United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Castillo Chief Judge.
the Court are motions in limine ("MILs") filed by
Plaintiff Erick Fields and Defendants the City of Chicago and
Chicago police officers Petain Navez, Jose Lomeli, Steven
Rivera, Manuel Guzman, Rogelio Pinal, Robert Cavaini, Brian
Spreng, Matthew Graf, Michael Burke, Nicholas Orlando, Frank
Pierri, Kenneth Barnas, Brian Tedeschi, Albert Perez, Donald
Falk, Anthony Noradin, Ronald Banas, and other "unknown
Chicago police officers." (R. 110; R. 112.) For the
reasons stated below, the MILs are granted in part and denied
brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983 against Defendants for the alleged deprivation of his
constitutional rights. (R. 66, Second Am. Compl.) Plaintiff
alleges that, on February 24, 2011, he was in his garage
removing a license plate from his car when Defendants Navez
and Lomeli entered and Navez shot Plaintiff in the abdomen
without provocation. (Id. ¶¶ 10-17.)
Plaintiff alleges that, after he was shot, no ambulance was
called, and instead Defendants Rivera, Guzman, and Pinal
conferred with Navez and Lomeli about how to respond to the
situation, delaying and obstructing Plaintiffs efforts to
call for an ambulance and obtain medical treatment.
(Id. ¶¶ 19-29.) After Plaintiff was
eventually taken to the hospital, he alleges that unknown
Chicago police officers searched his home without a warrant
or probable cause, leaving his home in disarray and damaging
his property. (Id. ¶¶ 30-39.) Defendants
dispute this account and claim that Navez feared for his life
after Plaintiff allegedly lunged toward him with a
"silver object, " which Navez believed to be the
barrel of a gun but turned out to be a wrench. (R. 108,
Defs.' L.R. 56.1 Statement ¶ 36.)
brings three claims under 42 U.S, C, § 1983 for
deprivation of his constitutional rights based on
Defendants' alleged use of excessive force,
Defendants' alleged unlawful entry into his home, and
Defendants' alleged conspiracy to deprive him of his
constitutional rights. (Id. ¶¶ 51-72.)
Plaintiff also brings state claims under Illinois law for
battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and
trespass. (Id. ¶¶ 73-89.) A jury trial in
this case is currently scheduled to begin April 16, 2018. (R.
100, Min. Entry.)
courts have considerable discretion to manage the submission
of evidence, including granting motions in limine. See
Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 (1983);
Jenkins v. Chrysler Motors Corp., 316 F.3d 663, 664
(7th Cir. 2002). In limine rulings serve "to ensure the
expeditious and evenhanded management of the trial
proceedings." Jonasson v. Lutheran Child &
Family Servs., 115 F.3d 436, 440 (7th Cir. 1997). Such
motions are not favored, however, and the Court should grant
a motion in limine only when the evidence at issue "is
clearly inadmissible on all potential grounds."
Gomez v. Palmer, No. 11 C 1793, 2016 WL 212800, at
*1 (N.D. III. Jan. 19, 2016). "Unless evidence meets
this high standard, evidentiary rulings should be deferred
until trial so that questions of foundation, relevancy and
potential prejudice may be resolved in proper context."
United States v. Lillie, 669 F.Supp.2d 903, 905
(N.D. III. 2009) (citation omitted). Additionally, the Court
has authority to reconsider its rulings on motions in limine
as "the case unfolds." Luce, 469 U.S. at
41. "Indeed even if nothing unexpected happens at trial,
the district judge is free, in the exercise of sound judicial
discretion, to alter a previous in limine ruling."
Id. at 41-42 (italics omitted); see also
Farfaras v. Citizens Bank & Tr. of Chi, 433 F.3d
558, 565 (7th Cir. 2006) ("[T]he district court may
adjust a motion in limine during the course of a
trial."). "The party seeking to exclude evidence
has the burden of demonstrating that the evidence would be
inadmissible for any purpose." United States Sec.
& Exch. Comm'n v. Berrettini, No. 10-CV-1614,
2015 WL 4247776, at *1 (N.D. 111. July 14, 2015).
Federal Rule of Evidence 401, evidence is deemed 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. 4Ol(a)-(b). Under Federal Rule of
Evidence 403, the Court has authority to exclude relevant
evidence if its "probative value is substantially
outweighed by a danger of... unfair prejudice, confusing the
issues, misleading the jury, undue delay, wasting time, or
needlessly presenting cumulative evidence." Fed.R.Evid.
403. With these standards in mind, the Court addresses
Plaintiffs and Defendants' MILs separately below.
