United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Honorable Edmond E. Chang United States District Judge
Sanchez brought this civil-rights action against Chicago
Police Officer Louis Garcia for false arrest and excessive
force, and against Cook County Sheriff's Correctional
Officer Tyrone Felix for excessive force. After a three-day
trial, the Court accepted the jury's unanimous verdict in
favor of Officer Garcia on both the false arrest and
excessive force claims, and declared a mistrial on the
excessive force claim against Officer Felix after the jury
deadlocked on that claim. R. 245, 08/07/15 Minute
Entry. Sanchez now moves for a new trial on his
two claims against Officer Garcia under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 59(a). R. 271, New Trial Mot. For the reasons
discussed below, the motion is denied.
jury found in favor of Officer Garcia, so the evidence as to
the case against Garcia must be viewed in his favor. Late at
night on August 10, 2010, Ruben Sanchez picked up a six-pack
of beer at a store and began driving home. Chicago Police
Officers Louis Garcia and William Murphy, who were patrolling
the neighborhood, saw Sanchez drive through numerous stop
signs and swerve across the center divider line. The officers
signaled for Sanchez to pull over. Sanchez was nearly home at
this point, however, so he decided to keep driving for a few
blocks before pulling over by his parked trailer.
Officer Garcia approached Sanchez, Sanchez stumbled out of
his car. The officer could see that Sanchez's eyes were
bloodshot and could smell alcohol on him. Garcia then
directed Sanchez to get on the ground, which Sanchez refused
to do. (Sanchez underwent stomach surgery a few years
earlier, which according to Sanchez, prevented him from lying
on the ground.) Instead, Sanchez clenched his fists and took
a swing at the officer. Garcia forced Sanchez to the ground.
With the help of other officers now on the scene, Garcia
handcuffed him. At the time, Sanchez had an open can of beer
in his car and marijuana in his pocket.
officers drove Sanchez to the police station and placed him
in an interview room. Chicago Police Officer Karen Etti found
Sanchez lying on the interview room floor as she approached
him to administer breathalyzer and field sobriety tests.
Sanchez refused to take the tests. Officer Etti noticed that
Sanchez had bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and smelled of
alcohol. Though Sanchez said that he did not need medical
attention, Etti arranged for him to go to the hospital
anyway. Sanchez refused any medical treatment at the
was charged with aggravated driving under the influence of
alcohol (at the time of the stop, Sanchez's driver's
license was suspended for a similar prior offense),
possession of cannabis, aggravated assault of a peace
officer, and resisting/obstructing a peace officer. The Cook
County State's Attorney ultimately prosecuted Sanchez for
aggravated driving under the influence and dropped the other
awaiting trial on the D.U.I. charge at Cook County jail,
Sanchez had a run-in with Cook County Correctional Officer
Tyrone Felix. When Sanchez tried to leave the dormitory to go
to lunch on August 28, 2010, Officer Felix told Sanchez that
he could not go. The officer also blocked the door so that
Sanchez could not leave. For his part, Felix claims that
Sanchez had earlier decided to skip lunch so was not part of
the lunch count (which was necessary for movement of
detainees from the dormitory to the lunch building). Felix
testified that Sanchez (because he was not part of the lunch
count) needed permission from a supervisor to go to lunch,
which is why Felix could not let Sanchez leave the dormitory.
Despite Felix's warning, Sanchez tried to go to lunch
anyway, at which point (Sanchez claims), Felix threw him to
the ground. Felix, by contrast, maintains that he never used
any physical force against Sanchez that day.
Sanchez's criminal trial for aggravated driving under the
influence, Sanchez chose not to testify or call any
witnesses. The jury found him guilty, and the state court
sentenced Sanchez to 18 months' imprisonment. Sanchez
directly appealed his conviction, which the appellate court
affirmed. The Illinois Supreme Court later denied
Sanchez's petition for leave to appeal. Sanchez also
instituted post-conviction proceedings challenging his
conviction, but that petition was denied by the trial court
and again affirmed by the appellate court. The Illinois
Supreme Court also denied the petition for leave to appeal at
this post-conviction stage.
brought this § 1983 action in 2012, alleging that
Officer Garcia unlawfully arrested him and used excessive
force to effectuate the arrest, and that, at the Cook County
Jail, Officer Felix used excessive force when he refused to
let Sanchez go to lunch. R. 1, Compl.; R. 69, Third Am.
