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Gilbert v. Cook

March 30, 2009

ALEX GILBERT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TIMOTHY COOK, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Proud, Magistrate Judge

ORDER

Before the Court is the defendants' motion to limit the introduction of several categories of evidence:

1. Any contradiction of the findings rendered relative to the disciplinary tickets stemming from the March 7, 1999, incident intertwined with the alleged use of force at issue in this action;

2. The criminal charges/trial stemming from the March 7, 1999, incident intertwined with the alleged use of force at issue in this action;

3. Rules and procedures tied to the defendants' actions or inactions (Plaintiff's Exhibits 1, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 27);

4. Post-incident grievances and related documents (Plaintiff's Exhibits 8, 12, 13, 14, 15, 32, 69, 70, 71, 72 and 73);

5. Reprimands issued to defendant Phelps;

6. Plaintiff's medical records; and

7. Evidence of alleged long-term injury. (Doc. 162). Plaintiff has filed a response (Doc. 163), to which the defendants have filed a reply (Doc. 171).

As a preliminary matter, the Court must note that although the defendants' motion is captioned as a motion in limine, several of their requests merely seek to limit certain aspects of a piece of evidence or the presentation of certain arguments or assertions. The Court will not be hamstrung by the caption and will instead address the specific issues raised in the motion. Also, although the defendants have not provided the Court with copies of all of the pertinent documents, most were presented to the Court by plaintiff's counsel during the final pretrial conference, and plaintiff's counsel has now submitted additional documents for the Court's review. Relative to topics the defendants seek to preclude, those topics have been sufficiently described. There is sufficient information before the Court on most issues but, as will become clear, some areas of dispute can be easily determined at this juncture, while other issues are situational and evidentiary rulings will have to be made during trial.

1. Contradiction of Disciplinary Findings

Citing Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994) and the appellate decision in this action, the defendants seek to preclude plaintiff from contradicting the findings rendered relative to the disciplinary tickets stemming from the March 7, 1999, incident intertwined with the alleged use of force at issue in this action. More specifically, the defendants want to: (1) preclude plaintiff's counsel from arguing or implying that plaintiff did not initiate the altercation between the parties, that plaintiff did not strike defendant Cook, or did not scratch defendant Phelps; and (2) bar plaintiff from eliciting testimony or arguing that it is impossible for plaintiff to have punched anyone through the chuckhole. In addition, defendants would have the Court instruct the jury that plaintiff struck the first blow, struck Cook twice, and scratched Phelps.

Plaintiff counters that it is not his position that it is impossible to have punched anyone through the chuckhole, therefore the jury need not be instructed on this topic prematurely. Rather, plaintiff contends that Heck and the appellate court's statements on the applicability of Heck do not preclude plaintiff delving into the "stairs incident" and how, from plaintiff's perspective, it precipitated the altercation at issue. Therefore, this portion of the defendants' motion is generally moot.

Plaintiff appears to properly understand the appellate ruling regarding the application of Heck to this situation-- it cannot be disputed that plaintiff struck Cook twice and scratched Phelps. As this Court recently ruled, the so-called stairs incident is admissible, although plaintiff will not be permitted to frame such evidence as an independent constitutional violation. The Court will consider proposed jury instruction on this topic as necessary. The Court does not read the appellate court's order as mandating a preliminary instruction regarding ...


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