Name of Assigned Judge Sitting Judge if Other or Magistrate Judge Amy J. St. Eve than Assigned Judge
The Court grants Defendants' motion in limine #8 and grants in part and denies in part Defendants' motions in limine # 10.
O [For further details see text below.] Notices mailed by Judicial staff.
Before the Court are Defendants' motions in limine # 8 and # 10, in which Defendants move to bar "prior bad act" evidence under Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b). For the following reasons, the Court grants Defendants' motion in limine #8 and grants in part and denies in part Defendants' motions in limine # 10.
In June 2004, one year and three months prior to the incident at issue in this lawsuit, Defendant Officer Pavoris participated in the arrest of Ruben Fernandez. (R. 206-1, Defs.' Mot. in Limine #8 ¶ 5.) Defendants assert that Officer Pavoris' supervisor authorized him to use a pepper ball gun on Fernandez "if he did anything but raise his hands." (Id. at ¶ 6.) Plaintiffs, on the other hand, maintain that non-party Christina Santos observed the arrest and that "Pavoris indiscriminately and without warning shot a chemical agent at Fernandez multiple times even though he had his hands up and was not resisting." (R. 226-1, Pls.' Resp. at 3.) Further, Plaintiffs state that Officer Pavoris accused Fernandez of resisting arrest. (Id. at 4.) Christina Santos filed a complaint against Officer Pavoris and Sergeant James Barnes of the Elgin Police Department completed an internal investigation exonerating all officers involved in the arrest. (Id., Ex. B at 1-3.)
Meanwhile, subsequent to the incident at issue, the Elgin Police Department terminated Defendant Officer McGinley's employment for failing to disclose the use of force against one of the named Plaintiffs in his incident report. See Gonzalez v. City of Elgin, 578 F.3d 526, 532 (7th Cir. 2009). Officer McGinley continued to claim that he did not touch Plaintiff despite witness testimony, and Sergeant James Barnes concluded that he lied in the incident report. Id.
"Generally, evidence of other bad acts is not admissible to show a defendant's propensity to commit a crime, nor to show that he or she acted in conformity with that propensity on the occasion in question." United States v. James, 464 F.3d 699, 709 (7th Cir. 2006); Fed. R. Evid. 404(b) ("[e]vidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts is not admissible to prove the character of a person in order to show action in conformity therewith"). Put another way, Rule 404(b) "forbids the use of evidence of a defendant's history of illegal or unethical acts to prove that he is a person of bad character and likely therefore to have committed the crime of which he is accused in the present case, or perhaps some other, undetected crime for which he should be punished." United States v. Paladino, 401 F.3d 471, 474-75 (7th Cir. 2005). "[E]vidence may, however, be admitted under Rule 404(b) to establish proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake or accident." James, 464 F.3d at 709; see also United States v. Harris, 587 F.3d 861, 864 (7th Cir. 2009). In determining whether evidence is admissible pursuant to under Rule 404(b), the Seventh Circuit has adopted a four-part standard, assessing whether:
(1) the evidence is directed toward establishing a matter in issue other than the defendant's propensity to commit the crime charged; (2) the evidence shows that the other act is similar enough and close enough in time to be relevant to the matter in issue; (3) the evidence is sufficient to support a jury finding that the defendant committed the similar act; and (4) the evidence has probative value that is not substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice.
United States v. Stotler, 591 F.3d 935, 941 (7th Cir. 2010) (quoting United States v. Vargas, 552 F.3d 550, 554 (7th Cir. 2008)).
I. Use of Excessive Force During Arrest of Ruben Fernandez
In Defendants' motion in limine #8, they seek to bar evidence of Officer Pavoris' alleged use of excessive force during the arrest of Ruben Fernandez in June 2004. Plaintiffs argue that this evidence goes to Pavoris' intent, even though intent is not an element to a Fourth Amendment excessive force claim. See Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 397, 109 S.Ct. 1865, 1872 (1989) ("[T]he question is whether the officers' actions are 'objectively reasonable' in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them, without regard to their underlying intent or motivation."). Plaintiffs also seek punitive damages, however, so Officers Pavoris' intent is relevant to a ...