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Lyles v. Gambino

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

October 31, 2019

TONY LYLES Plaintiff,
SGT. GAMBINO, ET. AL. Defendants.



         This case is set for trial and is now before the Court on the parties5 pretrial motions in limine [ECF Nos. 208, 209]. For the reasons discussed below, the Court denies Defendants' Motion in Limine No. 1; grants in part and denies in part Defendants' Motion in Limine No. 2 and Plaintiffs related Motion in Limine No. 1; grants in part and denies in part Defendants' Motion in Limine No. 4; and denies Defendants' Motion in Limine No. 5. In addition, the Court grants Defendants' Motion for Leave to Withdraw Motion in Limine No. 3 [ECF No. 216] and denies Defendants' Motion in Limine No. 3 as moot.


         Plaintiff Tony Lyles is a former pre-trial detainee in Cook County, Illinois. He was held at the Cook County Jail from approximately February of 2013 until September of 2015. At three separate court appearances - on July 24, 2013, November 18, 2013, and December 19, 2013 -Plaintiff alleges Cook County correctional officers violated his constitutional rights. On July 24, 2013, Plaintiff alleges that he sustained injuries to his left shoulder, back, wrist, and neck when he was attending a court appearance in his criminal case and that Sergeant Joe Gambino and Officer Fitzpatrick Allen refused his requests for medical attention; specifically, that he be taken to Cermak Health Services. On November 18, 2013, Plaintiff attended another court appearance where he alleges that Officer Seropian pushed him while leading him out of the courtroom and yanked on his handcuffs, reinjuring his shoulder, back, neck, and wrist. Plaintiff further alleges that Sergeant Gambino refused to take him to a doctor, despite his complaints of pain. Finally, at a court appearance on December 19, 2013, Plaintiff alleges Officer Seropian handcuffed Plaintiff too tightly behind his back, causing pain to his wrists and shoulders. Plaintiff further claims Officer Edward Hopkins[1] grabbed Plaintiff from behind and dragged him from the courtroom, causing pain and injury on that same date. According to Plaintiff, both officers failed to intervene to prevent injury by the other.

         This case is set for a pretrial conference on November 1, 2019. The jury trial is set to begin on November 12, 2019.


         Although not specifically contemplated by the Federal Rules of Evidence, inherent in the Court's power in managing trials is the ability to rule on motions in limine. Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 n.4 (1984); see also United States v. Caputo, 313 F.Supp.2d 764, 767-68 (N.D. 111. 2004). The court has broad discretion to rule on evidentiary questions raised in motions in limine, Jenkins v. Chrysler Motors Corp., 316 F.3d 663, 664 (7th Cir. 2002), and may use this discretion to eliminate evidence "that clearly ought not be presented to the jury because [it] clearly would be inadmissible for any purpose." Jonasson v. Lutheran Child & Family Svcs., 115 F.3d 436, 440 (7th Cir, 1997); Caputo, 313 F.Supp.2d at 768. The party seeking to exclude evidence bears the burden of establishing the evidence is "not admissible for any purpose." Mason v. City of Chicago, 631 F.Supp.2d 1052, 1056 (N.D. Ill. 2009). "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." Hawthorne Partners v. AT&T Teck, Inc., 831 F.Supp. 1398, 1400 (N.D. 111. 1993), For this reason, rulings in limine may also be subject to alteration or reconsideration during the course of trial. United States v. Connelly, 874 F.2d 412, 416 (7th Cir. 1989); Hawthorne Partners, 831 F.Supp. at 1401 ("Denial of a motion in limine does not necessarily mean that all evidence contemplated by the motion will be admitted at trial. Denial merely means that without the context of trial, the court is unable to determine whether the evidence in question should be excluded. The court will entertain objections on individual proffers as they arise at trial, even though the proffer falls within the scope of a denied motion in limine").

         I. Defendants' Motion in Limine No. 1 to Bar Reference to any Alleged Failure to Comply with Jail Procedures or General Orders

         Defendants' first motion in limine asks the Court to bar any reference to the Cook County Jail's policies and procedures and the Cook County Sheriffs Department's General Orders. In response, Plaintiff asserts that he does not have copies of the general orders or jail procedures, but if he did, they may be "relevant or probative to [his] claim that the defendants violated his constitutional rights." Plaintiffs Responses to Defendants' Motions in Limine [ECF No. 213] at p. 2. Plaintiff therefore says the Court should deny Defendants' motion as premature. Although it ordinarily would be dispositive of the issue that Plaintiff concedes he does not possess - and thus presumably cannot introduce into evidence - the policies, procedures, or general orders that are the subject of this Motion, both parties nevertheless substantively address the possible admissibility of such evidence at trial. However, the Court is reluctant to issue an advisory opinion on whether nonspecific policies, procedures, and orders would be admissible in this case for a yet undisclosed purpose. Should the issue be raised more concretely at trial, the parties must do so outside the presence of the jury and be prepared to address the following governing legal principles.

