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Graham v. Bennett

March 12, 2007

LEE EDWARD GRAHAM, JR. AND SENIECE GRAHAM, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
JOHN F. BENNETT, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael P. McCUSKEY Chief U.S. District Judge

OPINION

A jury trial in this matter is set to begin in this matter on March 26, 2007, on Plaintiffs' claim of excessive force against Defendant John Bennett. Because this court has extensively discussed the facts in this matter in ruling on the prior motion for summary judgment, the court will not reiterate them here. In anticipation of trial, the parties have filed motions in limine. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's Motion in Limine (#229) is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part and Plaintiffs' Motion in Limine (#231) is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

Defendant's Motion in Limine

In his motion in limine, Defendant first seeks to bar Plaintiffs from introducing evidence or arguing that Plaintiffs were arrested without probable cause on September 26, 2003. The court agrees with Defendant that this claim has been dismissed by this court on summary judgment and that ruling was upheld on appeal. Plaintiffs indicate in their response that they have no objection to this portion of the motion in limine.

Accordingly, this portion of the motion in limine is granted.

Defendant further seeks to bar Plaintiffs from presenting evidence or arguing that Defendant or any previously dismissed defendant conspired with any other person to deprive Plaintiffs of their constitutional rights because this claim was also disposed of by this court on summary judgment and Plaintiffs did not appeal this ruling. Plaintiffs object to this portion of the motion in limine only to the extent that they do not wish to be precluded from arguing bias on behalf of the police officers in that they wrote their reports in a manner to cast Defendant's actions in the best possible light. This court agrees with Defendant that any claim of conspiracy is no longer viable in this action and any evidence of an alleged conspiracy is therefore precluded. However, this court will allow Plaintiffs to argue that the officers are biased in favor of Defendant at trial.

Next, Defendant seeks to bar Plaintiffs from introducing evidence that Defendant or any previous defendant violated the Fourteenth Amendment rights of Plaintiffs. Defendant further seeks to bar Plaintiff from introducing evidence that Defendant or any previous defendant singled out any individual to harass or arrest on the basis of race, failed to investigate claims on the basis of race, or otherwise conducted the police investigation in a biased fashion due to race. This court agrees that Plaintiffs will be barred from presenting any such evidence as it would apply to an independent cause of action because Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment claims were previously dismissed by the court and not appealed by Plaintiffs. However, the court will allow Plaintiffs to present evidence as to any racial bias on the part of Defendant directly relevant to the excessive force claim currently pending before this court.

In the fourth portion of his motion in limine, Defendant seeks to bar Plaintiffs from arguing that Defendant or any previous defendant intentionally inflicted emotional distress on Plaintiffs or engaged in malicious prosecution because these claims were previously dismissed by this court and Plaintiffs did not appeal this dismissal. Plaintiffs only object to this portion of the motion to the extent that it seeks to preclude Plaintiffs from seeking compensatory damages for mental and emotional pain and suffering for the pending excessive force claim. This court will allow Plaintiffs to present evidence for this limited purpose, but grants the motion in limine as it pertains to independent causes of action for such emotional pain and suffering.

Plaintiffs do not object to the remainder of Defendant's motion in limine in which he seeks to bar evidence that: (1) Defendant or any previous defendant struck Plaintiff Seniece Graham in the leg or should have intervened to stop Seniece from being struck because this claim has already been decided; (2) that counsel for Defendant has presented false records to the court or acted unethically with regard to his representation of Defendant; and (3) that Defendant or any previous defendant made settlement offers or engaged in settlement discussion with Plaintiffs. This court agrees that this evidence is irrelevant to the issues before the court or are otherwise barred.

Accordingly, Defendant's motion in limine is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part as discussed above.

Plaintiffs' Motion in Limine

In the first portion of their motion in limine, Plaintiffs seek to bar evidence of the criminal history of Seniece Graham as it pertains to twelve separate instances. Defendant indicates in his response that he does not intend to introduce evidence relative to the twelve instances set forth by Plaintiffs in their motion, but will seek to introduce Seniece Graham's convictions of felony drug charges in 1996 and possession of a controlled substance in 1993. It is unclear whether Plaintiffs are seeking to bar admission of this evidence, and this court has insufficient information before it as to whether these convictions are admissible pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 609. However, Plaintiffs' motion in limine is granted as to the incidents set forth in their motion without objection by Defendant.

In the second portion of their motion in limine, Plaintiffs seek to bar admission of Plaintiff Lee Graham's criminal history. Defendant objects only to the portion of the motion in limine relative to Lee's 2003 charge of aggravated battery of a police officer, his 2003 charge of obstruction of justice and destruction of evidence, his 2003 charge of resisting a peace officer, and his 2005 conviction of resisting a peace officer. These charges and conviction arose from the incidents which form the basis of the instant cause of action. Plaintiffs will remain free to testify and argue that the actions giving rise to these charges are unrelated to the excessive force claim. Plaintiffs are not barred from asserting that the timing of the actions which led to the charges make them irrelevant to the release of the pepper spray. ...


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