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Stevie Wilson v. Officer Marc Keske

January 27, 2011

STEVIE WILSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
OFFICER MARC KESKE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff Stevie Wilson alleges that he was rendered unconscious and hospitalized after being struck by a Taser deployed by North Chicago police officer Marc Keske during his arrest of Wilson. He has sued the officer, the city of North Chicago, a security guard at the scene, and unknown North Chicago police officers for a variety of constitutional and state law claims. For his part, officer Keske alleges that Mr. Wilson hit and kicked him during the incident, and filed a counterclaim for battery.

In advance of the upcoming trial, Wilson has filed numerous motions in limine. Defendants Keske and the city of North Chicago responded. The court addresses each motion in turn.

Motion in Limine #1 -- Motion to Bar Reference to Wilson's Alcohol or Drug Use Wilson seeks an order barring the defendants from presenting any reference to his drug or alcohol use. Wilson contends that such evidence should be excluded as irrelevant under Federal Rule of Evidence 402, and as unduly prejudicial under Rule 403.

In response, the defendants state that they do not intend to present evidence of Wilson's day-to-day use of drugs or alcohol, or that he was arrested because of his intoxication. However, the defendants contend that they should be allowed to present evidence that officer Keske perceived Wilson to be intoxicated at the time of the incident because intoxication would be relevant to Wilson's ability to recall the events of that day.

Evidence of intoxication may be relevant to a witness' ability to recall events that occurred during the period of intoxication. See Kunz v. DeFelice, 538 F.3d 667, 676-77 (7th Cir. 2008). However, because of the risk of undue prejudice, before admitting such evidence the court must first assure itself that the issue of memory is legitimately at issue. Id.

Because the factual record is undeveloped (none of the parties filed a motion for summary judgment), the court cannot at this time determine whether evidence of intoxication is admissible in this case. Accordingly, the court defers ruling on the issue at this time. Wilson may raise the issue again at trial if warranted, and the defendants are directed not to raise the issue of Wilson's alleged intoxication during jury selection or opening statements.

Motion in Limine #2 - Motion to Bar Evidence of Keske's Good Character

In this motion, Wilson states that because he does not intend to attack the character of the defendants with reputation evidence, the defendants should be barred from presenting evidence of Keske's good character, such as commendations and awards he has received. See Fed. Rule of Evid. 404 ("Evidence of a person's character or a trait of character is not admissible for the purpose of proving action in conformity therewith on a particular occasion . . ."). The defendants respond that they should nevertheless be allowed to present evidence of commendations or other favorable notes in Keske's personnel file as background evidence of Keske's training, education, and experience as a law enforcement officer.

The defendants can establish Keske's training, education, and experience without delving into any commendations or awards he received as a result of that training, education, and experience. Accordingly, the court grants Wilson's motion. However, the court will revisit the issue upon the request of a party if warranted by developments at trial, such as an attempt by Wilson to impeach Keske with character evidence. See Fed. R. Evid. 608 (allowing the use of certain character evidence or opinion of character to impeach a witness' credibility).

Motion in Limine #3 - Motion to Bar Evidence of Wilson's Fee Arrangement with Counsel

The defendants do not object, so the motion is granted.

Motion in Limine #4 - Motion to Bar Certain Arguments About the Damages Wilson Seeks Wilson seeks to bar argument that he has sought more money than he expects to be awarded, that any award would not be subject to taxes, that the amount sought ...


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