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Jones v. City of Chicago

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

January 31, 2017

CHARLES JONES, Plaintiff,
v.
THE CITY OF CHICAGO, et. al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          AMY J. ST. EVE, DISTRICT COURT JUDGE:

         Before the Court are Plaintiff Charles Jones's ("Jones") motions in limine as well as the motions in limine of Defendants the City of Chicago (the "City") and Chicago Police Department personnel Stephen Insley, Matthew Malloy, Timothy Moran, Jared Nowak, Gary Olson, and William Hardy (collectively, "Defendants"). The Court has previously granted, based on the parties' agreement, Jones's motions in limine numbers 1, 3, 4, 5, 13, 16, and 24 (for 24(e), the Court granted the motion only to the extent of the parties' agreement), and Defendants' motions in limine numbers 2, 4, 5, 6, 10, 11, 12, and 13. (R. 124.) Additionally, in their response to Jones's motions, Defendants indicate that they do not object to Jones's motion in limine number 11. (R. 133 at 4.) The Court therefore grants that motion as well. With respect to the disputed motions, the Court grants in part and denies in part both parties' motions in limine for the reasons that follow.

         BACKGROUND

         On June 1, 2012, Defendant police officers executed a search warrant for Jones and upon the premises of 5645 S. Carpenter, Chicago, IL 60621 (the "Carpenter Street address"). (R. 55, Answer Am. Compl., at ¶ 7.) Defendant Olson had prepared the application for the search warrant based on information he received from a "cooperating individual." (Id. at ¶ 8.) On May 31, 2012, the cooperator told Olson that he had gone to the Carpenter Street address the day before to purchase heroin from a "Charles Jones, " a man he had bought heroin from on a daily basis for the previous month. (R. 97, Memorandum Op., at 2-3.) The cooperator later positively identified a picture of Jones as the individual who sold him heroin at the Carpenter Street address. (Id. at 3.) Olson then sought a search warrant, relaying these facts and appearing before a judge with the cooperator for questioning. (Id.) The judge then made a finding of probable cause and issued the warrant. (Id. at 3-4.)

         When the police executed the warrant, Jones was present. (R. 55 at ¶ 16.) Jones claims that he did not reside at the Carpenter Street address at the time the police executed the warrant. (Id. at ¶ 15.) Instead, Jones says that he lived at 1849 W. 79th Street, Chicago, IL 60620. (Id. at ¶ 19.) The police recovered ammunition and 31 grams of cannabis. (Id. at¶ 18.)

         At least two Defendant officers separated Jones from the other individuals at the Carpenter Street address and questioned him. (Id. at ¶ 22.) Jones claims the officers demanded to know information related to other criminal activity or the location of a weapon, or "they would charge [Jones] with the recovered ammunition and cannabis if he did not give the officers information." (Id.) Jones did not provide any information, and one or more of the Defendant officers arrested him for unlawful use of a weapon and possession of cannabis. (Id. at ¶¶ 24-25.) Jones alleges that Defendants' arrest report and original case incident reports are "replete with false information." (Id. at ¶ 26.)

         After arrest, Jones alleges that he remained in custody for two months. (Id. at ¶ 27.) On June 25, 2012, a grand jury indicted him on two counts of unlawful use of a weapon. (Id. at ¶ 28.) Jones was found not guilty by a directed verdict at his trial. (Id. at ¶ 29.)

         On April 17, 2015, Jones filed his First Amendment Complaint, alleging five counts: (1) a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 based on a violation of the Warrant Clause of the Fourth Amendment because, prior to obtaining the search warrant that led to Jones's arrest, Defendant Olson failed to establish the reliability of the cooperator and failed to adequately corroborate the individual's information ("Count I"); (2) a claim under § 1983 for "falsely arresting and imprisoning [Jones] . . . under color of law and without probable cause" in violation of the Fourth Amendment ("Count II"); (3) a violation of § 1983 based on a conspiracy to "unlawfully seize [Jones] and continue the unlawful seizure of [Jones] thereby depriving [him] of his rights under the Fourth Amendment" ("Count III"); (4) a claim under Illinois law of malicious prosecution ("Count IV"); and (5) a state-law claim for indemnification under 745 Ill.Comp.Stat. 10/9-102 against the City of Chicago. The Court previously granted Defendants' motion for partial summary judgment as to Count I, (R. 97), and the Court assumes familiarity with that ruling, Jones's allegations, and the proceedings in this case thus far.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         I. Motions in Limine