MILs # 1, 2, 5, 6, 10, and 12: Irrelevant
and Unfairly Prejudicial Matters
argues that several categories of evidence and arguments
should be excluded as either irrelevant or because their
probative value is substantially outweighed by a danger of
unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, or misleading the
jury. First, in MIL #1, Plaintiff argues that the Court
should bar Defendants from introducing evidence or arguments
that Defendant police officers would suffer negative
consequences in their professional careers due to the
trial's outcome. (R. 110, Pl.'s Mot. at 1-2.) The
Court agrees that such evidence or argument is irrelevant and
its probative value, if any, is far outweighed by a danger of
prejudice and confusion of the issues. See Fed. R.
Evid. 401, 402, 403. The claims in this case concern
Defendants' conduct towards Plaintiff as well as
Plaintiffs request for monetary damages, and any damage to
Defendants' careers is wholly irrelevant and prejudicial.
The Court, however, will permit Defendants to testify as to
their potential personal liability in this case, but any such
testimony will allow Plaintiff to counter with evidence or
argument that the City of Chicago will indemnify them.
See Gonzalez v. Olson, No. 11 C 8356, 2015 WL
3671641, at *7 (N.D. 111. June 12, 2015) ("Defendants
cannot argue poverty and avoid telling the jury that they are
partially indemnified."). Accordingly, MIL #1 is granted
in part and denied in part.
MIL #2 asks the Court to exclude any evidence or argument
regarding gun violence, generally, in Chicago. (R. 110,
Pl.'s Mot. at 2.) The question of whether an officer is
liable under Section 1983 is "an objective one: the
question is whether the officers' actions are
'objectively reasonable' in light of the facts and
circumstances confronting them, without regard to their
underlying intent or motivation." Graham v.
Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 397 (1989). "The nature and
extent of the force that may be used depends upon the
circumstances surrounding the arrest, including the severity
of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate
threat to the safety of the officers or others, and whether
he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest
by flight." Stainback v. Dixon, 569 F.3d 767,
772 (7th Cir. 2009) (citation and internal quotation marks
omitted). Evidence about general gun violence in Chicago,
divorced from the specific facts of this case, has little to
do with the circumstances surrounding Plaintiffs shooting or
whether Defendants acted reasonably in those circumstances,
See Fed. R. Evid. 401, 402, 403. Nor is there any
indication that general gun violence in Chicago relates to
any of the elements of Plaintiff s state law
claims. The Court, therefore, grants MIL #2.
to MIL #5, Plaintiff argues that the Court should exclude
evidence portraying his neighborhood as a "high
crime" area. (R. 110, Pl.'s Mot, at 5-7.) The Court
disagrees, and denies MIL # 5 because whether Plaintiffs
neighborhood is a "high crime" area is relevant to
determine whether Defendants' actions were
"objectively reasonable in light of the facts and
circumstances in which" they "were
confronted[.]" Edwards v. Two Unknown Male Chi.
Police Officers, 623 F.Supp.2d 940, 948 (N.D. 111. 2009)
(emphasis added); see also Flournoy v. City of
Chicago, 829 F.3d 869, 875 (7th Cir. 2016) (considering,
in an excessive force case, that the "suspect's
apartment was . . . known to be in a high-crime area"),
The Court does not consider this evidence so prejudicial and
confusing to warrant exclusion under Rule 403. See Ross
v. City of Chicago, No. 13 C 751, 2014 WL 1344279, at *2
(N.D. 111. Apr. 3, 2014) ("Ross has not shown that [he]
will be prejudiced merely by [a] description of the area of
the Shooting, and Ross's claim that the trier of fact
will conclude that Devon Ross deserved to be shot because of
the area where he was shot is pure speculation on the part of
MIL #6 argues that the Court should bar any prosecutor or
attorney from opining on the elements of criminal offenses or
civil claims, or the propriety of Defendants' conduct in
this case. (R. 110, Pl.'s Mot. at 7-9.) The Court agrees.
The relevant inquiry in this case is whether Defendants'
alleged shooting of Plaintiff and entry into his home rise to
the level of a deprivation of constitutional rights, battery,
trespass, or intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The opinion of a state's attorney or other person lacking
personal knowledge of the incident at issue is irrelevant,
unfairly prejudicial, and inadmissible opinion evidence.
See Fed. R. EVID. 401, 402, 403; United States
v. Noel, 581 F.3d 490, 496 (7th Cir. 2009) ("We
have held repeatedly that lay testimony offering a legal
conclusion is inadmissible because it is not helpful to the
jury[.]"). Therefore, MIL # 6 is granted.
to MIL #10, Defendants do not object to this motion, and
therefore the Court grants Plaintiffs request to exclude any
evidence or argument that Plaintiffs medical bills have been
paid by third parties. See Torres v. City of
Chicago, No. 12 C 7844, 2015 WL 12843889, at *4 (N.D.
