United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER ON MOTIONS IN LIMINE
J. PECHMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
MATTER comes before the Court on the parties' Motions in
Limine. (Dkt. Nos. 46, 48.) Having reviewed the Motions, the
Responses (Dkt. Nos. 49, 50) and all related papers, the
Court rules as follows:
Uncontested Motions in Limine
Motion in Limine Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 and
Defendants' Motion in Limine Nos. 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18,
19, 20, 21, and 22 are not contested, and are GRANTED.
Plaintiff's Contested Motions in Limine
in Limine No. 8 seeks to exclude evidence of Officer
Durell's individual net worth and whether he would be
indemnified by the municipality. The parties agree that
evidence relating to Officer Durell's ability to pay a
damages award should be excluded. In the event of a punitive
damages award against him, the Court will permit limited
evidence and argument regarding the appropriate amount of
punitive damages before the jury deliberates on the issue.
See Rookaird v. BNSF Railway Co., C14-176RSL, 2016
WL 4052610, at *1 (W.D. Wash. May 10, 2016). Plaintiff's
Motion in Limine No. 8 is GRANTED.
in Limine No. 9 seeks to preclude Defendants from
implying to the jury that they have no prior record of
misconduct or citizen complaints. Defendants agree that
evidence related to “any of the officers' prior
uses of force, prior complaint history, prior discipline, or
prior involvement in civil lawsuits” should be
precluded. (See Dkt. No. 46 at Motion in Limine No.
15; Dkt. No. 49 at 3.) Plaintiff's Motion in Limine No. 9
in Limine No. 10 seeks to preclude references to
witnesses as “experts, ” including those with
specialized knowledge. The Court's jury instructions
explain that expert testimony is allowed “because of
the education or experience of the witness, ” and that
“[s]uch opinion testimony should be judged like any
other testimony.” (See Pechman Civil Jury
Instruction No. 8, “Expert
Opinion”). Further, the Court's jury instructions
include an admonition to jurors not to “read into these
instructions or anything that I may say or do or have said or
done that I have an opinion regarding the evidence or what
your verdict should be.” (See Instruction No.
1, “Duty of Jury”). Both sides intend to put on
expert testimony, and the Court does not share
Plaintiff's concern that referring to or qualifying a
witness as an “expert” would “put an
imprimatur of the court on the witness.”
Plaintiff's Motion in Limine No. 10 is DENIED.
in Limine No. 11 seeks to allow Plaintiff to argue
“conscience of the community” (i.e.,
“to ask the jury to place themselves in the position of
. . . compensating the plaintiff for the injuries the
plaintiff sustained). While this is permissible, the parties
agree that counsel will not “ask the jury to place
themselves ‘in the shoes of' Mr. Hunter.”
(See Defendants' Motion in Limine No. 16.)
Plaintiff's Motion in Limine No. 11 is GRANTED.
in Limine No. 12 seeks an order that all witnesses
appear in civilian clothing. Defendants respond that city
representatives and testifying officers “should not be
precluded from wearing the very uniform that shows his or her
membership in the organization they are representing at
trial, ” and that Officer Durell should be permitted to
take the stand in the uniform he wore on the night of the
incident “to show the jury how he was dressed and the
tools available to him at the time of Mr. Hunter's
arrest.” (Dkt. No. 49 at 4-5.) As a practical matter,
Defendants note that some of the testifying officers
“will either be on duty or will be driving a marked
patrol car to the courthouse” or “may be called
to testify immediately before, immediately after, or in the
middle of their working shift” and should not be
compelled to change clothes. Given the claims at issue and
the practical realities of the case, the Court will not
preclude officers from appearing in uniform. However, under
no circumstances will any officer be permitted to enter the
courtroom with weapons of any kind. Plaintiff's Motion in
Limine No. 12 is DENIED.
in Limine No. 13 seeks to allow Plaintiff, his
mother, his father, and his friend to testify as to whether
he changed after the incident, for purposes of establishing
that he suffered emotional distress. So long as these
witnesses are able to establish both relevance and personal
knowledge concerning these alleged changes, they will be
permitted to testify. Plaintiff's Motion in Limine No. 13
in Limine No. 14 is a request for the Court to show
the jurors the unconscious bias video during jury
orientation. The Court finds no reason to depart from its
regular practice of showing the unconscious bias video and
Defendants have withdrawn their opposition to this request.
Plaintiff's Motion in Limine No. 14 is GRANTED.
in Limine No. 15 seeks to exclude evidence of Mr.
Beausilien's unrelated prior arrests or prior criminal
record. Such evidence is not admissible for purposes of
showing Mr. Beausilien's character or that he acted in
accordance with that character during the incident in
dispute. Fed.R.Evid. 404(b). Plaintiff's Motion in Limine
No. 15 is GRANTED.
in Limine No. 16 seeks to preclude Defendants from
making “demands or requests before the jury for matters
found or contained in plaintiff's file, . . . additional
medical examinations, physical demonstrations, or other . . .
requests during the course of the trial and in the presence
of the jury.” Defendants agree that it would be
inappropriate for counsel from either side “to request
documents from any witness, demand that any witness undergo a
medical examination, or demand that any witness demonstrate a
physical limitation to the jury.” However, Defendants
object to “any prohibition on witnesses performing
physical demonstrations or re-enactments during the course of
trial, ” and suggest that counsel may ask Plaintiff to
“physically demonstrate for the jury some aspect of his
testimony, like how far he was away from someone or how he
claims Officer Durell used force ...