Phillip A. Giuffre v. P.O. Karen Jefferson
MEMORANDUM Opinion and Order Signed by the Honorable John Z. Lee on 3/10/17.Mailed notice(ca, ).
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
PHILIP A. GIUFFRE,
P.O. KAREN JEFFERSON #6856,
P.O. AMY HURLEY #19490,
P.O. MICHAEL SHEPHARD #9736,
P.O. MARLENE SMOLEK #5499,
P.O. MALCOLM DOMIO #7900,
P.O. MAUREEN WEBB #12525, and
the CITY OF CHICAGO,
14 C 3692
Judge John Z. Lee
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Philip Giuffre brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 against police officers Karen Jefferson, Amy Hurley, Michael Shephard,
Marlene Smolek, Malcolm Domio, and Maureen Webb (collectively, “the Officer
Defendants”), as well as against the City of Chicago. He alleges that, on July 11,
2013, the Officer Defendants pulled into a CVS parking lot where Plaintiff was
sitting, ordered him to exit his car, fired their weapons at him several times, and
thereby caused him serious injury. Based upon these allegations, Plaintiff brings a
claim for use of excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment. He also
brings a claim for battery under Illinois law.
In anticipation of trial, the parties have filed various motions in limine. Now
before the Court is Plaintiff’s motion in limine to bar Defendants’ expert witness Dr.
Angelos Halaris . For the reasons stated herein, the motion is granted.
“Although the Federal Rules of Evidence do not explicitly authorize in limine
rulings, the practice has developed pursuant to the district court’s inherent
authority to manage the course of trials.” Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 n.4
Rulings in limine avoid delay and allow the parties the opportunity to
prepare themselves and witnesses for the introduction or exclusion of the applicable
evidence. See Wilson v. Williams, 182 F.3d 562, 566 (7th Cir. 1999); United States
v. Connelly, 874 F.2d 412, 416 (7th Cir. 1989). Trial courts have broad discretion in
ruling on evidentiary issues before trial. See United States v. Chambers, 642 F.3d
588, 594 (7th Cir. 2011); Cefalu v. Vill. of Elk Grove, 211 F.3d 416, 426 (7th Cir.
2000). Moreover, rulings on motions in limine are “subject to change when the case
unfolds.” Luce, 469 U.S. at 41; see also Farfaras v. Citizens Bank & Trust of Chi.,
433 F.3d 558, 565 (7th Cir. 2006). Indeed, “even if nothing unexpected happens at
trial, the district judge is free, in the exercise of sound judicial discretion, to alter a
previous in limine ruling.” Luce, 469 U.S. at 41–42.
The admissibility of expert testimony is governed by Federal Rule of
Evidence (FRE) 702 and the Supreme Court’s seminal decision in Daubert v. Merrell
Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993). See United States v. Parra, 402
F.3d 752, 758 (7th Cir. 2005). FRE 702 allows the admission of testimony by an
expert—that is, someone with the requisite “knowledge, skill, experience, training,
or education”—to help the trier of fact “understand the evidence or [ ] determine a
fact in issue.” Fed. R. Evid. 702. An expert witness is permitted to testify when
(1) the testimony is “based on sufficient facts or data,” (2) the testimony is “the
product of reliable principles and methods,” and (3) the witness has “reliably
applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.” Id. The proponent of
an expert witness bears the burden of demonstrating that the expert’s testimony
would satisfy the Daubert standard by a preponderance of the evidence. Lewis v.
CITGO Petroleum Corp., 561 F.3d 698, 705 (7th Cir. 2009).
Under Daubert, the Court must act as the evidentiary gatekeeper, ensuring
that FRE 702’s requirements of reliability and relevance are satisfied before
allowing the finder of fact to hear the testimony of a proffered expert. See Daubert,
509 U.S. at 589; see also Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137, 147–49
(1999). District courts have broad discretion in determining the admissibility of
expert testimony. See Lapsley v. Xtek, Inc., 689 F.3d 802, 810 (7th Cir. 2012). In
considering whether to admit expert testimony, district courts employ a three-part
framework that inquires whether: (1) the expert is qualified by knowledge, skill,
experience, training, or education; (2) the reasoning or methodology underlying the
expert’s testimony is reliable; and (3) the expert’s testimony will assist the trier of
fact in understanding the evidence or determining a factual issue. See Bielskis v.
Louisville Ladder, Inc., 663 F.3d 887, 893–94 (7th Cir. 2011).
Plaintiff has moved to bar Defendants’ expert Dr. Angelos Halaris.
