United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
DER-YEGHIAYAN, District Judge
matter is before the court on Defendant Officer Michael
Butler's (Butler) and Defendant Officer Collis
Underwood's (Underwood) motion for a new trial. For the
reasons stated below, the motion for a new trial is denied.
September 18, 2008, Dixon was arrested by Defendant Officer
Michael Butler (Butler) and Defendant Officer Collis
Underwood (Underwood). Dixon alleged in his complaint that
Butler and Underwood used excessive force during the arrest
and brought claims against Defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 for alleged constitutional violations. Dixon also
brought indemnification claims against the City of Chicago
(City). A jury trial was held in this case and the jury found
in favor of Butler against Dixon, and in favor of Dixon
against Underwood. The City and Underwood (collectively
referred to as “Moving Defendants”) now move for
a new trial pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(a)
to 59(a), after a jury returns its verdict, the losing party
can move for a new trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(a). Rule 59(a)
provides that “[t]he court may, on motion, grant a new
trial on all or some of the issues - -and to any party- - . .
. after a jury trial, for any reason for which a new trial
has heretofore been granted in an action at law in federal
court. . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(a). A court can order a
new trial pursuant to Rule 59(a) “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)(internal quotations omitted)(quoting
Marcus & Millichap Inv. Servs. v. Sekulovski,
639 F.3d 301, 313 (7th Cir. 2011)); see also Id.
(stating that “[a] verdict will be set aside as
contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence only if no
rational jury could have rendered the verdict” and that
“[j]ury verdicts deserve particular deference in cases
with simple issues but highly disputed facts”)(internal
quotations omitted)(quoting Moore ex rel. Estate of Grady
v. Tuelja, 546 F.3d 423, 427 (7th Cir. 2008)).
Defendants contend that the court erred: (1) by allowing
Dixon to testify that he battered Underwood with legal
justification, and (2) by refusing to give a requested jury
Testimony by Dixon
Defendants argue that the court improperly allowed Dixon to
testify that he battered Underwood with legal justification,
which drew into question Dixon's prior battery
conviction. A Section 1983 claim is “barred if it
‘necessarily impl[ies] the invalidity of [a]
conviction.'” Viramontes v. City of
Chicago, 840 F.3d 423, 426 (7th Cir. 2016)(quoting
Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994)); see also
Rollins v. Willett, 770 F.3d 575, 576 (7th Cir.
2014)(stating that “a section 1983 suit can't be
brought if a judgment in favor of the plaintiff would imply
that his conviction in a prior proceeding had been
invalid”). Moving Defendants contend that although
Dixon pled guilty to the battery of Underwood in state court,
Dixon testified at trial in this case that he bit Underwood
in self defense. Moving Defendants argue that the admission
of guilt for the battery necessarily foreclosed any
subsequent legal justification such as acting in self
defense. Moving Defendants argue that the court should have
barred Dixon from testifying in a manner that was
inconsistent with his battery conviction.
argues that Moving Defendants waived the Heck
argument. Moving Defendants never pleaded Heck as an
affirmative defense in this matter and although they filed
extensive written motions in limine in this case, they never
raised the Heck issue in such motions. Moving
Defendants made general oral references to Heck at
the pretrial conference but failed to adequately articulate
the position that they now take or present the court with
legal authority to support their position. Moving Defendants
thus failed to properly present the Heck argument to
the court and the argument has been waived.
argues that even if Moving Defendants did not waive the
Heck argument, Dixon's testimony did not violate
Heck. At trial Dixon testified that he bit Underwood
while Underwood had Dixon in a choke hold. (TR 506). However,
Dixon admitted at trial that he pled guilty to battery in
regard to that bite, thus acknowledging to the jury that he
did not have legal justification for that conduct. (TR 529).
Dixon further testified at trial that after he bit Underwood,
Underwood said “this MF-er bit me.” (TR 507).
Underwood then allegedly proceeded to pull out his metal
baton and started to beat Dixon with it. (TR 507). There was
sufficient evidence at trial presented that would have
allowed the jury to conclude that Dixon committed battery
upon Underwood and that Underwood then, in retaliation,
proceeded to use the metal baton and use excessive force upon
Dixon. The Seventh Circuit has made clear that a conviction
for battery upon an arresting officer does not necessitate a
finding that the officer used reasonable force during the
arrest. See Viramontes, 840 F.3d at 427 (explaining
that in Gilbert v. Cook, 512 F.3d 899 (7th Cir.
2008) the Court “held that a plaintiff's conviction
for assaulting a police officer does not ...