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Vincent E. Blackwell and Angela Ford v. andrew P. Kalinowski

April 25, 2011

VINCENT E. BLACKWELL AND ANGELA FORD PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ANDREW P. KALINOWSKI, P.W. RYSZKA (STAR NO. 12561), KEVIN A. BOYER, TIM E. WOOD, SERGIO LAUREL, MIRABEL CARDONA, AND CITY OF CHICAGO DEFENDANTS,



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mag. Judge Michael T. Mason

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Before the Court are plaintiff Vincent Blackwell and Angela Ford's ("plaintiffs") motions in limine and defendants Andrew Kalinowski, Pawel Ryszka, Tim E. Wood, Kevin Boyer, Sergio Laurel and Mirabel Cardona's ("defendants") motion in limine. For the reasons set forth below, plaintiffs' motion in limine # 1 to bar evidence regarding "bad acts" of parties or witnesses, including arrests, convictions, plaintiff Blackwell's suspended license, gang affiliation, tattoos, and prior use or sale of illegal drugs or abuse of alcohol is granted in part and denied in part; plaintiffs' motion in limine # 2 to bar evidence of suspect cocaine, the Illinois State Police laboratory report, and the police inventory report regarding suspect cocaine is granted; and plaintiffs' motion in limine # 3 to bar evidence of the dismissal of claims by the Court, and the findings and proceedings of the City of Chicago Department of Administrative Hearings against Angela Ford is granted. Defendants' motion to preclude plaintiff from referencing any violation of police department rules, policies, regulations and general orders is denied.

I. BACKGROUND

According to the allegations in the complaint, in the early morning hours of October 17, 2007, plaintiff Vincent Blackwell ("Blackwell") was seated in the passenger seat of a legally parked car. Plaintiff Angela Ford ("Ford"), who owns the car, had gone into a nearby house. At that time, the individual defendants, who are or were Chicago police officers, approached the car and ordered Blackwell to get out. They searched Blackwell and the car, but found no contraband. Defendants nevertheless arrested Blackwell, and seized the car. At the police station, Blackwell alleges that he was shown bags containing what appeared to be a controlled substance. When Blackwell protested that he did not have any drugs on him, defendants replied, "You do now." Blackwell was charged with felony drug offenses and traffic charges, and spent two months in jail. After Blackwell prevailed at a suppression hearing, the prosecution dismissed the charges against him. Blackwell alleges that as a result of the defendant officers' conduct, he sustained injuries, humiliation, and indignities, and suffered great emotional pain and suffering. Plaintiffs' complaint alleges claims of false arrest, unconstitutional search of the car, and a state law claim for malicious prosecution.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

This Court has broad discretion in ruling on evidentiary questions presented before trial on motions in limine. Jenkins v. Chrysler Motors Corp., 316 F.3d 663, 664 (7th Cir. 2002). The power to exclude evidence in limine derives from this Court's authority to manage trials. Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 n. 4, 105 S. Ct. 460 (1984). Evidence should be excluded in limine only where it is clearly inadmissible on all potential grounds. Hawthorne Partners v. AT&T Techs., Inc., 831 F. Supp. 1398, 1400 (N.D. Ill. 1993). "Unless evidence meets this high standard, evidentiary rulings should be deferred until trial so that questions of foundation, relevancy and potential prejudice may be resolved in proper context." Id. Thus, the party moving to exclude evidence in limine has the burden of establishing that the evidence is not admissible for any purpose. Wilson v. Pope, 1997 WL 403684, *6 (N.D. Ill. July 14, 1997). Denial of a motion in limine does not mean that all evidence contemplated by the motion will be admitted at trial. Hawthorne, 831 F. Supp. at 1401. Rather, denial means the court cannot determine whether the evidence in question should be excluded outside of the trial context. Id.; Broom v. Bozell, Jacobs, Kenyon & Eckhardt, 867 F. Supp. 686, 690-91 (N.D. Ill. 1994). Accordingly, this Court will entertain objections as they arise at trial, even if the proffer falls within the scope of a denied motion in limine. Hawthorne, 831 F. Supp. at 1401, citing United States v. Connelly, 874 F. 2d 412, 416 (7th Cir. 1989).

With these guidelines in mind, we turn to the motions before this Court.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Plaintiffs' Motion in Limine # 1

Plaintiffs ask this Court to bar evidence, testimony and argument regarding "bad acts" of parties or witnesses, including arrests, convictions, Blackwell's suspended license, gang affiliation, tattoos, and prior use or sale of illegal drugs or abuse of alcohol. In response, defendants ask this Court to strike plaintiffs' motion in limine # 1 because they claim plaintiffs violated this Court's standing order restricting each party to three motions in limine. Defendants complain that plaintiffs have combined five separate motions in limine into one. However, each category of evidence plaintiffs seek to bar falls under the umbrella of prior bad acts. Accordingly, defendants' motion to strike plaintiffs' motion in limine # 1 is denied.

1. Prior Arrests and Convictions

Plaintiffs ask this Court to bar defendants from introducing any evidence, testimony or argument regarding prior arrests and convictions of plaintiffs Blackwell and Ford, and witness Michelle Meyers. Defendants' response does not address whether they intend to introduce such evidence as it relates to Ford or Michelle Meyers. Accordingly, the Court assumes defendants have no intention of eliciting evidence or testimony relating to any prior arrests or convictions of Ford or Meyers. As such, this portion of motion in limine # 1 is granted.

With respect to plaintiff Blackwell, defendants seek to introduce multiple prior arrests and multiple prior convictions. We address the prior convictions first. In 1998, Blackwell was convicted of robbery, served ten years, and was released on September 17, 2007. Defendants argue that Blackwell's 1998 conviction is admissible under Federal Rule of Evidence 609(a)(1), which provides that a prior conviction may be used to attack the credibility of a witness if the conviction is less than ten years old and the crime was punishable by death or more than one year in prison. Fed. R. Evid. 609(a)(1). Blackwell's 1998 conviction meets these requirements, but admission under Rule 609(a)(1) is subject to Rule 403, which excludes evidence when its potential for unfair prejudice substantially outweighs its probative value. Fed. R. Evid. 403. Defendants have not demonstrated that Blackwell's 1998 robbery conviction is probative in this case or relevant to Blackwell's credibility. Therefore, the Court finds that the 1998 conviction has minimal probative value. Moreover, the Court finds that the danger that Blackwell's prior conviction may cause unfair prejudice substantially outweighs any probative value the 1998 conviction offers. Townsend v. Benya, 287 F.Supp.2d 868, 874 (N.D.Ill. 2003), citing United States v. Neely, 980 F.2d 1074, 1080 (7th Cir.1992); see also, Brandon v. Village of Maywood, 179 F.Supp.2d 847, 854 (N.D.Ill. 2001) (recognizing that "[a] conviction for comparatively minor drug offenses is less probative of truthfulness than one for perjury or fraud. On the other hand, the potential for prejudice to [the plaintiff] is great."). Based on the foregoing, defendants are barred from introducing evidence of the 1998 conviction at trial.

Next, defendants argue that Blackwell's other prior convictions (there are seven) are admissible not to prove criminal propensity, but to prove motive, knowledge, intent, absence of mistake or accident under Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b). Defendants argue that Blackwell's prior convictions go to his credibility, intent, motive and to counter his damages allegations. But defendants failed to demonstrate how Blackwell's prior convictions fall within the parameters of Rule 404(b). Indeed, ...


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