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Shabazz v. Hall

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Western Division

July 29, 2015

JOHN ALLEN SHABAZZ, Plaintiff
v.
JEFF HALL, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

IAIN D. JOHNSTON, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff John Allen Shabazz sued correctional officer Defendant Jeff Hall alleging Defendant used excessive force while returning Plaintiff to his cell during a lockdown at the Winnebago County Jail. At trial, a jury found in favor of Defendant. Plaintiff now brings this motion for a new trial [Dkt. 115] based on alleged errors which occurred during jury selection. Plaintiff's motion is denied for the reasons detailed below.

FACTS

During jury selection, the Court relied heavily on the proposed voir dire questions submitted by attorneys for both parties. The alleged errors in voir dire pertain to juror number one (M.F.), and the two replacement jurors (R.L. and the final juror) called after Plaintiff removed juror number five and eight using peremptory challenges.

The first portion of voir dire Plaintiff calls attention to regarding M.F. follows:

THE COURT: Okay. All right. Do you have any family members or close friends who are employed by law enforcement?
M.F.: I do not. Oh, wait. Yes, I'm Sorry. My nephew Ryan is a correctional officer in the Dixon prison.
THE COURT: Okay. Do you talk to him about his job at all when you see him at family functions?
M.F.: I don't see him very much at all because he lives in Dixon.
(Ex. 1, 2/11/15 Voir Dire Tr. At 17:6-16).

Plaintiff did not raise any concerns when M.F. first mentioned her nephew, and he declined the Court's invitation to ask follow up questions after the Court finished its line of questions for M.F. After eight potential jurors had been questioned the Court called a sidebar during which it declared that none of the venire would be dismissed for cause. Plaintiff's counsel then raised for the first time a concern about M.F.:

MR. HANNA: Well, your Honor, we should have raised this earlier, but with respect to juror number one, she has a nephew working at Dixon right now. Obviously, that's where Mr. Shabazz is currently being held. So, I guess if the time window has passed, it's passed, but I would ask if we could ask one more question. How much she talks to her nephew at Dixon about his experiences there and what she knows about his work as a correctional officer. If you'd ask that question to let us know whether we can make a for cause objection, number one. If she answers that they don't talk about it, if it's an issue that they don't discuss or topic they don't discuss, we might not move to strike at all.
THE COURT: Okay. Well, lets talk about for cause at this point. MR CARPENTER: I thought you asked her if she talks to her nephew, and she said no.
THE COURT: She said no. There's no follow-up. And he's not currently housed there and that's why I specifically asked do you talk to him, and she said no.
MR. BORICH: I actually missed that.
THE COURT: Okay. So, I'm not going to strike her for cause. And she did say that. Okay.
(Ex. 1 at 82:4-25, 83:1-4).

After this exchange, the Court asked once again if Plaintiff wanted to use a peremptory strike on M.F., Plaintiff declined. M.F. served on the jury.

The second aspect of voir dire that Plaintiff claims as error pertains to juror R.L. and conversations he had with his fiance's close friend who ...


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