unfairly prejudicial and thus inadmissible under Federal Rule of Evidence 403. Id. at 54.

One might think, based on Abel, that Dr. Tachau's testimony is and should be admissible.

The difference between this case and Abel, however, is fairly obvious: Mr. Arreola makes no suggestion that bias against Jews is a tenet of Islam or is somehow part of being a person of Pakistani origin. At most, Dr. Tachau's testimony would support a conclusion that some (or perhaps many) Muslims, and some or many Pakistanis, dislike Jews. But absent evidence that Dr. Choudry is one of those particular Muslims or persons of Pakistani origin, Dr. Tachau's testimony does not tend to make it more probable that Dr. Choudry harbors a bias against Jews.

The cases upon which Mr. Arreola relies do not support the admissibility of Dr. Tachau's opinions. In Skorup v. Modern Door Corp., 153 F.3d 512 (7th Cir. 1998), the plaintiff claimed she was terminated due to her religion, Roman Catholic. It appears from the court's decision that the plaintiff was permitted to introduce the fact that her employer's general manager, who was claimed to have been involved in the decision to terminate her, was a Baptist. ...

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