Compl. Following a three-day trial and jury deliberations,
the jury returned a verdict in favor of Garcia on both the
false arrest and excessive force claims, but deadlocked as to
the excessive force claim against Felix. 08/07/15 Minute
Entry. The Court entered judgment in favor of Garcia and
declared a mistrial on the claim against Felix. Id.
the trial, Sanchez settled his claim against Felix, R. 267,
11/10/15 Minute Entry, but now moves for a new trial on his
two claims against Garcia, R. 257, New Trial Mot. Sanchez
asserts seven arguments in support of his motion, arguing
that the Court erred by: (1) dismissing one juror for cause
and not dismissing another juror for cause; (2) denying three
of Sanchez's motions in limine and granting, in full or
in part, five of the Defendants' motions in limine; (3)
refusing to allow Sanchez's arrest report into evidence;
(4) rejecting Sanchez's jury instructions on issue
preclusion and false arrest; and (5) accepting the jury's
partial verdict. Id. Sanchez also asserts that (6)
cumulative prejudicial error deprived him of a fair trial;
and (7) the jury's verdict was contrary to the clear
weight of the evidence. Id.
Standard of Review
moves for a new trial under Rule 59, which can only be
granted “if the jury's ‘verdict is against
the manifest weight of the evidence, ... or if for other
reasons the trial was not fair to the moving
party.'” Willis v. Lepine, 687 F.3d 826,
836 (7th Cir. 2012) (quoting Marcus & Millichap Inv.
Servs. v. Sekulovski, 639 F.3d 301, 313 (7th Cir.
2011)). “In passing on a motion for a new trial, the
district court has the power to get a general sense of the
weight of the evidence, assessing the credibility of the
witnesses and the comparative strength of the facts put forth
at trial.” Mejia v. Cook Cnty., Ill., 650 F.3d
631, 633 (7th Cir. 2011). But even with the trial court's
authority to assess credibility, the new-trial standard is
tough to satisfy, because generally “the district court
is bound to the same evidence the jury considered, and can
strike a piece of evidence from its weighing process only if
reasonable persons could not believe it because it
contradicts indisputable physical facts or laws.”
Id. at 633 (quotation omitted).
Jury Selection: For Cause Challenges
asserts that the Court erred when deciding whether to dismiss
two potential jurors for cause. During jury selection, the
Court dismissed Mr. Francisco Camacho in light of his limited
English-speaking ability, and refused to dismiss Mr. Kenneth
Myers despite the fact that his ex-girlfriend's brother,
a policeman, was killed 20 years ago while on duty. Sanchez
contends that these decisions prejudiced him and warrant a
new trial. New Trial Mot. at 2-5; R. 273, Pl.'s Reply Br.
at 2-4. The Court addresses each for cause determination in
Camacho is a Mexican native who learned English as a second
language by interacting with his coworkers. 08/03 AM Tr. at
107:8-108:4. During voir dire, he acknowledged that his
English was “not very perfect, ” and that the
language was “difficult to understand sometimes.”
Id. Sanchez maintains that the Court improperly
dismissed Mr. Camacho due to his “strong accent and a
lack of a high school or college education … .”
New Trial Mot. at 3. Sanchez further contends-but without
explanation-that the dismissal “prejudiced [him] and
therefore necessitate[s] a new trial.” Id. at
jurors must be able to speak the English language in order to
serve on a jury. 28 U.S.C. § 1865(b)(3). Without that
ability, a juror cannot “comprehend the issues
presented at trial, assess the evidence, and come to an
independent judgment.” United States v.
Pineda, 743 F.3d 213, 217 (7th Cir. 2014). It is within
the trial judge's sound discretion to dismiss any juror
whom the judge is convinced lacks English language
proficiency. Id. (“It is within the trial
judge's sound discretion to remove a juror whenever the
judge becomes convinced that the juror's abilities to
perform his duties become impaired.” (internal
quotations and citation omitted)). And that dismissal will be
upheld on appeal “unless no legitimate
basis for the court's decision can be found in
the record, and the [party challenging the dismissal] shows
that the juror's dismissal prejudiced his case.”
Id. (emphasis in original) (citing United States
v. Vega, 72 F.3d 507, 512 (7th Cir. 1995)).
United States v. Pineda, the Seventh Circuit
affirmed the trial court's decision to remove a juror who
“did not possess the requisite English language
proficiency to serve as a juror without an
interpreter.” 743 F.3d at 217. The Seventh Circuit
observed that the juror could not “understand trial
proceedings without the assistance of an interpreter, ”
and that the juror “had great difficulty understanding
and communicating with the other jurors.” Id.
at 218. Concluding that the juror “was unable to
perform his duties, ” Pineda held that the
trial court did not abuse its discretion by removing him from
the jury panel. Id. at 219; United States v.
Paulk, 372 F. App'x 971, 973 (11th Cir. 2010)
(affirming district court's dismissal for cause in light
of juror's English comprehension and reasoning that
“[b]y dismissing him, the district court was ensuring
that every member of the jury would be able to understand the
testimony and argument presented at trial and meaningfully
participate in jury deliberations.”); United States
v. Speer, 30 F.3d 605, 611 (5th Cir. 1994) (finding no
abuse of discretion where “the [trial] judge excused
Corley because he believed that the other jurors would not be
able to communicate with her and that she ‘probably
would detract from [the jury process] by causing difficulty
in the deliberations.'”).
case, the Court determined that, unfortunately, Mr.
