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Valetta Mcmurray v. County of Sacramento

January 19, 2012

VALETTA MCMURRAY,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
COUNTY OF SACRAMENTO, DEPUTY SHERIFF JAVIER BUSTAMANTE, AND DEPUTY SHERIFF L. CULP,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Garland E. Burrell, Jr. United States District Judge

ORDER ON MOTIONS IN LIMINE

The parties move in limine for an order seeking to preclude the admission of certain evidence at trial. Each motion is addressed below.

A. Plaintiff's Motions in Limine Motion in Limine No. 1 Plaintiff seeks to "limit references to the prior convictions of [the decedent,] Damion McMurray[,] and his recent release from prison[,]" arguing "[n]one of the facts of his criminal history have any bearing on the reasons the officers were present at his home on the day he was shot and killed[,] and such references will be unduly prejudicial." (Pl.'s Mots. In Limine ("MILs") 1:16-20.)

Defendants counter, inter alia, "Plaintiff fails to delineate any specific convictions, misdemeanor or felonies that she seeks to exclude[, and a]bsent such specifics, this court and Defendants are left to speculate as to how those unspecified convictions are indeed truly irrelevant or prejudicial, nor can the court reasonably fashion any order." (Defs.' Opp'n 3:8-11.) Defendants further argue conviction are relevant to damages, "not just to potential liability." (Defs.' Opp'n 3:28 to 4:1).

Since it is unclear what evidence is involved in this motion, or whether the referenced evidence is relevant on any issue, the motion is DENIED.

Motion in Limine No. 2

Plaintiff seeks to exclude reference to the fact that "decedent's father was in prison" at the time of decedent's death. (Pl.'s MILs 1:21-22.) Plaintiff argues such evidence "has no bearing on any of the relevant events[ since h]e was not present at the apartment at the time of the shooting and [is] not currently actively involved in the life of any of the parties or witnesses." Id. at 1:22-24.

Defendants counter "evidence that decedent's father was/is a prisoner is clearly relevant to damages, and the nature and quality of any relationship at issue." (Defs.' Opp'n 4:22-24.) Defendants "also note the existence of decedent's father is relative to whether Plaintiff has standing to pursue claims on behalf of decedent." Id. at 4 n.1.

Plaintiff replies, "[the decedent's] father is not a plaintiff and is not seeking damages[;] . . . the nature and quality of [his relationship with decedent] is not at issue." (Pl.'s Reply 2:15-16.)

Defendants have not shown that the decedent's father's incarceration is relevant to Plaintiff's damages or Plaintiff's standing. Therefore, this motion is GRANTED.

Motion in Limine No. 3

Plaintiff seeks "to preclude defendants from referencing criminal records of any other witness or potential witness unless there was a conviction for dishonesty such that it would put that witness['s] credibility in issue." (Pl.'s MILs 1:25-27.) Defendants rejoin, "Plaintiff fails to delineate any specific convictions, misdemeanor or felonies that she seeks to exclude, much less any specific witness[,]" and "absent such specifics, Defendants cannot reasonably respond as to how any unspecified convictions are indeed truly irrelevant or prejudicial, nor can the court reasonably fashion any order." (Defs.' Opp'n 5:7-10.)

It is unclear what evidence is involved in this motion, therefore, it is DENIED.

B. Defendants' Motions in Limine Motion in Limine No. 1 Defendants seek to exclude "any reference, question, or

testimony pertaining to any officer's personnel records, internal investigations, or citizen complaints concerning the Sheriff's Department, including any such records of the Defendants." (Defs.' MILs 1:25-28.) Defendants argue: any information from the above-referenced sources is irrelevant to the issues in this matter; particularly because the standards used by the Sheriff's Department in determining whether discipline is appropriate are not the same as the standards that must guide the Court and the trier of fact in determining whether a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 has occurred.

Id. at 2:8-12. Defendants further argue such evidence is "character evidence," which is inadmissible under Federal Rule of Evidence ("Rule") 404 "to prove the conformity of conduct therewith[;]" "constitute[s] inadmissible hearsay[;]" and should be excluded under Rule 403. Id. at 1:28-2:5, 2:13-14, 2:25-27.

Plaintiff counters:

[D]efendants' personnel records are pertinent to prior similar acts, their history and behavior and credibility. A history of excessive force or a history of untruthfulness in reporting is probative and should be permitted. It is not the discipline administered but the information that was provided by the defendant in the investigation that is relevant. Also, telling one story at one time and a different story in testimony is grounds for proper impeachment and should be permitted.

(Pl.'s Opp'n 1:16-21.)

The record lacks sufficient factual context for an in limine ruling; therefore, this motion is DENIED.

Motion in Limine No. 2

Defendants seek to exclude evidence concerning "prior charges, complaints or lawsuits versus the County of Sacramento, the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department or other County employees[,]" arguing such evidence "is irrelevant to the issues in this case, would be unduly prejudicial to Defendants, would mislead the jury and would necessitate the undue consumption of time and resources." (Defs.' MILs 3:7-12.)

Plaintiff states in her Opposition that she does "not intend[] to introduce evidence as to other complaints unless defendants choose to make a Monell defense." (Pl.'s Opp'n 1:22-24.)

The court previously granted partial summary judgment on Plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Monell claim in favor of Defendant County of Sacramento and former Defendant Sheriff McGinness. (ECF No. 57, 4:2-4.) Therefore, this motion is DENIED as moot.

Motion in Limine No. 3 Defendants "request an order excluding any references, questions or testimony regarding Plaintiff's opinion about whether excessive force was used" under Rules 601, 701 and 702. (Defs.' MILs 4:13-17, 4:20-21.) Defendants argue, "Plaintiff is a lay witness and accordingly is not competent to opine on the question of whether the force used on her son was excessive[.]" Id. at 4:18-19.

This motion is DENIED as moot since Plaintiff states in her Opposition that she does "not intend[] to provide direct evidence asserting her opinion as to whether the use of force was improper, but she will state ...


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