         The admissibility of law enforcement policies or procedures, such as those propounded by the Cook County Jail and Cook County Sheriffs Department, is a question of relevance within the meaning of the Federal Rules of Evidence. Fed.R.Evid. 401, 402, 403. Evidence that has "any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence.. .more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence," is relevant and generally admissible, absent a reason for its exclusion. Fed.R.Evid. 401, 402. "To be relevant, evidence need not conclusively decide the ultimate issue in a case, nor make the proposition appear more probable, but it must in some degree advance the inquiry." E.E.O.C. v. Indiana Bell Telephone Co., 256 F.3d 516, 533 (7th Cir. 2001) (internal quotations and citations omitted).

         It appears to be beyond debate in this Circuit that the "violation of police regulations or even a state law is completely immaterial as to the question of whether a violation of the federal constitution has been established" in § 1983 claims.[2] Thompson v. City of Chicago, 472 F.3d 444, 454 (7th Cir. 2006); see also Williams v. Shah, 927 F.3d 476, 479 n.1 (7th Cir. 2019); Floret v. Village of Mundelein, 649 F.3d 594, 602-03 (7th Cir. 2011); England v. Allen, 2019 WL 2743481, at *5 (N.D. III. 2019); Jones v. City of Chicago, 2017 WL 413613, at *3-4 (N.D. 111. 2017); Patterson v, City of Chicago, 2017 WL 770991, at *1 (N.D. 111. 2017). This is because § 1983 "protects plaintiffs from constitutional violations, not violations of state laws or, in this case, departmental regulations and police practices." Thompson, 472 F.3d at 454 (citing Scott v. Edinburgh, 346 F.3d 752, 760 (7th Cir. 2003); Pasiewicz v. Lake County Forest Preserve Dist., 270 F.3d 520, 526 (7th Cir. 2001); Soller v, Moore, 84 F.3d 964, 969 (7th Cir. 1996)). Although it cannot be said that "evidence of police policy or procedure will never be relevant to the objective-reasonableness inquiry," where § 1983 claims involve "facts that people of common understanding can easily comprehend," the "everyday experience of lay jurors fully equips them to answer the reasonableness question" without aid from law enforcement policies or procedures. Brown, 871 F.3d at 538 (quoting United States v. Lundy, 809 F.2d 392, 395 (7th Cir. 1987)); see also Fields v. City of Chicago, 2018 WL 1652093, at *7 (N.D. 111. 2018). Therefore, absent a showing that evidence of police policies or procedures will advance the jury's inquiry into whether, for example, Defendants used excessive force or acted with deliberate indifference to Plaintiffs medical needs in this case, presenting "evidence that a police officer violated a police department rule is highly prejudicial and distracting in a § 1983 case." Patterson, 2017 WL 770991, at *7 (citing Jones, 2017 WL 413613, at *3-4).

         As stated above, without any context, the Court is unable to determine whether any policies, procedures, or general orders that may be at issue should be excluded. Defendants' Motion in Limine No. 1 is therefore denied without prejudice. Should circumstances change, the Court will revisit this ruling as necessary based on the legal principles discussed above. Connelly, 874 F.2d at 416; Hawthorne Partners, 831 F.Supp. 1398.

         II. Defendants' Motion in Limine No. 2 to Admit Evidence of Plaintiffs 2015 Felony Convictions, Including the Nature of his Crimes, and Plaintiffs Motion in Limine No. 1 to Bar Reference to the Same

         Defendants move to admit the following three of Plaintiffs felony convictions into evidence: (1) possession with the intent to manufacture or deliver between 1 and 15 grams of heroin (July 24, 2015, 13CR0612201); (2) possession with the intent to manufacture or deliver a controlled substance (July 24, 2015, 13CR0612401); and (3) possession with the intent to manufacture or deliver a controlled substance (September 8, 2015, 13CR0612101). Defendants' Motions in Limine [ECF No. 209] at p. 3. Plaintiff moves to limit evidence of the above criminal convictions to a single conviction of a non-violent offense, or in the alternative, "one single drug ...

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