111. Oct. 28, 2015) ("The plaintiffs' unopposed
request to bar the defendants from informing the jury that
their medical expenses were covered by insurance and to
redact line items on medical bills that reflect insurance
coverage is granted.").
#12, which asks the Court to bar any evidence regarding
Plaintiffs past membership in or affiliation with a gang, (R.
110, Pl.'s Mot. at 12), is also granted because the
probative value of such evidence is substantially outweighed
by a danger of unfair prejudice. See Gomez, 2016 WL
212800, at *4 (excluding as overly prejudicial evidence of
the plaintiffs gang affiliations); Christmas v. City of
Chicago, 691 F.Supp.2d 811, 817 (N.D. 111. 2010)
(observing that evidence or suggestions that a plaintiff was
in a gang "is routinely excluded").
MILs # 3, 11, 13: Prior Arrests, Convictions, and Encounters
with the Police
next category of MILs relate to Plaintiffs prior arrests,
criminal convictions, or other encounters with the police
outside of the incident that occurred on February 24, 2011.
(R. 110, Pl.'s Mot. at 2-3, 13-15, 18-20.) "Prior
arrests are usually inadmissible under Federal Rule of
Evidence 403, which bars evidence when its probative value is
outweighed by its risk of prejudice, and Federal Rule of
Evidence 404(b), which provides, 'Evidence of other
crimes, wrongs, or acts is not admissible to prove the
character of a person in order to show action in conformity
therewith, ' but 'may ... be admissible for other
purposes.' " Betts v. City of Chicago, 784
F.Supp.2d 1020, 1024 (N.D. 111. 2011) (citation omitted).
There is no indication that Plaintiffs prior arrests are in
any way related to Plaintiffs claims, the risk of such
evidence prejudicing Plaintiff is significant, and the Court
fails to see how this evidence would be used other than to
attack Plaintiffs character; therefore, evidence of Plaintiff
s prior arrests is inadmissible under Rules 403 and 404.
See Id. Plaintiffs claim for intentional infliction
of emotional distress also provides no grounds for admitting
evidence related to Plaintiffs prior arrests. Norris v.
Bartunek, No. 15 C 7306, 2017 WL 4556714, at *4 (N.D.
111. Oct. 12, 2017) ("There is some support for the
proposition that prior arrests may be admissible when a
plaintiff claims that an arrest caused him emotional
distress. But even courts that have recognized prior arrests
may be admissible under those circumstances have required
that the arrests be substantially similar and conducted a
prejudice analysis." (citation omitted)). Plaintiffs
prior encounters with police officers that did not lead to
any arrest or conviction are inadmissible under Rules 403 and
404 for the same reasons as Plaintiffs prior arrests, and
therefore, the Court grants MIL #3. See Betts, 784
F.Supp.2d at 1024; see also Barber v. City of
Chicago, 725 F.3d 702, 709 (7th Cir. 2013) ("The
well-established, general rule is that a witness's
credibility may not be impeached by evidence of his or her
prior arrests, accusations, or charges.").
and #13 deal with, respectively, Plaintiffs conviction for
attempted murder in 1999 and a conviction for possession of
controlled substances on the date of the incident in
question. (R. 110, Pl.'s Mot. at 13-15, 18-20.) Federal
Rule of Evidence 609(a)(1) allows the use of a witness'
prior criminal conviction to attack his or her character for
truthfulness if the conviction was for "a crime that...
was punishable by death or by imprisonment for more than one
year, " however, the Court may exclude such evidence if
its probative value is substantially outweighed by its
prejudicial effect. Fed.R.Evid. 609(a)(1), 403; see also
Blackwell v. Kalinowski, No. 08 C 7257, 2011 WL 1557542,
at *2 (N.D. 111. Apr. 25, 2011) (applying Rules 609
and 403 in a Section 1983 case). Rule 609, however, provides
that if more than ten years have passed since a witness'
conviction, evidence of the conviction is admissible only if:
"(1) its probative value, supported by specific facts
and circumstances, substantially outweighs its prejudicial
effect; and (2) the proponent gives an adverse party
reasonable written notice of the intent to use it so that the
party has a fair opportunity to contest its use."
Court finds that Plaintiffs 1999 conviction for attempted
murder is inadmissible because Defendants have failed to show
that its probative value substantially outweighs its
prejudicial effect. See Id. Plaintiffs conviction
for a crime almost 20 years ago has little probative value to
his credibility or to the incident in this case, which was
allegedly triggered by Defendants responding to gunshots
fired and seeing an abandoned car near Plaintiffs home.