         Trial courts have broad discretion in ruling on evidentiary issues before and during trial. See Bridgeview Health Care Ctr., Ltd. v. Clark, 816 F.3d 935, 939 (7th Cir. 2016); Whitfield v. Int'l Truck & Engine Corp., 755 F.3d 438, 447 (7th Cir. 2014). "Although the Federal Rules of Evidence do not explicitly authorize in limine rulings, the practice has developed pursuant to the district court's inherent authority to manage the course of trials." Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 n.4 (1984); see also Dietz v. Bouldin, 136 S.Ct. 1885, 1891 (2016) ("The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure set out many of the specific powers of a federal district court, " but "they are not all encompassing, " for example, they make no provision "for the power of a judge to hear a motion in limine''). "Trial courts issue rulings on motions in limine to guide the parties on what evidence it will admit later in trial, " and "[a]s a trial progresses, the presiding judge remains free to alter earlier rulings." Perry v. City of Chicago, 733 F.3d 248, 252 (7th Cir. 2013). It is well-established that a motion in limine "is an important tool available to the trial judge to ensure the expeditious and evenhanded management of the trial proceedings" and that it "permits the trial judge to eliminate from further consideration evidentiary submissions that clearly ought not be presented to the jury because they clearly would be inadmissible for any purpose." Jonasson v. Lutheran Child & Family Servs., 115 F.3d 436, 440 (7th Cir. 1997).

         II. Federal Rules of Evidence

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 401, evidence is relevant if "it has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence" and "the fact is of consequence in determining the action." Fed.R.Evid. 401; United States v. Boros, 668 F.3d 901, 907 (7th Cir. 2012). In short, Rule 401 defines relevance broadly. See United States v. Boswell, 772 F.3d 469, 475 (7th Cir. 2014). Rule 402 "provides the corollary that, with certain exceptions, '[r]elevant evidence is admissible' and '[i]rrelevant evidence is not admissible.'" Boros, 668 F.3d at 907. The Court, however, may exclude relevant evidence "if its probative value is substantially outweighed by a danger of one or more of the following: unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, misleading the jury, undue delay, wasting time, or needlessly presenting cumulative evidence." Fed.R.Evid. 403. When considering Rule 403, courts use "a sliding scale approach: as the probative value increases, so does our tolerance of the risk of prejudice." Whiteheadv. Bond, 680 F.3d 919, 930 (7th Cir. 2012). "Evidence is unduly prejudicial if it creates a genuine risk that the emotions of the jury will be excited to irrational behavior, and the risk is disproportionate to the probative value of the offered evidence." Morgan v. City of Chicago, 822 F.3d 317, 339 (7th Cir. 2016) (citation omitted).

