December 3, 2015
from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 12 CV 0045 - Joan
B. Gottschall, Judge.
Wood, Manion, and Hamilton, Circuit Judges.
Manion, Circuit Judge.
Dan Davies sued Chicago police officer Karl en Benbenek for
using excessive force when responding to a domestic
disturbance at Davies' home in the summer of 2010. A
trial was held and the jury found for Officer Benbenek. On
appeal Davies challenges several of the district court's
evidentiary rulings, but his arguments are without merit.
Because the evidence challenged by Davies was used for a
permissible purpose and was not unduly prejudicial, we affirm
the district court's entry of judgment for Officer
24, 2010, Dan Davies and his then-girlfriend Lucille
Whitehead got into a physical altercation in Davies'
bedroom. Whitehead managed to call 911 and reported that she
and Davies had gotten into an argument and that he had
"pulled a gun" on her. Several Chicago police
officers, including Officer Karlen Benbenek, responded to the
call. The officers kicked down the door to Davies' home
because no one answered after they knocked and announced
their presence. When the officers entered they encountered
Davies, who is paralyzed from the waist down, sitting in his
wheelchair. Davies' nephew was also there.
to the police, Davies was very angry with them for being in
his house. He used profanity, yelled at them, told them to
get out, and talked about suing them. The officers proceeded
to search the house and discovered illegal items in
Davies' bedroom. Davies asked the police if his nephew
could "take the rap" for the items, but the police
declined the request. Davies then became increasingly
agitated and again threatened to sue the officers and told
them he had "sued before." He also spat on Officer
Benbenek and made a foul comment about a tongue-piercing she
had at the time. When Officer Benbenek told Davies he would
be charged for spitting on her, Davies threw himself from his
wheelchair onto the floor, where he continued telling the
officers that he would sue.
paints a markedly different picture of his encounter with
Officer Benbenek. He testified that, once he commented on her
tongue-piercing, she grabbed him by the hair and punched him
in the face multiple times, and that he later "w[o]ke
up" on the floor choking on his own blood.
Davies ended up on the ground, the officers called for an
ambulance and Davies was taken to the hospital. The attending
physician testified that Davies had sustained a fractured
femur that was consistent with a fall. He also testified that
Davies had severe osteoporosis which made his bones more
susceptible to breaking through minor trauma.
subsequently brought this civil action against Officer
Benbenek under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that she used
excessive force during the disputed encounter of June 24,
2010. Before trial, the parties filed motions in limine
seeking a ruling on whether Officer Benbenek could offer
testimony that Davies, in the course of threatening to sue
the responding officers, told them that he had sued before.
The defense also sought to present testimony that certain
unidentified "items" were recovered from
Davies' home, and that Davies was distraught when the
police declined his request to pin possession of the items on
his nephew. Over Davies' objection, the court ultimately
admitted the proposed testimony at trial. The admitted
testimony was not offered to prove that Davies had a prior
history of litigation, nor did it include any description of
the items found in Davies' home. Following trial the jury
rendered a verdict for Officer Benbenek, and the district
court entered judgment accordingly.
appeal focuses on the district court's evidentiary
rulings. He argues that the district court erred by allowing
the responding officers to testify (1) that he told them he
had sued before, and (2) that he became upset when they
refused to hold his nephew responsible for the items that
were discovered in his home. Davies contends that this
testimony should have been excluded as impermissible
character evidence under Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b), and
as unfairly prejudicial under Federal Rule of Evidence 403.
review the district court's evidentiary rulings for abuse
of discretion and will reverse only if "no reasonable
person could take the view adopted by the trial court."
United States v. Causey, 748 F.3d 310, 315-16 (7th
Cir. 2014) (internal marks omitted). Under Rule 404(b),
evidence of a crime, wrong, or other act is not admissible to
prove a person's character or propensity to act a certain
way. Fed.R.Evid. 404(b)(1). Such evidence may be admissible,
however, for another purpose, such as proving motive,
opportunity, or intent. Fed.R.Evid. 404(b)(2). Under Rule
403, the district court is allowed to exclude evidence whose
probative value is substantially outweighed by a danger of
unfair prejudice. Fed.R.Evid. 403. Evidence is unfairly
prejudicial "only if it will induce the jury to decide
the case on an improper basis, commonly an emotional one,
rather than on the evidence presented." United
States v. Bogan, 267 F.3d 614, 623 (7th Cir. 2001)
(internal marks omitted). We give "special
deference" to the district court's admission of
evidence under Rule 403. United States v. LeShore,
543 F.3d 935, 939 (7th Cir. 2008) (internal marks omitted).
Testimony that Davies ...