Camacho's English comprehension posed too great a risk of
impairing jury deliberations. Indeed, the Court's
difficulty in understanding him was so substantial that the
Court on its own raised the issue during a sidebar with the
parties. 08/03 AM Tr. at 104:13-105:2. To be sure, during the
sidebar, the Court acknowledged that Mr. Camacho
“underst[ood] English well, ” id., and
the Court also voiced concern that “often those who
have English as a second language are mistakenly stricken
from juries … I do think they actually understand more
than people comprehend just based on their accents, ”
id. at 105:18-106:18. But nevertheless, the Court
observed that Mr. Camacho had a “thick” accent,
and that the Court “missed every fifth word …
[and] had to … rely heavily on the realtime draft
transcript” when Mr. Camacho initially introduced
himself. Id. Based on this, the Court concluded that
“[Mr. Camacho's] ability to speak [English] may be
… something that would impair deliberations.”
Id. at 104:21-105:2.
sure that excusing Mr. Camacho was the right decision, the
Court asked Mr. Camacho additional follow-up questions about
his English language proficiency:
The Court: And do you have some concerns about whether you
can understand the evidence or talk to other jurors?
[Mr. Camacho]: Well, I - I know the English not very perfect,
right? I don't go too much to school. Well, because I
have to work. I have to work for my family.
The Court: I'm sorry. What did you say?
Mr. Camacho: I said I don't go too much in school. So
where I finished it was in Mexico. In here, I go, not too
much. So it's what I know, how I know to speak the
English is because I - with the workers. With the place I
work, I've had to learn. And I know how to write a little
bit, and I think that's all. But some - some work I -
they are very - it's difficult to understand sometimes.
Because the American language, the Spanish language is too
08/03 AM Tr. at 107:1-108:4. The Court then heard from both
parties before excluding Mr. Camacho on English-comprehension
The Court: [T]his is an appropriate for-cause challenge
because I had to intensely concentrate when he was speaking
to understand what he was saying. ... And I had to, not only
intensely concentrate, but I was looking right at him.
He's no more than six inchesaway from me, looking at his
lips, and it was still a struggle. So I'm afraid that I
have serious concerns that he would not be able to
communicate with his fellow jurors during deliberations. By
the same token, the jury instructions, while not a
complicated subject matter, I think the issue there is
it's likely that he would take interpretations of the
instructions from his fellow jurors as opposed to
interpreting it in his own way.
Id. at 111:8-112:3. These concerns, that Mr. Camacho
would be unable to deliberate with his fellow jurors and
interpret the jury instructions on his own, were legitimate
grounds for the for-cause dismissal. See Pineda, 743
F.3d at 217-19; Paulk, 372 F. App'x at 973;
Speer, 30 F.3d at 611. It is true that Mr. Camacho
did not require an interpreter to communicate with the Court,
unlike the juror in Pineda. But that is not a
requirement before finding that a potential juror must be
dismissed for limited English-language ability. The in-court
difficulty understanding Mr. Camacho unfortunately required
somehow Mr. Camacho should not have been dismissed for cause,
Sanchez would still have to show that Mr. Camacho's
dismissal prejudiced his case. See Pineda, 743 F.3d
at 217, 219 (“Whatever the basis for removing Vega,
overturning the district court's decision …
requires Pineda to show that the removal of the juror had a
prejudicial effect on his trial.”). This Sanchez has
failed to do, and indeed has made no effort to make that
showing. Absent any prejudice or harm arising from the
dismissal, Sanchez is not entitled to a new trial.
voir dire, Mr. Myers reported that his ex-girlfriend's
brother, a policeman, was shot and killed 20 years ago while
on duty. 08/03 AM Tr. at 88:16-89:10. The incident occurred
during a traffic stop in Lansing, Illinois. Id.
Sanchez now asserts that the Court's “refus[al] to
dismiss [Mr. Myers] for cause, requiring [Sanchez] to use a
preemptory [sic] challenge, ” amounted to prejudicial
error. New Trial Mot. at 4.
scrutinizing the impartiality of a prospective juror, trial
courts ask “whether the juror can put aside the
experiences and beliefs that may prejudice his view of the
case and render a verdict based on the evidence and the
law.” United States v. Taylor, 777
F.3d 434, 441 (7th Cir. 2015); United States v.