         ANALYSIS

         I. Defendants' Motions in Limine

         A. Motion in Limine #1: Barring Generalized Evidence of Police "Code of Silence"

         Defendants seek to prevent Jones "from offering any testimony, evidence, or argument that police officers in general lie, conspire, cover-up or otherwise maintain a "code of silence" to protect their fellow officers." (R. 115 at 1.) The Court grants Defendants' motion as to generalized evidence or argument concerning the "code of silence, " as such evidence or argument would not be helpful to the jury and the risk of unfair prejudice would substantially outweigh any probative value. Fed.R.Evid. 401, 403; Hill v. City of Chicago, No. 06 C 6772, 2011 WL 3205304, at *5 (N.D. 111. July 28, 2011); Christmas v. City of Chicago, 691 F.Supp.2d 811, 819 (N.D. 111. 2010). Jones also may not use the terms "code of silence, " "blue wall, " or other similar terms, as they are unduly prejudicial. See Ratliffv. City of Chicago, No. 10 C 739, 2012 WL 5845551, at *4 (N.D. 111. Nov. 19, 2012). That said, "whether the individual Defendants covered-up for each other is probative of the officers' bias, which is almost always relevant." Hill, 2011 WL 3205304, at *5. Thus, the Court denies Defendants' motion to the extent it pertains to their conduct relevant to the claims in this case, namely evidence that officers covered up allegedly wrongful behavior related to the arrest or prosecution or Jones, or that the officers involved in this case are biased in favor of one another. See id.; see also Ratlijf, 2012 WL 5845551, at *4; Christmas, 691 F.Supp.2d at 819 ("Accordingly, the motion in limine is granted in part and denied in part as follows: (1) the plaintiffs may not introduce generalized evidence of a 'code of silence' but (2) may introduce evidence that the officers involved in the events underlying the complaint adhered to a 'code of silence' regarding the alleged violation of the plaintiffs' constitutional rights.")

         B. Motion in Limine #3: Testimony or Argument that Any Officer Violated Chicago Police Department Orders, Rules, or Regulations

         Defendants seek to bar Jones from introducing any evidence, testimony, or argument that "any officer violated any general orders, special orders, rules and regulations" on relevancy grounds as well as Rule 403. (R. 115 at 4.) "It is well-settled that violations of the Chicago Police Department Rules and Regulations cannot establish proof that a defendant violated a plaintiffs constitutional rights." Hill, 2011 WL 3205304, at *3 (citing Thompson v. City of Chicago, 472 F.3d 444, 454-55 (7th Cir. 2006)). Accordingly, any evidence that officers violated Chicago Police Department standards is irrelevant to a § 1983 claim and therefore inadmissible to prove a § 1983 claim. See id.

         Jones argues that the violation of Chicago Police Department General Orders, Rules and Regulations is "pertinent to the issue of 'willful and wanton' for the state claims, and for punitive damages." (R. 125 at 2.) In Thompson v. City of Chicago, 742 F.3d 444, 456-57 (7th Cir. 2006), the Seventh Circuit assumed the relevance of the police department's general orders to the plaintiffs state-law wrongful death claim, but determined that the district court did not abuse its discretion in excluding evidence of the orders under Rule 403. The court explained that this evidence would be of little relevance and a limiting instruction could not sufficiently cure the "unnecessary and detrimental jury confusion" that would arise from the introduction of any breach-of-department-protocol evidence. Thompson, 742 F.3d at 457; see also Bruce, 2011 WL 3471074, at *2 (discussing Thompson)).

         Drawing upon Thompson, courts weighing the admissibility of evidence of a violation of a police department regulation in support of a state-law claim or punitive damages have concluded that the evidence may be relevant, but the proponent of the evidence "carries a heavy burden under [Federal Rule of Evidence] 401 and 403." Martinez, 2016 WL 3538823, at *6 (quoting Gonzalez v. Olson, No. 11 C 8356, 2015 WL 3671641, at *13 (N.D. 111. June 12, 2015)); see also Jones v. Walters, No. 12-cv-5283, No. 12-cv-5283, 2016 WL 1756908, at *8 (N.D. 111. Apr. 29, 2016) (explaining that evidence of a violation of a police department rule "may be relevant" for some purposes, including "to prove state law claims" or punitive damages); Rothwellv. City of Chicago, No. 10 C 1338, 2011 WL 5169419, at *1 (N.D. 111. Oct. 31, 2011) (quoting Hudson v. City of Chicago, 881 N.E.2d 430, 456-57 (111. App. Ct. 2007)).

