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Brickhouse v. Redstone

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

April 14, 2014

ALEXANDER BRICKHOUSE, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN REDSTONE, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

DAVID R. HERNDON, District Judge.

Now before the Court are defendant John Redstone's ("Redstone") first set of motions in limine (Doc. 81) and plaintiff Alexander Brickhouse's ("Brickhouse") first set of motions in limine (Doc. 83) and second set of motions in limine (Doc. 84). Defendant responded to plaintiff's motions (Docs. 85, 86) and plaintiff responded to defendant's motions (Doc. 88). For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS Redstone's first set of motions in limine (Doc. 81) and GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Brickhouse's first and second sets of motions in limine (Docs. 83, 84).

I. Defendant Redstone's First Set of Motions in Limine (Doc. 81)

Defendant requests that the Court enter in limine orders forbidding plaintiff, any person testifying on plaintiff's behalf, or plaintiff's attorneys from questioning any witness, at any portion of the trial including voir dire, the testimony of the case, opening and closing statements, references to or questions to 14 items. Plaintiff concedes items 8-11 but objects to the remainder. The Court will therefore address the outstanding items.

Items 1 and 2. Defendant first moves in limine to exclude any testimony relating to fights or fighting whatsoever Officer Redstone was involved in or may have been involved in while in high school at Granite City High School and when he was a member of the United States Marine Corps. Defendant asserts that these incidents occurred more than 15 years ago and therefore are too remote in time to be relevant. He also argues that these incidents were not such that he was charged with a crime or otherwise court marshalled, but instead may have faced informal reprimands. Finally, he states that there is no indication that these altercations were in anyway substantially similar to the current matter.

Plaintiff asserts that Officer Redstone's history of fighting is relevant and necessary to show that his present abusive behavior was not a mistake. Plaintiff further argues that while acts occurred more than 15 years ago, the similarity of defendant's actions should outweigh the lapse in time and that the probative value of the evidence is not substantially outweighed by unfair prejudice.

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b), evidence of prior bad acts is inadmissible to "prove a person's character in order to show that on a particular occasion the person acted in accordance with the character." To determine the admissibility of such acts, the Court reviews 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 probative value foo the evidence is not outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice." Duran v. Town of Cicero, Illinois, 653 F.3. 632, 645 (7th Cir. 2011) (quoting Treece v. Hochstetler, 213 F.3d 360, 363 (7th Cir. 2000)).

The Court agrees with defendant. Officer Redstone graduated from high school in 1992 and was thereafter in the Marine Corps. until 1998. The Court finds these incidents to be irrelevant because they are too remote in time and dissimilar. Furthermore, the danger of unfair prejudice outweighs the probative value of the evidence. Therefore, the Court grants plaintiff's request.

Items 3, 4, 5, 14. Defendant next moves in limine to exclude certain complaints or reprimands against Officers Redstone and Dawes. Defendant asserts that these complaints or reprimands are not substantially similar to currently alleged conduct and that introduction of these matters would be more prejudicial than probative. Furthermore, defendant argues several of these complaints were too remote in time and/or determined to be unfounded.

Plaintiff asserts that these complaints and reprimands should be admitted because they are relevant to the current conduct. Specifically, items 3 and 5 demonstrate that defendant "either does not know the policy and procedures of his department or deliberately refuses to follow them" (Doc. 88 at 3), item 4 is evidence of Officer Redstone's knowledge, motive, intent, opportunity, plan, or absence of mistake in committing the current act, and item 14 indicates that the Police Department's finding that "the complaints against Officer Redstone were unsubstantiated is not warranted" (Doc. 88 at 11).

Applying the same test outlined above, the Court finds that these complaints or reprimands against Officers Redstone and Dawes are too dissimilar, irrelevant, and that the prejudice of outweighs the probative value of the evidence. Therefore, the Court grants defendant's request.

Item 6. Defendant also moves in limine to exclude any testimony regarding the decision by the Madison State's Attorney to nolle prosequi four of the six charges stemming from this incident against the defendant. Defendant clarifies that this decision resulted from the defendant's agreement to plead guilty to the remaining two charges. He asserts that any evidence relating to this process would be irrelevant to any of the issues in this case, would confuse the issues, and would be prejudicial to the defendant. In his response, plaintiff asserts that evidence that four of the six charges were dropped "may show that the arrest was unwarranted and is therefore particularly relevant to the instant matter" (Doc. 88 at 8).

The Court agrees with defendant's assessment. "A nolle prosequi is not a final disposition of a case but is a procedure which restores the matter to the same state which existed before the Government initiated the prosecution." Washington v. Summerville, 127 F.3d 552, 557 (7th Cir. 1997). Further, plea bargains as to dismissed charges are irrelevant. Therefore, the Court grants defendant's request.

Item 7. Defendant additionally moves in limine to exclude any lay testimony that Officer Redstone used excessive force. Defendant asserts that pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 701, lay opinion must be limited to the observations of the witness "that are not based on scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge within the scope of Rule 702" (Doc. 81 at 7-8, quoting Tribble v. Evangelides, 670 F.3d 753, 758 (7th Cir. 2012)). Plaintiff counters that while defendant is technically correct regarding the rule, lay witnesses are able to "testify as to their ...


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