United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER ON MOTIONS IN LIMINE Re: ECF Nos. 57, 58, 59
JON S. TIGAR, District Judge.
The Court now rules as follows on the parties' motions in limine in connection with the trial scheduled for January 6, 2014.
Plaintiff's Motion in Limine Numbers One & Three
Plaintiff's Motion in Limine Number One seeks an order
excluding testimony and documentary evidence regarding Plaintiff's prior acts and behavior, except as specifically communicated to Defendant Marcus Holton prior to his shooting Plaintiff. Such acts and behaviors include but are not limited to: (1) Plaintiff's family and personal history, except as known by Defendant on the date of the incident; (2) Plaintiff's prior convictions and their nature or specific facts, except as known by Defendant on the date of the incident, and/or except as used for impeachment subject to Plaintiff's objection under FRE 403; (3) Plaintiff's history of drug use, except as known by Defendant on the date of the incident; (4) Plaintiff's prior suicide attempts; (5) Plaintiff's whereabouts, activities and statements in the days prior to the shooting, including text messages sent and received, except as known by Defendant on the date of the incident; (6) the exact substance of statements made to law enforcement regarding Plaintiff, including statements to police by Alice Mulkey and Kimberly Preston, and copies of allegedly forged checks, except as known by Defendant on the date of the incident.
Relatedly, Plaintiff's Motion In Limine Number Three seeks an order "excluding opinion testimony and documentary evidence regarding Plaintiff's drug abuse, mental health diagnosis, and/or mental state at the time of the incident, and to exclude opinion regarding Plaintiff's intent to commit suicide by cop."
Courts in the Ninth Circuit hold that information not known to a law enforcement officer at the time of an alleged excessive-force incident is not relevant to an evaluation of the objective reasonableness of the officer's actions under Graham v. Connor , 490 U.S. 386 (1989). Hayes v. Cnty. of San Diego , 739 F.3d 1223, 1232-33 (9th Cir. 2013); Ruvalcaba v. City of L.A., No. 2:12-cv-06683-ODW(MANx), 2014 WL 4426303, at *1-2 (C.D. Cal. Sept. 8, 2014); Willis v. City of Fresno, No. 1:09-CV-01766-BAM, 2014 WL1419239, at *20-22 (E.D. Cal. Apr. 14, 2014); Turner v. Cnty. of Kern, No. 1:11-CV-1366 AWI SKO, 2014 WL 560834, at *1-3 (E.D. Cal. Feb. 13, 2014).
While acknowledging this general rule, however, courts do permit the admission of certain evidence not known to a defendant law enforcement officer, if that evidence is relevant for some other purpose. Boyd v. City & Cnty. of S.F. , 576 F.3d 938 (9th Cir. 2009) (permitting the admission of evidence regarding a decedent's plan, intent, or motive to commit suicide by cop under Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b), and evidence that the decedent was on drugs at the time officers shot him because that evidence "was highly probative of his conduct, particularly in light of his erratic behavior...."); Willis, 2014 WL 1419239, at *20-22 (admitting evidence of the decedent's intoxication at the time he was shot by police officers, even though the officers were unaware that he was under the influence, because the evidence tended to explain the decedent's erratic behavior and corroborated the officers' version of events, including that they believed the decedent might have committed a DUI offense prior to the shooting); Turner, 2014 WL 560834, at *2 ("It is not uncommon for courts to permit evidence that a plaintiff/decedent was under the influence of drugs or alcohol in order to explain unusual behavior or to corroborate the officers' version of how a decedent acted.").
Applying these rules here, the Court concludes that the evidence that is the subject of these motions is admissible. First, any information that was communicated to Deputy Holton prior to the shooting is admissible, as both parties acknowledge. Second, the other evidence is admissible to explain Plaintiff's behavior and to corroborate Deputy Holton's version of events. Even physical evidence of check forging is admissible, because it gives Plaintiff a motive to flee from law enforcement.
This motion is DENIED.
Plaintiff's Motion in Limine Number Two
This motion seeks an order "to exclude evidence regarding the gun found in Plaintiff's vehicle after the shooting, except as known by defendant Holton at the time of the shooting."
The fact that a gun and ammunition were found in Plaintiff's vehicle is probative of his preparation, intent, and opportunity to carry out his plan of committing "suicide by cop." Such evidence is therefore admissible under Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b)(2). Also, evidence that the gun was located in the vehicle also corroborates Deputy Holton's testimony: Deputy Holton testified that he saw Plaintiff reach for the center console of his vehicle as he disobeyed the Deputy's commands.
However, there is no reason for the jurors to see photographs of the gun or ammunition recovered from the vehicle. Such evidence will add nothing to the testimony that a gun was found in the car, and is likely to ...