         Jones argues that it is "[particularly relevant" that "some of the Defendants removed and did not return items of evidence that they claim they obtained from" the Carpenter Street address. (R. 125 at 2.) Jones says that, in violation of police-department rules, Defendants removed items (specifically, ammunition) from police department custody, failed to obtain a signed form from the State's Attorney acknowledging that the State's Attorney took control of the items, and failed to return such a form to the Evidence Recovery and Property Section of the police department. (Id. at 2-3, Ex. A.) Jones argues that this evidence is relevant because the items taken from the police department's Evidence Recovery and Property Section "form the basis for the arrest of [Jones]." (Id. at 3.) Jones also points to a defendant who removed "alleged proof of residency inventory #12625968" but did not attempt to recover the item after turning it over to the State's Attorney. (Id.) Jones indicates that the defendant did not know what the "proof of residency" was. (Id.) In addition, Jones argues that a Defendant removed photos of Charles Jones from evidence at the Chicago Police Department but does not know what happened to the photos or what was depicted in them. (Id.) Finally, Jones claims that Defendants have not turned over forms showing that the State's Attorney's Office received inventoried evidence that was removed from Chicago Police Department custody, nor have Defendants shown that any of these items were returned to the police department. (Id. at 4.)

         Jones seeks admission of the above evidence because "[e]vidence which Defendants claim created probable cause to arrest Charles Jones has disappeared and will not be introduced at trial." (R. 125 at 4.) This, Jones contends, "raises the rational suspicion that the evidence wasn't what the Defendants claimed it was" and that Defendants engaged in a conspiracy. (Id.) Jones "carries a heavy burden under [Federal Rules of Evidence] 401 and 403" to introduce evidence of violations of department rules. See Martinez, 2016 WL 3538823, at *6 (quoting Gonzalez, 2015 WL 3671641, at *13). Here, the Court questions how Defendants' failure to adhere to departmental rules-separate from questioning or testimony about whether evidence against Jones has gone missing-is probative of a lack of probable cause or the existence of a conspiracy. Additionally, even if such evidence were relevant, it is questionable whether it passes Rule 403. Accordingly, at this time, the Court grants Defendants' motion in limine without prejudice to Jones's ability to seek admission of evidence of a violation of police department rules if he first raises the issue outside the presence of the jury. See Gonzalez v. City of Elgin, No. 06-cv-5321, Dkt. No. 278 (N.D. 111. Aug. 4, 2010).

         C. Motion in Limine #7: Evidence Regarding Indemnification by the City of Chicago

         Defendants seek to bar "[a]ny comment on indemnification by the City of Chicago." (R. 115 at 7.) In general, courts bar evidence of indemnification because it may encourage juries to inflate compensatory damages awards. See Hill, 2011 WL 3205304, at *4 (citing Lawson v. Trowbridge, 153 F.3d 368, 379 (7th Cir. 1998)). Jones may, however, introduce evidence of the City's indemnification if Defendants "open[] the door by presenting evidence of their financial condition." Id; see also Gonzalez, 2015 WL 3671641, at *7 ("[I]f Defendants plead poverty as to punitive damages, they open the door for Plaintiff to offer evidence of indemnification as to compensatory damages."). Defendants' motion in limine number 7 is therefore granted in part and denied in part.

         D. Motion in Limine #8: Referencing Punishing or Sending a Message to the City

         Defendants seek to bar Jones "from making any argument that the jury should 'send a message' to the City with its verdict, or that the jury should somehow punish the City with its verdict." (R. 115 at 8.) Defendants also seek to bar Jones from implying to the jury that punishment can serve as a legitimate basis for award against the City. (Id.) Jones "has no objection to not referring to 'sending a message' to the City of Chicago since [the City is] not responsible for punitive damages." (R. 125 at 6.) Accordingly, the Court grants Defendants' motion that Jones cannot make a reference to the jury "sending a message" to the City or punishing the City. Additionally, Jones cannot suggest that the City should be punished, as such an argument could only be relevant to punitive damages, and the City cannot be liable for punitive damages. See Case v. Town of Cicero, No. 10 C 7392, 2013 WL 5645780, at *10 (N.D. 111. Oct. 16, 2013); Obrycka v. City of Chicago, No. 07 C 2372, 2012 WL 4060293, at *2 (N.D. 111. Sept. 14, 2012). This prohibition also applies to referencing sending a message or punishing the Chicago Police Department, as "[i]nvoking the department is tantamount to invoking the city itself." Martinez, 2016 WL 3538823, at *14.