(See R. 107, Mot. for Summ. J. at 3; R. 106-2, Navez
Dep. Tr. at 100-05.) The severity of the crime-attempted
murder-would cause significant unfair prejudice to Plaintiff
that far outweighs any probative value of Plaintiff s
conviction. See id; United Slates v. Rogers, 542
F.3d 197, 201 (7th Cir. 2008) ("[W]e have said that
impeachment by a conviction falling outside the rule's
ten-year time limit should be permitted only in rare and
Plaintiffs 1999 conviction, his conviction for felony drug
possession occurred more recently, and it was based on drugs
discovered inside Plaintiffs clothing while he was at the
hospital following his encounter with Defendants on February
24, 2011. (See R. 106-4, Fields Dep. Tr. at 226-28;
R. 108, Defs.' L.R. 56, 1 Statement ¶ 27.) That
drugs were found in Plaintiffs clothing after he had been
shot and was taken to the hospital, however, has little to do
with the claims in this case, which concern Defendants'
use of force and entry into Plaintiffs home before they found
any drugs in his clothing. (See R. 66,
Second Am. Compl. ¶¶ 10-89; R. 107, Mot. for Summ.
J, at 3; R. 106-2, Navez Dep. Tr. at 100-05.) Again,
Plaintiffs Section 1983 claims are only concerned with
objective circumstances related to Plaintiffs encounter with
police and not the events thereafter. See Stainback,
569 F.3d at 772. Nor do Plaintiffs state law claims implicate
any drugs found in his clothing after he was shot and taken
to the hospital. There is no indication that any of the
events giving rise to Plaintiffs claims were related to his
possession of drugs on that day as opposed to reports of
gunshots fired near his home; therefore, the Court excludes
evidence relating to Plaintiffs felony drug conviction
because its probative value is far outweighed by a danger of
unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, and misleading the
jury. See Fed. R. Evid. 403, 609(a); United
States v. Galati, 230 F.3d 254, 262 (7th Cir. 2000)
("In this case, the district judge wisely gauged the
potential for jurors to see Sims' prior drug possession
conviction as a reason to discount her entire testimony, even
though nothing about her conviction actually suggests the
likelihood that she would be dishonest or deceitful.").
Court is not persuaded by the cases Defendants rely on to
admit evidence of Plaintiffs prior drug conviction. Unlike
Doornbos v. City of Chicago, 868 F.3d 572 (7th Cir.
2017), in which the plaintiffs conviction for possessing a
small amount of cannabis created only a minimal risk of
prejudice, Plaintiffs possession of a controlled substance
here resulted in a felony conviction and is more prejudicial.
Id. at 577. Additionally, in Doornbos, the
plaintiff fled from the police, so the conviction was
relevant to explain why he fled whereas here Plaintiff did
not flee and it is not even clear that Plaintiff knew
Defendant Navez was a police officer. See Id. at
In Common v. City of Chicago, 661 F.3d 940 (7th Cir,
2011), the defendants used plaintiffs conviction for
possession and ingestion of controlled substances to explain
and corroborate the plaintiffs alleged concealment of such
controlled substances when he refused to raise his hands in
the air after being directed to do so three times, and to
rebut his testimony that he immediately complied with police
directives to put his hands in the air. Id. at 943.
Unlike Common, Defendants' actions were far
removed from any suspicion of a drug-related crime and there
is little evidence that Plaintiff was fearful that police
officers would find controlled substances already concealed
within his clothing. (See R. 108, Defs.' L.R.
56.1 Statement ¶ 27.) The evidence related to Plaintiffs
drug possession on the date of the incident in question,
unlike Common or Doornbos, is simply far
too removed from the claims in this case and risks too much
confusion and prejudice in relation to its minimal probative
value. See Fed. R. Evid. 403, 609; Case v. Town
of Cicero, No. 10 C 7392, 2013 WL 5645780, at *2 (N.D.
111. Oct. 16, 2013) ("Testimony on a witness's crime
that coincided with the plaintiff's allegations runs the
risk of tainting the jury's view of the plaintiff and
potentially confusing the jury on the relevant
issues."); Jackson v. Webb, No. 1:ll-CV-09,
2012 WL 3204608, at *3 (N.D. Ind. Aug. 3, 2012)
("[Significant prejudice or confusion could arise if the
jury seeks to retroactively gauge the ' reasonableness of
Webb's use of force against the knowledge that criminal
charges were later lodged by the prosecuting
attorney."). Accordingly, the Court grants MILs #11 and
MIL #4: Treating Chicago Police Officers as ...