United States District Court, Middle District of Louisiana
RULING AND ORDER ON MOTIONS IN LIMINE AND OPPOSITION
JOHN W. deGRAVELLES, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
This matter is before the Court on several motions in limine (R.Docs. 87-89) filed by the Plaintiff, Christopher Miller (“Plaintiff”), and on the Defendants’ Opposition to Plaintiff, Christopher Miller’s, Declaration Concerning the January 7, 2015 IME (R.Doc. 74). The motions are opposed. (R.Doc. 86, 93-95). Having carefully considered the law and facts in the record, the Court makes the following rulings.
A. Comparative Fault
The Motion in Limine regarding Comparative Fault (R.Doc. 87) is DENIED. First, Plaintiff seeks the exclusion of all evidence related to the comparative fault of the Plaintiff. However, the Plaintiff has made a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for excessive force in violation of the Eighth Amendment. (R.Doc. 1-1). Evidence of the Plaintiff’s conduct may be relevant to certain factors related to that claim. See Sonnier v. Honeycutt, No. 12-292, 2015 WL 222317, at *3 (M.D.La. Jan. 14, 2015) (Jackson, C.J.) (and cases cited therein). Second, Plaintiff has asserted a state law negligence claim. (R.Doc. 1-1). Evidence of comparative fault would clearly be relevant for this claim. Accordingly, the motion is denied.
B. Inmate Witnesses
The Motion in Limine to Suppress Testimony and Evidence Regarding Inmate Witnesses (R.Doc. 88) is DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. The Defendants represent in their motion that the Plaintiff is calling three inmate witnesses to testify on her behalf and that “[s]ome of the witnesses were convicted of crimes that were punishable by imprisonment for more than one year less than 10 years ago.” Neither party has provided information concerning which witnesses were convicted of what crimes, so the Court cannot rule on this issue at this time.
However, the Court can provide the following guidelines in answering the motion. Both parties are correct that, as this Court explained in Johnson v. Cain, No. 09-0454, 2011 WL 2437608 (M.D.La. June 17, 2011) (Noland, M.J.), the “prejudice-weighing prerequisite to admissibility of felony convictions [under Fed.R.Evid. 609] applies only in criminal trials, ” and “Rule 609(a)(1) requires impeachment of a civil witness with evidence of prior felony convictions regardless of ensu[ing] unfair prejudice to the witness or the party offering the testimony.” Id. at *1 (quoting Coursey v. Broadhurst, 888 F.2d 338 (5th Cir. 1989)). Thus, for witnesses whose convictions are less than ten years old, the Court will allow impeachment of these witnesses with the fact of conviction, the name of the crime, and the date of the conviction.
But, as in Johnson, the Court will exercise its discretion and recognize that, “although the fact of any such convictions may be admissible, evidence regarding the factual details surrounding or underlying the convictions should be excluded as irrelevant and as calculated only to inflame the jury.” Id. See also Sonnier, 2015 WL 222317, at *4 (“should Defendants be permitted to introduce evidence of the [inmate] witnesses’ convictions at trial, evidence regarding the factual details surrounding or underlying the convictions will be excluded as irrelevant and inflammatory”).
As to witnesses whose convictions are more than ten years old, the Plaintiff complains that no prior written notice was given under Rule 609(b), so evidence of the convictions is inadmissible. However, Rule 609(b) states: “This subdivision (b) applies if more than 10 years have passed since the witness's conviction or release from confinement for it, whichever is later.” If these witnesses are still incarcerated, “Rule 609(b) is not applicable.” Boyd v. Louisiana, No. 03-1249-P, 2008 WL 920306, at *2 (W.D.La. April 4, 2008). Thus, Rule 609(b) is inapplicable to these inmate witnesses, and no written notice was required. Further, there is no weighing of probative value versus prejudicial effect, as required by Rule 609(b)(1).
Finally, the Plaintiff complains that “no documents have been produced of any convictions.” (R.Doc. 99). However, the Plaintiff has failed to produce any evidence wherein she requested in discovery documents concerning such convictions. Accordingly, this does not factor into the Court’s analysis.
In sum, the Court needs more details to make a ruling on this motion. At the conference conducted at 8:30 a.m. on March 23, 2015, before trial, the Court will gather the necessary information and rule on this motion, in accordance with the above principals.
C. Plaintiff’s Conviction and Disciplinary Reports
The Motion in Limine to Suppress Testimony and Evidence (R.Doc. 89) is GRANTED IN PART, DENIED IN PART WITH PREJUDICE and DENIED IN PART WITHOUT PREJUDICE. The Plaintiff seeks the exclusion of any evidence of his prior convictions and his disciplinary reports. The Defendants claim the disciplinary report is relevant to why the Plaintiff was housed in the Beaver 3. The Defendants claim that the conviction is relevant as to the false imprisonment claim and is admissible impeachment evidence under Rule 609.
The record reflects that the Plaintiff was convicted of possession of cocaine. As explained above, Rule 609(a)(1) requires the introduction of evidence of a conviction for impeachment purposes if “in the convicting jurisdiction, [the crime] was punishable … by imprisonment for more than one year.” Cocaine is a Schedule II controlled dangerous substance. 21 C.F.R. § 1308.12(b). According to La. R.S. 40:967(C)(2), anyone convicted of possession of a Schedule II controlled substance is subject to imprisonment for a maximum sentence of five years. Accordingly, the Plaintiff’s motion to exclude evidence of the conviction for purposes of impeachment is overruled. However, as explained ...