Halaris is a certified psychiatrist who has practiced clinical psychiatry for over forty
years. Based upon his review of various documents disclosed during discovery, as
well as the deposition testimony of Plaintiff and other witnesses, Dr. Halaris has
offered the following opinion about Plaintiff’s mental state during the incident on
July 11, 2013, giving rise to this lawsuit:
On 7/11/2013, the rapidly unfolding situation of rejection of [Plaintiff’s]
request for an early refill [of his prescription medication] and the
sudden appearance of police cars and officers generated a sense of
inescapability and total defeat. I view his decision to exit his car and
simulate an assault on police by pretending to hold a gun as his wish
to be relieved from his unrelenting emotional pain. 1
Defs.’ Resp. Pl.’s Mot. Limine No. 3, Ex. A, at 15, ECF No. 142.
Plaintiff objects to this testimony on the ground that it impermissibly
assumes as true Defendants’ version of the facts and therefore will not be helpful to
the jury. In particular, Plaintiff asserts that Dr. Halaris’s testimony assumes as
true that Plaintiff “exited his car and simulated an assault on police by pretending
to hold a gun.” Plaintiff denies that this description of the events is accurate.
Expert testimony cannot be offered merely for the purpose of bolstering the
credibility of a party’s version of the facts. The reason for this general rule is that,
rather than helping the jury “to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in
issue,” Fed. R. Evid. 702(a), such testimony usurps the jury’s role by “wrap[ping] the
lay witness in the expert’s prestige and authority.” Nunez v. BNSF Ry. Co., 730
F.3d 681, 684 (7th Cir. 2013). As such, expert testimony that primarily rests upon
the assumption that a lay witness has testified accurately is inadmissible. See id.
Dr. Halaris offers a total of five opinions, and this opinion is his fifth. The Court
discusses his fifth opinion first, however, because its admissibility is the pivotal issue
presented in Plaintiff’s motion in limine. Dr. Halaris’s other four opinions are discussed in
further detail below.
(holding that expert testimony was properly barred when it “rested mainly not on
the technical evidence that [the experts] planned to give but on their belief that
[certain lay witnesses] had testified accurately”); Clark v. Takata Corp., 192 F.3d
750, 757–59 (7th Cir. 1999) (emphasis in original) (holding that testimony from the
plaintiff’s expert was properly barred as unlikely to assist the trier of fact when the
expert “assume[d] as truth the very issue that [the plaintiff] need[ed] to prove in
order to recover”).
Here, Plaintiff is correct that Dr. Halaris’s opinion regarding Plaintiff’s state
of mind on July 11, 2013, does precisely what expert testimony must not do: it
assumes as true Defendants’ account that Plaintiff simulated an assault on police
by pretending to hold a gun.
Whether the jury chooses to credit Defendants’
account on this matter is a central question in this case, because it bears on
whether Defendants’ response to Plaintiff’s actions was an objectively reasonable
use of force. Thus, allowing Dr. Halaris to offer an opinion relying in primary part
upon the assumption that Defendants’ account is accurate would cause significant
confusion regarding this issue and impermissibly usurp the jury’s role. As such,
under FRE 702, Dr. Halaris is barred from offering an opinion as to Plaintiff’s state
of mind or motive during the events on July 11, 2013.
Even apart from FRE 702, however, FRE 403 provides an additional,
independent basis for barring Dr. Halaris’s opinion. Under FRE 403, “[t]he court
may exclude relevant evidence if its probative value is substantially outweighed by
a danger of . . . unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, misleading the jury, undue
delay, wasting time, or needlessly presenting cumulative evidence.” Fed. R. Evid.
403. In an excessive force case such as this one, the key inquiry for the fact finder is
whether the defendants used objectively reasonable force against the plaintiff.
Deering v. Reich, 183 F.3d 645, 650 (7th Cir. 1999) (citing Graham v. Connor, 490
U.S. 386 (1989)). “Reasonableness depends on the information the officer possesses
prior to and at the immediate time of the shooting,” and not on any information the
officer learns only after the shooting. Id.
Given the nature of the key substantive inquiry in this case, it is clear that
Dr. Halaris’s opinion is of minimal probative value. It does not bear on information
that the Officer Defendants knew on July 11, 2013, and it therefore does not
directly speak to whether the Officer Defendants used objectively reasonable force.
