United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Greenville Division
M. BROWN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
civil rights action is before the Court on the multiple
motions in limine filed by the parties.
18, 2016, Eric Hawkins filed a complaint against Nicholas
Walsh and the City of Clarksdale, Mississippi, seeking to
recover for an alleged use of excessive force against him by
Walsh, a police officer with the City of Clarksdale. Doc. #1.
Specifically, Hawkins alleges that he was a passenger in a
car stopped by Walsh and that he exited the car during the
traffic stop, began to run, and was shot by Walsh. Walsh, for
his part, claims that he shot Hawkins after Hawkins exited
the car with a rifle.
party filed a dispositive motion. However, on February 23,
2018, Hawkins filed six motions in limine. Doc. #71; Doc.
#73; Doc. #75; Doc. #77; Doc. #79; Doc. #81. The same day,
Walsh and the City filed a joint motion in limine. Doc. #68.
Hawkins filed a seventh motion in limine on March 2, 2018.
Motion in Limine Standard
purpose of a motion in limine is to allow the trial court to
rule in advance of trial on the admissibility and relevance
of certain forecasted evidence. Evidence should not be
excluded in limine unless it is clearly inadmissible on all
potential grounds.” Harkness v. Bauhaus
U.S.A., Inc., No. 3:13-cv-129, 2015 WL 631512,
at *1 (N.D. Miss. Feb. 13, 2015) (quotation marks and
Defendants' Motion in Limine and Hawkins' Seventh
Motion in Limine
their motion in limine, the defendants seek to exclude
evidence related to Hawkins' acquittal of the crime of
aggravated assault during the incident underlying
Hawkins' suit. Doc. #68. Relatedly, Hawkins' seventh
motion in limine seeks to exclude evidence related to
criminal charges brought against him stemming from the
incident. Doc. #84.
the filing of these motions, the defendants filed a document
representing that the parties:
have reached an agreement … regarding their First
Motion in Limine and Plaintiff's Seventh Motion in
Limine. The parties will stipulate not to reference any
criminal charges and/or the results of the charges, including
the results of plaintiff's criminal trial. The parties
have agreed to redact any references to criminal
investigation, criminal charges, or criminal trial in the
Mississippi Bureau of Investigation Report. This stipulation
will include the agreement to redact the second half of Peter
Clinton's recommendation that the plaintiff or the other
vehicle occupants should be charged with crimes arising out
of the incident.
on this representation, both motions in limine will be denied
Hawkins' First Motion in Limine
first motion in limine (“First Motion”), Hawkins
moves to exclude as irrelevant and unduly prejudicial any
evidence related to his criminal record, which includes
charges of disorderly conduct, false identification, failure
to pay fines, and a variety of traffic offenses. Doc. #71;
general rule, “[e]vidence of a crime, wrong, or other
act is not admissible to prove a person's character in
order to show that on a particular occasion the person acted
in accordance with the character.” Fed.R.Evid. 404(b).
However, such “evidence may be admissible for another
purpose, such as proving motive, opportunity, intent,
preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, absence of mistake,
or lack of accident.” Id. In their response,
the defendants argue that Hawkins' criminal history is
admissible to show: (1) the falsity of Hawkins' claim
that he ran because he was scared; (2) the falsity of
Hawkins' statements regarding the severity of his
damages; and (3) as impeachment evidence under Federal Rule
of Evidence 609.
Reason for Running
Plaintiff claimed to Colonel Clinton of the MBI that he did
not know why he ran from Officer Walsh with the weapon, and
in his deposition, he explained that he ran because he was
“scared” but that he would not have run in
hindsight. In short, Plaintiff claims that his running was a
mistake. However, Plaintiff's criminal convictions prove
the contrary. Prior to this incident, Plaintiff also ran from
a law enforcement officer who attempted to pull him over,
after Plaintiff had presented this same officer with false
information by claiming to be his brother to avoid arrest for
outstanding warrants. This incident resulted in Plaintiff
being tased by the officer. This incident shows, contrary to
Plaintiff's testimony, that his running from the law
enforcement officer was not inadvertent or a mistake.
Doc. #96 at 2 (emphasis and internal citations omitted).
state a Fourth Amendment excessive force claim, [a]
plaintiff must show that [he was] seized and that [he]
suffered (1) an injury that (2) resulted directly and only
from the use of force that was excessive to the need and that
(3) the force was objectively unreasonable.” Davila
v. United States, 713 F.3d 248, 259 (5th Cir. 2013)
(original alterations and quotation marks omitted). This
inquiry is “fact-specific” and must “be
made from the perspective of an objectively reasonable
officer at the scene, rather than in hindsight.”
Id. Put differently, “the question is whether
the officers' actions are ‘objectively
reasonable' in light of the facts and circumstances
confronting them ….” Graham v. Connor,
490 U.S. 386, 397 (1989).
the excessive force inquiry is an objective one, a
plaintiff's subjective reason for fleeing from an officer
is irrelevant. See Molina v. City of Visalia, No.
1:13-cv-1991, 2016 WL 8730723, at *4 (E.D. Cal. Sept. 16,
2016) (“[T]he subjective state-of-mind and any
motivation for fleeing on the part of Maduena, Molina, and
the other passengers of the vehicle are not at issue in this
action and are not relevant to a determination of the
defendants' liability because officers Collins, Roberts,
and Alfano were unaware of them.”). Accordingly,
Hawkins' reason for running, which was indisputably
unknown to Walsh, is irrelevant to the excessive force
inquiry and properly excluded. See Fed. R. Evid. 402
(“Irrelevant evidence is not admissible.”).
Severity of Damages
While Plaintiff was purportedly recovering from his injuries
in Robinsonville, Mississippi at his mother's house,
Plaintiff was arrested on November 3, 2013 and was
subsequently convicted for presenting false information. This
conviction shows that Plaintiff was riding around in
Clarksdale and could not have been recovering from his
injuries…. The Court should allow Municipal Defendants
to pre[s]ent this evidence of Plaintiff's whereabouts and
health which go directly to his damages.
Doc. #96 at 2.
Rule of Evidence 403 provides that “[t]he court may
exclude relevant evidence if its probative value is
substantially outweighed by a danger of one or more of the
following: unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, misleading
the jury, undue delay, wasting time, or needlessly presenting
cumulative evidence.” “[O]nly unfair prejudice,
substantially outweighing probative value … permits
exclusion of relevant matter under Rule 403.”
United States v. Barnes, 803 F.3d 209, 221 (5th Cir.
2015) (emphasis omitted). Of relevance here,