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Shatner v. Atchison

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

November 16, 2017

DARRIN SHATNER, B42950, Plaintiff,
v.
MIKE ATCHISON and RICHARD HARRINGTON, Defendants.

          ORDER

          REONA J. DALY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion in Limine (Doc. 126) and Defendants' Motion in Limine (Doc. 120). Plaintiff filed a response (Doc. 127) to Defendants' motion and Defendants filed a response (Doc. 130) to Plaintiff's motion. Defendants also filed a reply to Plaintiff's response. (Doc. 129). The motions in limine are hereby granted in part and denied in part.

         A. Plaintiff's Motion in Limine

         Plaintiff's motion in limine includes six subparts. Each will be addressed in turn.

         a. Motion to Prohibit Reference to Mr. Shatner as “Inmate Shatner” or Similar Names

         Plaintiff moves to require that defense counsel address him as “Mr. Shatner” and not “inmate” or “prisoner.” Plaintiff argues that referring to him as “inmate” or “prisoner” would be unduly prejudicial. Defendants do not oppose this motion, “to the extent they are able to control the testimony of their witnesses.” Plaintiff's motion is granted, Defendants shall make reasonable efforts to avoid referring to Plaintiff as “inmate” or “prisoner.”

         b. Motion to Prohibit Evidence of Crimes for Which Mr. Shatner is Incarcerated

         Plaintiff moves to exclude any evidence or testimony regarding the nature of his criminal offenses, including the length of his sentence. Defendants oppose Plaintiff's motion, arguing that Shatner's convictions are admissible under Federal Rule of Evidence 609(a)(1) to attack his credibility. Defendants also argue that they should be permitted to present evidence of Shatner's convictions and length of sentence to establish “the extent of their familiarity with him.”

         Federal Rule of Evidence 609(a)(1)(A) provides that evidence of a criminal conviction (punishable by death or by imprisonment of more than one year) may be admitted for the purposes of attacking a witness's character for truthfulness. This provision is subject to Federal Rule of Evidence 403, which states “The court 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.”

         The Court agrees with Shatner that the probative value of his criminal convictions is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice. According to the Illinois Department of Corrections Offender Search website, [1] Shatner is serving a life sentence for armed robbery, arson and murder. This lawsuit concerns medical treatment (or lack thereof) Shatner received while at Menard Correctional Center. Plaintiff's motion in limine is therefore granted in part and denied in part. Defendants may introduce evidence that Shatner has been convicted of a felony and is incarcerated with the Illinois Department of Corrections for an extended period of time. Defendants may also introduce evidence of the length of time he has already spent at Menard Correctional Center. Defendants shall not introduce evidence identifying the specific crimes for which he is incarcerated.

         c. Motion to Prohibit Evidence of Others' Crimes

         Shatner seeks to exclude evidence of third party witnesses' arrests and conviction records. Shatner argues that the probative value of such evidence is substantially outweighed by the danger of prejudice. Defendants oppose Shatner's motion, arguing that they should be allowed “to present evidence of arrests and conviction records involving felonies or admissions of dishonesty or untruthfulness to impeach witness credibility.” Shatner's motion is granted in part and denied in part. Defendants may introduce evidence that the third party inmate witnesses have been convicted of a felony and are incarcerated with the Illinois Department of Corrections for an extended period of time. Defendants shall not introduce evidence identifying the specific crimes for which the third party witnesses are incarcerated.

         d. Motion to Prohibit Evidence of Other Civil Litigation

         Shatner moves to bar Defendants from introducing evidence of other litigation he has filed. Shatner has filed other prisoner civil rights lawsuits against Illinois Department of Corrections employees, including Shatner v. Atchison et al., Case No. 3:13-cv-00599-NJR-RJD (S.D. Ill.), currently pending in this District Court. Shatner argues that his other lawsuits have little, if any, probative value and that it would be unfairly prejudicial if Defendants were permitted to introduce such evidence. Defendants object to Shatner's motion. Defendants argue that Plaintiff may have knowingly filed fabricated or falsely obtained statements in the above mentioned case, and possibly this matter. Additionally, Defendants argue that they should be allowed “to present evidence of Plaintiff's other lawsuits where the defendants prevailed for lack of personal knowledge or involvement, to show that Plaintiff ...


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