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Sallenger v. City of Springfield

September 4, 2007

MARY SALLENGER, AS THE ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF ANDREW B. SALLENGER, DECEASED, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF SPRINGFIELD, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jeanne E. Scott, U.S. District Judge

OPINION

This matter is before the Court on eight Motions in Limine (d/e 126, 128, 130, 132, 134, 138, 141, & 144) filed by Plaintiff Mary Sallenger. The Motions are fully briefed and ripe for determination. The power to exclude evidence, pursuant to motions in limine, arises out of the Court's inherent authority to manage trials. Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 n. 4 (1984). The moving party has the burden of demonstrating that the evidence is inadmissible on any relevant ground. Plair v. E.J. Brach & Sons, Inc., 864 F.Supp. 67, 69 (N.D. Ill. 1994). The admissibility of some proposed evidence cannot be determined outside the context of trial, and motions in limine pertaining to such evidence should be denied. Id. With these principles in mind, the Court addresses each individual Motion in detail below.

1. Plaintiff's First Motion in Limine to Bar Evidence of the Internal Investigation of Andrew Sallenger (d/e 126) (First Motion in Limine)

After Andrew Sallenger's death, various agencies made investigations into the altercation between Andrew Sallenger and three officers of the Springfield Police Department (SPD). Plaintiff's First Motion in Limine seeks to bar reference to or evidence of: (a) investigations by any authoritative agency, or lack thereof, together with their outcome, (b) statements made to the SPD internal investigators for purposes of determining whether the three officers should receive any form of punishment, and (c) statements made to any other investigating officer, unless the actual officer presents as a witness. Defendants object to the First Motion in Limine in its entirety.

Defendants first assert that Plaintiff's expert, Dr. Michael Lyman, relied upon information from investigative reports in forming his opinions. Thus, Defendants contend that this information is relevant to their cross- examination of Dr. Lyman. The Court agrees. Statements which Dr. Lyman used to form the basis of his opinions can be brought out to show what information Dr. Lyman relied upon. Similarly, Defendants may inquire as to statements of which Dr. Lyman was aware but on which he elected not to rely. This information will not be admitted for the truth of the matter asserted, however.

The Court turns to the question of the blanket admissibility of evidence relating to investigations by any authoritative agency, or lack thereof, together with their outcome, including the decision by the Sangamon County State's Attorney's Office not to bring criminal charges against the three officers. Any probative value that this evidence may have is outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice to Defendants if it were to be admitted. See Fed. R. Evid. 403. The fact that the three officers involved in the altercation were not prosecuted, reprimanded, punished or censured has no relevance to the instant case; further, in a criminal case the prosecutor has a higher burden of proof, and thus a decision not to prosecute is not probative of the issues in this case. Moreover, there is a substantial risk that such evidence would result in jury confusion or the possibility that the jury would base its decision on an improper basis. See Thompson v. City of Chicago, 472 F.3d 444, 457-58 (7th Cir. 2006). Therefore, Plaintiff's First Motion in Limine is allowed in this respect.

Plaintiff also seeks to exclude, as hearsay, statements made to the SPD investigators by various family members of Andrew Sallenger. Plaintiff's request is allowed in part. The statements will be excluded unless Defendants can demonstrate, outside the presence of the jury, that some valid reason exists for their admission. The individual statements may, however, be used on cross-examination of the declarant.

Plaintiff asks the Court to bar statements made to investigators, that have been included in investigative reports, unless the investigator testifies. This request is allowed in part. Under Fed. R. Evid. 805, "Hearsay included within hearsay is not excluded under the hearsay rule if each part of the combined statements conforms with an exception to the hearsay rule . . . ." Statements made to investigators who do not testify will be excluded unless Defendants can demonstrate, outside the presence of the jury, that the hearsay within hearsay is admissible. Moreover, even in the event that the author of an investigative report testifies, the Defendants must lay a foundation for admissibility prior to introducing any hearsay statements contained within the report. Thus, Plaintiff's First Motion in Limine is allowed, in part, and denied, in part.

2. Plaintiff's Second Motion in Limine Regarding Reference to Plaintiff's Pecuniary Status (d/e 128) (Second Motion in Limine)

Plaintiff's Second Motion in Limine seeks to bar any evidence of or reference to: (a) a belief that this lawsuit was brought merely to recover money or that Plaintiff has a monetary motive other than to compensate Andrew Sallenger's family for losses suffered at the hands of the Defendants, (b) an insinuation that Plaintiff is money hungry, (c) photographs of the home at issue that are not relevant to the actions of Andrew Sallenger or the Defendants, and (d) the fact that Plaintiff may be poor or of limited means. Defendants have no objection to Plaintiff's requests as set forth in subsections (a), (b), and (d), and the Court allows Plaintiff's Motion as it relates to those subsections.

Defendants, however, object to Plaintiff's request as set forth in subsection (c). Defendants assert that they plan to introduce photographs of the exterior and interior of the home which accurately depict the condition of the scene at the time of the occurrence. Defendants contend that such photographs are necessary to enable the jury to fully understand the conditions faced by the officers when they arrived on the scene, to cross- examine Plaintiff's expert, and possibly for impeachment purposes. The Court finds that Plaintiff has not shown that the relief sought in subsection (c) is necessary at this point in the proceeding, and Plaintiff's Motion is denied in this respect. The Court will not admit irrelevant photographs; however, the Court will rule on the admissibility of individual photographs at trial once a foundation has been laid and the exhibit has been offered into evidence. Plaintiff is granted leave to raise this issue again, if necessary, by stating specific objections to exhibits as they are proffered. Thus, Plaintiff's Second Motion in Limine is allowed, in part, and denied in part.

3. Plaintiff's Third Motion in Limine (d/e 130)

In her Third Motion in Limine, Plaintiff asks the Court to bar: (a) any evidence or reference to the effect that a finding of liability against Defendants would be paid with personal assets or would affect the Defendants' careers or families and (b) any evidence of or reference to the fact that Plaintiff may have asked for a greater sum of money than she actually expects to receive. ...


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