United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
PHIL GILBERT DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on a variety of motions:
plaintiff John Stewart's pro se motions for a
new trial (Doc. 130) and for an extension of time to file a
notice of appeal (Doc. 131), and Stewart's counsel's
motion for leave to withdraw (Doc. 133).
Motion to Withdraw as Counsel (Doc. 133).
Court appointed counsel Amy J. Blaisdell to represent Stewart
in the trial of this case (Docs. 70 & 72). Blaisdell, in
turn, recruited assistance from her colleague Katherine L.
Fechte (Doc. 74). Counsel competently represented Stewart at
the trial of this matter, which concluded on June 18, 2019,
when the jury rendered a verdict against Stewart. As the
purpose for which counsel was appointed has been achieved,
the Court will grant counsel's motion to withdraw (Doc.
Motion for New Trial (Doc. 130)
pro se motion, Stewart asks the Court to grant him a
new trial pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
59(a)(1)(a). He claims the jury in his trial was biased
because it knew he was incarcerated at the time of trial and
used his background against him despite evidence clearly in
Rule of Civil Procedure 59(a)(1)(A) allows the Court to grant
a new jury trial “for any reason for which a new trial
has heretofore been granted in an action at law in federal
court.” This includes where the verdict is against the
manifest weight of the evidence, the damages are excessive,
or the trial was unfair to the moving party. Venson v.
Alamirano, 749 F.3d 641, 657 (7th Cir. 2014);
Kapelanski v. Johnson, 390 F.3d 525, 530 (7th Cir.
2004). A motion for a new trial must be filed within 28 days
of entry of judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(b).
preliminary matter, Stewart's motion is timely. Judgment
was entered in this case on June 18, 2019, so Stewart's
motion deadline was 30 days later-July 16, 2019. The Court
received and docketed the motion on that day, so even without
factoring in the mailbox rule, see Houston v. Lack,
487 U.S. 266, 276 (1988), the motion was timely.
to the merits, the Court sees no evidence that the jury was
biased because it knew Stewart was incarcerated at the time
of trial and had committed other acts that it might view
negatively. The Court did what it could to minimize the
impact on the jury of knowing Stewart's status as an
inmate. It allowed him to wear street clothes at trial to
eliminate the visual impact of seeing a party in prison garb.
Additionally, while it was acknowledged that Stewart was a
prison inmate, neither party harped on Stewart's status
to urge the jury to hold it against him.
Court properly allowed the defendant to introduce the fact
that Stewart had been convicted of aggravated discharge of a
firearm (and prohibited introduction of his prior sex
offense) for impeachment purposes under Federal Rule of
Evidence 609, and it instructed the jury to consider that
information only for the purposes of impeachment and
not for any other purpose. Jurors are presumed to follow the
Court's limiting instructions unless there is an
overwhelming probability that it will not be able to do so.
Rodriguez v. Gossett, 842 F.3d 531, 539 (7th Cir.
2016). Stewart has not convinced the Court that there was an
overwhelming probability that the jury in his case could not
limit its consideration of his prior conviction to
other evidence introduced of Stewart's other prior bad
conduct was properly admitted pursuant to the Federal Rules
motion, Stewart may also suggest the verdict was against the
manifest weigh of the evidence. A verdict is against the
manifest weight of the evidence only if, viewing the evidence
in favor of the non-moving party, no rational jury could have
rendered the verdict. EEOC v. AutoZone, Inc., 809
F.3d 916, 919 (7th Cir. 2016). Stewart has not satisfied this
standard. A reasonable jury could, and did, render a verdict
foregoing reasons, the Court will deny Stewart's motion
for a new trial pursuant to Rule 59(a).
Motion for Extension of Time ...