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Bruce v. Perry

September 5, 2007

ALFONSO BRUCE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
RICKY PERRY, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS POLICE OFFICER FOR THE CITY OF EAST ST. LOUIS, ANDRE HENSON, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS POLICE OFFICER FOR THE CITY OF EAST ST. LOUIS, AND THE CITY OF EAST ST. LOUIS, ILLINOIS, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Herndon, District Judge

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Before the Court Defendants' Motion in Limine (Doc. 38), to which Plaintiff filed an opposing Response (Doc. 40), and the issues are now ripe for determination. Defendants have raised twelve separate evidentiary items for which they seek an Order in Limine barring Plaintiff, Plaintiff's attorney or any of Plaintiff's witnesses from testifying, mentioning or in any way making references to these items. The Court will address each item in the same numerical order as they appear in Defendants' Motion.

II. ANALYSIS

1. Amount of Force Used While Arresting Plaintiff

Defendants seek to bar testimony and reference implying that the police were obligated to use the "least" amount of force necessary while placing Plaintiff under arrest, explaining that this would "misstate the legal standard" (Doc. 38, pp. 1-2, emphasis in original). However, Defendants concede that it would be appropriate to allow questioning as to whether officers could have used a lesser form of force under the particular circumstances of this case. Plaintiff objects in that this restriction would limit his ability to meet his burden of proof regarding his excessive force claim against the defendant officers, as the jury instructions would ultimately provide the applicable legal standard of force to be used by officers (Doc. 40, p. 1).

Whether a Police Officer has used excessive force in the context of an arrest or investigatory stop of a free citizen is analyzed pursuant to the objective reasonableness standard of the Fourth Amendment. Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 394 (1989). In other words, this must be viewed "from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight," considered "in light of he facts and circumstances" confronting the arresting officers during the arrest but not their "underlying intent or motivation." Id. at 396-97; see also Tibbs v. City of Chicago, 469 F.3d 661, 665 (7th Cir. 2006)(citing Graham, 490 U.S. at 396-97). Hence, the applicable legal standard is "objectively reasonable" use of force, not the "least" amount of force, although a jury may ultimately conclude it would have been reasonable to use a lesser amount of force. Therefore, Defendants are correct in asserting that implying that officers were required to use the least amount of force necessary somewhat misinterprets the applicable standard. Plaintiff's burden is to show the defendant officers' use of force while arresting Plaintiff was not objectively reasonable. In so doing, Plaintiff may certainly inquire as to whether less force could have been used while placing Plaintiff under arrest, however, Plaintiff may not misconstrue the legal standard that the defendant officers were required, by law, to use the least amount of force necessary while placing Plaintiff under arrest. Defendants' Motion in Limine with regarding to the applicable legal standard for excessive force is GRANTED.

2. Plaintiff's Prior Arrests and/or Interactions With Police

Defendants next seek to bar any evidence or argument that Plaintiff had always been cooperative when previously interacting with police and did not resist arrest on prior occasions, based upon lack of relevance. Alternatively, if Plaintiff is allowed to introduce such evidence, Defendants request they be allowed to introduce evidence of Plaintiff's 1989 felony conviction for aggravated battery and armed violence (Doc. 38, p. 2). In his Response, Plaintiff states that he does not intend to put forth such evidence or argument, but if he did, he acknowledges it would open the door for Defendants to introduce evidence regarding the same events. However, Plaintiff objects to Defendants' alternate request that they be allowed to introduce evidence of Plaintiff's 1989 felony conviction, as it would be irrelevant, immaterial and highly prejudicial (Doc. 40, pp. 1-2).

In considering the parties' respective arguments, the Court finds evidence or argument regarding Plaintiff's prior arrests and/or interactions with the police is irrelevant to the issues in this suit. As such, Defendants' Motion in Limine in this regard is GRANTED and such evidence will be barred.

3. Legality of Stopping and Arresting Plaintiff

As this is an excessive force case and does not concern the constitutionality of the defendant officers' right to stop and arrest Plaintiff, Defendants assert that any evidence or argument showing that there was no right to stop and/or arrest Plaintiff would be prejudicial and serve to confuse the jury (Doc. 38, p. 2). Objecting, Plaintiff claims that this type of evidence is directly relevant and material to Plaintiff's claims for false arrest, malicious prosecution and punitive damages (Doc. 40, p. 2). Taking both arguments into consideration, the Court must presently DENY Defendants' Motion in Limine in this regard, leaving the determination of relevancy for trial. During trial, if Plaintiff attempts to introduce such evidence, Defendants may restate their objection, at which time, the Court will hear the parties' arguments and determine whether to allow such evidence.

4. Plaintiff's Acquittal

Defendants seek to bar evidence relating to Plaintiff's acquittal on the charges for which he was arrested, objecting that it is non-excepted hearsay and irrelevant (Doc. 38, p. 2, citing United States v. Jones, 808 F.2d 561 (7th Cir. 1986)). Plaintiff opposes such a limitation, arguing that evidence of his acquittal is relevant and material in ...


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