Allen, 605 F.3d 461, 464-65 (7th Cir. 2010). Dismissal
is only appropriate where a prospective juror's voir dire
responses “reveal a bias so strongly as to
convince the judge that the juror cannot render impartial
jury service … .” Marshall v. City of
Chi., 762 F.3d 573, 575 (7th Cir. 2014) (emphasis
added); id. (“[T]he voir dire process
aims to weed out jurors who hold personal biases so strong
that their ability to act as a neutral arbiter is
compromised.”). The impartiality requirement is met
where “a juror affirm[s] … that she can
… lay aside her biases or her prejudicial personal
experiences.” Id. at 576. But courts must keep
in mind that “[j]urors … cannot be expected
invariably to express themselves carefully or even
consistently.” Patton v. Yount, 467 U.S. 1025,
1039 (1984). Trial courts are entitled to “great
deference” when striking jurors based on bias.
United States v. Barnes, 909 F.2d 1059, 1070-71 (7th
Cir. 1990). This is because trial judges have “[an]
unique opportunity to assess the credibility of the jurors
during voir dire examination, as well as their
demeanor throughout the course of trial.” Id.
this legal principle in action, consider United States v.
Allen. Allen was a prosecution on child pornography
charges in which the defendant challenged the district
court's failure to strike a prospective juror whose
daughter was the victim of an attempted molestation and
kidnapping. 605 F.3d at 464-66. The Seventh Circuit rejected
the defendant's challenge for three reasons: First,
“the unrelatedness of [the defendant's] case and of
the kidnapping attempt suggest that any bias was minimal
… .” Id. at 465. Second, the potential
juror “stated finally” that she would suspend
judgment and give the defendant the benefit of the doubt
until the close of evidence. Id. Third, “the
trial judge was in the best position to gauge the prospective
juror's ability to follow[ ] [his] instructions.”
Id. at 466 (internal quotations and citation
omitted). The Seventh Circuit noted that “the trial
judge's questioning of the prospective juror could have
been more explicit, ” but nevertheless held that
“the district court was within its discretion to find
that the prospective juror … [could] decide the case
fairly.” Id. (internal quotations and citation
same circumstances surrounding the prospective juror's
alleged bias in Allen are present here. Mr. Myers
disclosed that he had a friend who was shot and killed while
on duty about 20 years ago in Lansing, Illinois. 08/03 AM Tr.
at 88:16-89:10. The dissimilarities in context, time, and
location between Mr. Myers's experience and Sanchez's
case against Officers Garcia and Felix favor a finding that
any potential bias would be minimal, at most. See
Allen, 605 F.3d at 465.
in Allen, the Court here engaged in a thorough
back-and-forth with Mr. Myers to ensure his impartiality.
08/03 AM Tr. at 89:18-93:7. Mr. Myers told the Court that he
had worked in various capacities with law enforcement both as
a firefighter and paramedic, and assured the Court that he
had “seen a variety of both good and bad
reactions.” Id. Mr. Myers also assured the
Court that he would follow the Court's instructions and
apply the law to the facts:
The Court: Will you be able to follow an instruction that you
will have to weigh the testimony of a law enforcement
officer, and also paramedics, if they - [Mr. Myers]:
The Court: The same way. Treated on an
[Mr. Myers]: Right. I mean, well, I would hope that
I would. But, I mean, I think - I don't know how to
explain it. … The Court: Right.
[Mr. Myers]: It's hard to answer that. But I would think
that I would do my best to listen to the facts and give an
The Court: Yes.
[Mr. Myers]: And that's what I've always
The Court: Right. And I - you know, I will supply the law -
[Mr. Myers]: Right.
The Court: (Continuing) - you know, that has to be applied.
So you know, you'll get a legal standard to apply.
[Mr. Myers]: Uh-huh.
The Court: And then what I - it's important that you be
able to follow that legal standard, okay. Do you think, and
it sounds like - you said you always try to give your honest
opinion - [Mr. Myers] Right.
The Court: All right. Will you be able to follow the legal
instruction I give you?
[Mr. Myers]: Yes.
The Court: Okay. And then in terms of sorting out the facts,
like who's telling the truth and who's not.
[Mr. Myers]: Right.
The Court: All right. And can you judge that on an individual
and case-by-case basis?
[Mr. Myers]: I think so, yeah.
Id. (emphases added). To be sure, Mr. Myers did not
always answer resolutely and unequivocally throughout this
back-and-forth. Id. But he persistently confirmed
that he would follow the Court's instructions, sort out
the facts on an individual case-by-case basis, and apply the
law to those facts. Id.; see also Allen,
605 F.3d at 466 (“Prior equivocating or wavering is
hardly dispositive in assessing credibility, as
‘[j]urors … cannot be expected invariably to
express themselves … consistently.'”
(quoting Patton, 467 U.S. at 1039)). The Court's
own in-court observations of Mr. Myers gave the Court
confidence that he answered truthfully when he said that he
would evaluate law enforcement ...