         Jones, however, contends that he may ask the jury to "send a message" to deter the individual Defendants and other police officers from behaving as Defendants did. (R. 125 at 6.) Jones is correct that he may argue that punitive damages can serve as an example to other officers "that they should not do what Defendants did in this case'' Id. at *14 (emphasis in original). Jones is entitled to ask the jury to award punitive damages and send a message to Defendants or to other police officers generally to deter the type of misconduct Jones alleges in this case. Id. at 15 ("Plaintiff is entitled to ask the jury to send a message, in the form of an award of punitive (not compensatory) damages, to Defendants or to other police officers generally."); see also Case, 2013 WL 5645780, at *10 ("Courts do allow plaintiffs to ask juries to 'send a message' to deter future misconduct by police officers by assessing punitive damages.").

         E. Motion in Limine #9: Barring Evidence or Argument that Chicago Police Department Personnel Are Being Paid by the City to Appear in Court and that they Spent Time with an Attorney to Prepare for Trial

         Defendants argue that Jones cannot reference or elicit testimony regarding whether witnesses from the Chicago Police Department are being paid to testify. The Court grants this motion in part, as "evidence that police personnel are being paid their normal wage to appear in court is outweighed by the potential prejudice of that argument" under Rule 403. Martinez, 2016 WL 3538823, at *15. Plaintiff may, however, "ask [police department] personnel whether they are being paid more than their normal wage to testify, and, if they are, Plaintiff can argue regarding the officers' potential bias." Id. (emphasis in original); see also Torres v. City of Chicago, No. 12 C 7844, 2015 WL 12843889, at *10 (N.D. 111. Oct. 28, 2015).

         Defendants also seek to "bar any evidence that Defendant Officers and any City employee witness spent time talking to an attorney to prepare for trial." (R. 115 at 9.) Jones argues that it is proper for him "to question the Defendants' meetings with their attorneys to show the amount of preparation that went into the Defendants' testimony." (R. 125 at 7.) He also contends that it is appropriate to question Defendants regarding whether other Defendants were present when they prepared for their testimony with their attorneys. The Court agrees Jones may ask Defendants if they met with attorneys to prepare for trial and, if so, for how long. Such questioning is relevant to demeanor and credibility (e.g., it may help explain why a witness's testimony is particularly "polished"). Additionally, Jones may ask Defendants if they prepared for trial with other Defendants present, as this is relevant to the issue of whether Defendants have synchronized their testimony. If Jones pursues these questions the Court will give the Seventh Circuit pattern jury instruction that "[i]t is proper for a lawyer to meet with any witnesses in preparation for trial, " as this instruction "should be given where evidence regarding an attorney's meeting with a witness has been the subject of trial testimony." See Pattern Civil Jury Instructions of the Seventh Circuit 1.16 at 22 (2015).

         To avoid a significant danger of unfair prejudice, Jones may not argue or imply that meeting with an attorney is somehow improper, and he may not imply or argue that (1) Defendants met with their attorneys out of fear of wrongdoing (e.g., by asking Defendants if they contacted their attorneys shortly after the arrest or charging of Jones), or (2) Defendants altered their testimony as a result of meeting with an attorney without some credible evidence substantiating such a claim that Jones must first raise with the Court. See Martinez, 2016 WL 3538823, at *14.

         F. Motion in Limine #14: Removing the City as a Named Trial Defendant

         Defendants argue that the Court should remove the City as a named Defendant from this case, including by removing the City from the case caption and the verdict form. (R. 115 at 12.) Defendants argue that failing to do so "would only serve to confuse the jurors and improperly signal to the jury that 'deep pockets' are available to pay any judgment." The Court disagrees and therefore denies this motion in limine. The City is still a Defendant in this case under a respondeat superior theory for malicious prosecution as well as for Jones's indemnification claim. In similar circumstances, courts have declined the relief Defendants request. See Bruce v. City of Chicago, No. 09 C 4837, 2011 WL 3471074, at *4 (N.D. 111. July 29, 2011) ("At this time, the Court will not strike the City of Chicago from the caption because Plaintiff has asserted a state law ...


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