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Guzman v. City of Chicago

February 25, 2010

MAIRA GUZMAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, MARVIN BONNSTETTER, AND DANILO ROJAS, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Blanche M. Manning

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

The parties have filed motions in limine in advance of the upcoming trial. For the reasons discussed below, the motions [185-1 & 186-1] are granted in part and denied in part.

PLAINTIFF'S MOTIONS IN LIMINE [185-1]

1. Motion to Bar Evidence of Immigration Status

Guzman seeks to exclude evidence of her immigration status, arguing that her status is irrelevant. However, during her deposition Guzman testified that part of her fear during officers' illegal search of her apartment was that she would get in trouble for being in the United States. Therefore, her immigration status is relevant to her claim for emotional damages.

Accordingly, the motion to exclude evidence of her immigration status is denied.

2. Motion to Bar Evidence of Gun Found in her Backyard

Guzman also seeks to bar evidence of a gun found in her backyard during the illegal search of her property. The defendants respond that evidence of the gun is relevant to their defense of the illegal search claim. However, the court has granted summary judgment to Guzman on that claim.

Accordingly, the motion to exclude evidence of the gun is granted.

3. Motion to Allow Plaintiff to Call Non-Party City Police Officers and Employees as Adverse Witnesses

Next, Guzman seeks to call non-party Chicago police officers and employees as adverse witnesses.

Under Federal Rule of Evidence 611(c), leading questions may be used on direct examination of a "witness identified with an adverse party." When the city is a defendant to a § 1983 claim, police officers employed by the city and who were present during portions of the incident at issue are "clearly qualified as a 'witness identified with an adverse party.'" Ellis v. City of Chicago, 667 F.2d 606, 612-13 (7th Cir. 1981).

Guzman has not identified within her motion which non-defendant officers or city personnel she seeks to call as adverse witnesses or described their connection to the incident. Accordingly, at this time the court cannot assess whether the officers or employees can be "identified with an adverse party."

Thus, before attempting to question any non-defendant officers or employees as hostile witnesses, Guzman must seek the court's permission at trial.

4. Motion to Bar Evidence of Gang Activity in Guzman's Neighborhood

Finally, Guzman seeks to bar evidence of gang activity in the neighborhood where the search occurred, arguing that such evidence can be unfairly prejudicial. See United States v. Irvin, 87 F.3d 860, 865-66 (7th Cir. 1996) ("the danger of unfair prejudice stemming from the admission of the gang evidence in this case was substantial. . . . There is therefore always the possibility that a jury will attach a propensity for committing crimes to defendants who are affiliated with gangs or that a jury's negative feelings towards gangs will influence its verdict."); Charles v. Cotter, 867 F. Supp. 648, 658 (N.D. Ill. 1994) (identifying a § 1983 plaintiff "as a gang member is unfairly prejudicial insofar as it encourages the inference that Charles is an evil and menacing person.")

The defendants seek to use such evidence, not because Guzman was affiliated with gangs but, rather, because (1) it explains officers' "state of mind when they obtained and executed the search warrant," and (2) "to rebut Plaintiff's alleged damages, specifically that she moved because she was afraid that the police would come back to execute another search warrant." Response [188-1] at 10.

The defendants' first proposed use of gang-related evidence is moot. Officers' state of mind when obtaining and executing the search warrant is no longer an issue because the court has granted summary judgment to Guzman on her illegal search and false arrest claims.

As for the relevance of evidence of gangs to Guzman's claim for damages, the defendants have failed to explain how Guzman's fear of gangs rebuts her claim for damages. If Guzman attributes her damages in part to gang activity in her neighborhood, then the defendants will be free to explore the issue of gangs. Short of that, such evidence would be irrelevant.

Accordingly, the motion to exclude evidence of gangs is granted. However, the court will revisit the issue if Guzman introduces evidence of gangs.

DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS IN LIMINE [186-1]

1. Motion to Bar Plaintiff From Calling Non-Party Witnesses as Adverse Witnesses

See resolution of plaintiff's motion in limine #3.

2. Motion to Bar Evidence of Deficiencies in Hiring, Training, or ...


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