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United States v. McNeal

United States District Court, E.D. California

April 4, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
WILLIE MCNEAL, Defendant.

          ORDER

          GARLAND E. BURRELL, JR. SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         The United States of America (the “Government”) and defendant Willie McNeal (“Defendant” or “McNeal”) each filed in limine motions, including evidence, concerning the impending jury trial scheduled to commence on April 18, 2017.

         McNeal has been indicted by a grand jury with one count of assaulting a person within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States, under Title 18, United States Code, Section 118(a)(6). Indictment 1:19-22, 2:1-2, ECF No. 1.

         Self-Defense Issue

         Defendant moves in limine for an order ruling that Defendant is allowed to produce evidence at trial that he acted in self-defense when he fought the victim. Def.'s Mot. in Lim. (“Def.'s Mot.”) 5:2-3, ECF No. 27. The Government seeks an in limine order that would preclude Defendant from proffering both self-defense evidence and justification defense evidence. Pl.'s Mot. in Lim. (“Pl.'s Mot.”) 1:19-22, ECF No. 28.

         Defendant bears the burden of proving a prima facie case of self-defense on two elements: “(1) [that he had] a reasonable belief that the use of force was necessary to defend himself ... against the immediate use of unlawful force and (2) [that he] use[d] ... no more force than was reasonably necessary in the circumstances.” United States v. Biggs, 441 F.3d 1069, 1071 (9th Cir. 2006)(citing United States v. Keiser, 57 F.3d 847, 851 (9th Cir. 1995); see generally, United States v. Cramer, 532 Fed.Appx. 789, 791 (9th Cir. 2013) (unpublished) (defendant seeking to pursue any affirmative defense must proffer “legally sufficient evidence of each element” of the defense). Defendant's justification defense includes the elements of the self-defense prima facie standard and the following two additional elements: the defendant had no reasonable opportunity to escape the harm and he had not recklessly placed himself in a dangerous situation. Biggs, 441 F.3d at 1071 (citing United States v. Nolan, 700 F.2d 479, 484 (9th Cir. 1983)).

         Defendant argues in his motion the evidence on which he relies for his assertion that he assaulted the victim in self-defense:

[He] will testify that the alleged victim made a threatening gesture toward [him]; surprised and met Defendant on the first floor of the central area of the cell pod in the prison; the victim told Defendant that victim and Defendant should go to the laundry room to fight; and Defendant recognized that this would be a trap where other inmates sympathetic to the victim would be waiting to join the alleged victim in the fight. Rather than let a group of inmates punch, kick and injure him, and while walking in the direction of the laundry room, Defendant struck the alleged victim in the face knocking the alleged victim to the ground. While on the alleged victim was on the ground, Defendant struck the alleged victim at least twice.

Def.'s Mot., 3:16-24. Defendant argues further:

[T]he FBI reports of the alleged victim's statement, Defendant's statement and the video recording of the fight ... are sufficient to demonstrate that Defendant struck the alleged victim with a bare fist just prior to entering the laundry room where the alleged victim's confederates waited. Defendant used no more force than was necessary to disable the alleged victim. Essentially, Defendant has made by FBI report and video a prima facie case of self-defense and is entitled to present such evidence to the jury.

Def.'s Opp'n (“Def.'s Opp'n”) 2:18-19, 3:1-5, ECF No. 29. However, FBI reports have not been made part of the in limine motion record.

         The Government counters, arguing:

Taken as true, McNeal's sworn declaration tells the Court that (1) he believed he would be attacked at an unknown point in the future, and (2) he believed he would be attacked if he entered the laundry room when invited by [alleged victim Timothy] Jackson on May 25. These representations do not show the required ‘immediate threat of unlawful force, ' [citing] Urena, 659 F.3d at 907, but rather a concern either that McNeal would be attacked in the future, and then only if he chose to enter the laundry room when invited by Jackson. In either instance, McNeal's sworn ...

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