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USA v. Garcia-Zarate

United States District Court, N.D. California

January 10, 2020

USA, Plaintiff,
v.
JOSE INEZ GARCIA-ZARATE, Defendant.

          FINAL ORDER ON MOTIONS IN LIMINE RE: DKT. NOS. 58, 60, 61

          VINCE CHHABRIA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This order sets forth the Court's rulings on the evidentiary issues raised in the motions in limine and at the pretrial conference. As always, in limine rulings can be revisited depending on how the evidence comes in at trial.

         A. Defendant's Motions in Limine

         1. The motion to exclude prior convictions and bad acts is granted in part and denied in part. The government may use the two felony convictions that fall within Rule 609(b)'s scope to impeach Garcia-Zarate, should he choose to testify. While the probative value of these convictions is relatively low, the risk of prejudice is even lower for the reasons discussed at the pretrial conference.

         The motion to exclude evidence that Steinle was shot and killed is denied, because the shooting is inextricably intertwined with the possession charge. However, evidence and argument regarding Steinle's death will be sharply limited pursuant to Rule 403. Furthermore, per the defendant's request, the Court will give the jury a limiting instruction regarding the relevance of her death.

         The defense's related request to introduce evidence that Garcia-Zarate was acquitted in state court is denied; the parties must refrain from specific references to the state court trial, instead referring generically to “prior proceedings” or “prior testimony under oath.”

         2. The motion to exclude the testimony of James Steinle is granted. The details regarding Kate Steinle's death are barely relevant to the possession charges, particularly since the government does not contend that Garcia-Zarate intended to shoot her. And it would be unfairly prejudicial to Garcia-Zarate for the trial to include anything (much less the testimony of her father) beyond the fact of her death.[1]

         3. The motion to exclude evidence about DNA testing of the firearm is denied as moot. The parties have agreed to stipulate that no DNA evidence was found on the gun. The government may establish that the officers were diligent in conducting DNA tests.

         4. The motion to exclude evidence of gunshot residue is denied.

         5. The motion to exclude medical examiner photographs is granted. The parties have agreed to stipulate that the bullet recovered from Steinle's body came from the gun found in the bay. The government may introduce the bullet into evidence, but photos of Steinle's body are highly prejudicial and inadmissible under Rule 403.

         6. The motion to exclude coroner testimony is granted for similar reasons.

         7. The motion regarding editing and enhancement of video footage is granted in part and denied in part. The government may use footage of the pier that has been edited to zoom in on the scene. But it may not use footage with superimposed photos, labels, or comments. Portions of the video that say “Homicide Investigation” are inadmissible. Witnesses may narrate and describe events in a video based on their perceptions. They may not speculate as to the intention of other actors captured in the video, nor may they describe the shooting as a murder.

         8. The motion to exclude the video showing the shooting is denied. The video was taken from afar: it captures people as shadowy, indistinct figures. The video's probative value is therefore ...


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