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United States of America v. Gary W. Mcarthur

October 16, 2012

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
GARY W. MCARTHUR, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reagan, District Judge:

ORDER

Defendant McArthur was indicted May 24, 2012, in a single count indictment (Doc. 1) charging Production of Child Pornography, in violation of 18 USC 2251(a). The indictment speaks of a single cellphone digital image of minor A.H. that entered interstate commerce. Trial is set to commence October 22, 2012. Before the Court are three motions in limine filed by Defendant McArthur (Docs. 18-20), as well as the Government's responses (Docs. 24-26).

Applicable Legal Standards

In limine is Latin for "at the outset." A motion in limine is a motion made at the outset or threshold of the case, typically prior to the commencement of trial. See Black's Law Dictionary (9th ed. 2009).*fn1 The Federal Rules of Evidence do not explicitly authorize in limine rulings, but the practice of using such rulings has developed under the district court's inherent authority to manage trials. Luce v. U.S., 469 U.S. 38, 41 n.4 (1984). "Motions in limine are of course common, and frequently granted, in criminal as in civil trials." U.S. v. Warner, 506 F.3d 517, 523 (7th Cir. 2007).

Motions in limine are intended "to avoid the delay and occasional prejudice caused by objections and offers of proof at trial." Wilson v. Williams, 182 F.3d 562, 566 (7th Cir. 1999). Accord Palmieri v. Defaria, 88 F.3d 136, 141 (2nd Cir. 1996)(motions in limine aid the trial process by "enabling the Court to rule in advance of trial on the relevance of certain forecasted evidence . without lengthy argument at, or interruption of, the trial.").Such motions permit the district court to eliminate evidence "that clearly ought not be presented to the jury," because it is "inadmissible for any purpose," Jonasson v. Lutheran Child and Family Services, 115 F.3d 436, 440 (7th Cir. 1997).Additionally, the "prudent use of the in limine motion sharpens the focus of [the] trial proceedings." Jonasson, 115 F.3d at 440.

As the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has summarized: "Motions in limine are well-established devices that streamline trials and settle evidentiary disputes in advance, so that trials are not interrupted mid-course for the consideration of lengthy and complex evidentiary issues." U.S. v. Tokash, 282 F.3d 962, 968 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 535 U.S. 1119 (2002), citing U.S. v.Haynes, 143 F.3d 1089, 1090 (7th Cir. 1998), and U.S. v. Blassingame, 197 F.3d 271, 279 (7th Cir. 1999). See also U.S. v. Acox, 595 F.3d 729, 733 (7th Cir. 2010)(If issue raised by motion in limine is definitively resolved before trial, an objection at trial is unnecessary).

The court should grant a motion in limine only if the movant demonstrates that the evidence in question is inadmissible on any ground, for any purpose. See, e.g., Jonasson, 115 F.3d at 440; Ellis v. Country Club Hills, 2011 WL 6001148 (N.D. Ill. 2011); Payne v. Schneider National Carriers, Inc., 2011 WL 1575422 (S.D. Ill. 2011).

Motion in limine rulings are made before the district court has had a chance to hear all of the evidence or see the trial develop. As such, these rulings are preliminary and may be revisited based on the court's exposure to the evidence at trial. U.S. v. Connelly, 874 F.2d 412, 416 (7th Cir. 1989), citing Luce, 469 U.S. at 41 ("a ruling [in limine] is subject to change when the case unfolds, particularly if the actual testimony differs from what was contained in the proffer. Indeed, even if nothing unexpected happens at trial, the district judge is free, in the exercise of sound judicial discretion, to alter a previous in limine ruling.").

Furthermore, a court may defer decision on a motion in limine until trial, if the motion needs to be placed in a fact-specific or evidence-specific context. The Seventh Circuit noted in Jonasson, 115 F.3d at 440:

[T]he motion in limine is an important tool available to the trial judge to ensure the expeditious and evenhanded management of the trial proceedings. It . permits the trial judge to eliminate from further consideration evidentiary submissions that clearly out not be presented to the jury..

Some evidentiary submissions, however, cannot be evaluated accurately or sufficiently by the trial judge in such a procedural environment. In these instances, it is necessary to defer ruling until during trial, when the trial judge can better estimate its impact on the jury.

See also Sperberg v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 519 F.2d 708, 712 (6th Cir.), cert. denied, 423 U.S. 987 (1975)(often, the "better practice is to deal with questions of admissibility of evidence as they arise," presenting the issues in a specific context, rather than excluding broad categories of evidence prior to trial); U.S. v. Brown, 2011 WL 43038, *3 (N.D. Ill. 2011)(delaying ruling may afford the judge a better opportunity to gauge the impact of the evidence in question); National Union Fire Ins. Co. v. L.E. Myers Co. Group, 937 F. Supp. 276, 287 (S.D. N.Y. 1996)(district court can deny a motion in limine that lacks the necessary specificity as to the evidence to be excluded or the reason for the introduction of such evidence; court also can reserve ruling until trial, when admission of particular pieces of evidence can be viewed in an appropriate factual context.).With these principles in mind, the Court turns to the motions in limine filed in the instant case.

The Statutory Offense

In determining Defendant's motions in limine, it is necessary to keep in mind the statutory offense ...


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