Rather, Dr. Halaris’s opinion serves the limited purpose of discrediting Plaintiff’s
anticipated testimony that, at the time in question, he was happy and therefore
unlikely to purposely simulate an assault on police in the manner that the Officer
Defendants claim to have perceived. Furthermore, Dr. Halaris’s opinion is both
severely prejudicial and likely to mislead the jury because, as explained above, it
packages harmful facts about Plaintiff in the commanding garb of expert testimony.
The Court therefore finds that Dr. Halaris’s opinion carries risks of prejudice and
confusion that substantially outweigh its probative value, and the opinion is
accordingly barred under FRE 403.
In addition to his opinion regarding Plaintiff’s state of mind on July 11, 2013,
Dr. Halaris advances four other opinions, all of which Plaintiff also seeks to bar.
These four opinions are as follows:
[Plaintiff] presented a complex picture of psychopathology
including depression, anxiety, impulsivity, and significant potential for
aggression and violence for which he never established a consistent
therapeutic relationship with any of the mental health providers he
encountered. There is no record of [Plaintiff] maintaining a sustained
relationship with a psychiatrist or psychologist that would have been
essential in assisting him with his physical and psychological issues.
[Plaintiff] had chronic pain conditions requiring opioid
analgesics to bring the pain under control and at times he used two
different ones concomitantly over a long period of time, both pre- and
postoperatively for his back.
[Plaintiff] encountered repeated stressful situations both at
work and in his personal life. He was placed on disability due to his
impairments, both physical and psychological, and therefore was
unable to do the job for which he was trained. He had a history of two
divorces, a possible third one looming, and charges of child abuse
resulting in protracted separation from his wife and family imposed on
him by [the Department of Child and Family Services].
[Plaintiff] meets criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder,
which explains many of his behavioral patterns, his impulsivity, his
dysfunctional relationships and his suicide attempts. This profile was
identified as early as 1997 and cogently described in [another
psychologist’s] report. His behavior continued on this trajectory. He
was impulsive, had a work injury resulting in surgery and chronic
pain, addiction to opioids and alcohol abuse, suicide attempts,
interpersonal difficulties, and profound frustration with involved
agencies, and ultimate defeat.
Defs.’ Resp., Ex. A, at 14–15.
Plaintiff argues that all four of these opinions should be barred as prejudicial
and confusing, as well as irrelevant in light of the Court’s decision to bar Dr.
Halaris’s opinion regarding Plaintiff’s mental state on July 11, 2013. The Court
agrees that these four opinions are highly inflammatory and unlikely to assist the
trier of fact under both FRE 403 and 702. Relatedly, they are also of negligible
relevance (if any relevance at all) to the issues in this case, given that Dr. Halaris
has been barred from testifying as to Plaintiff’s mental state during the events on
July 11, 2013. As such, Dr. Halaris’s remaining four opinions are also barred from
evidence under FRE 403 and 702.
Defendants nevertheless maintain that Dr. Halaris’s testimony should be
admissible, but none of their supporting arguments is persuasive.
Defendants contend that Dr. Halaris’s testimony will not confuse the jury on the
basis that, if the jury chooses to discredit Defendants’ version of the facts, they can
also choose to discredit Dr. Halaris’s opinion. This argument ignores the concerns
that the Seventh Circuit has expressed regarding the inherent risks of confusion
and prejudice whenever expert testimony assumes as true one party’s version of
See Nunez, 730 F.3d at 684; Clark, 192 F.3d at 757–59.
argument is therefore without merit.
Second, Defendants contend that Dr. Halaris’s testimony should be admitted
because it is relevant to the issues in this case. In disputing Defendants’ version of
the facts that took place on July 11, 2013, Plaintiff testified during his deposition
that it would not have made any sense for him to simulate an attack as a suicide
attempt, because he was “very, very happy” at the time of the events in question.
Defs.’ Resp., Ex. B, at 135:9. Defendants expect Plaintiff to give similar testimony
at trial, and they seek to rebut this testimony by adducing evidence that Plaintiff
was unhappy and possibly suicidal. In light of Defendants’ explanation on this
point, the Court agrees that some of Dr. Halaris’s proffered opinions may become
relevant—but only to the extent that Plaintiff first opens the door to this issue at
trial. 2 Unless and until Plaintiff gives such testimony, Dr. Halaris’s opinions will
remain minimally probative and significantly prejudicial, for the reasons explained
above, and they should thus remain excluded.
Finally, Defendants cite several cases in support of their argument that the
Court should admit Dr. Halaris’s testimony. See Defs.’ Resp. at 6. But these cases
involved issues and facts that make them readily distinguishable from the case at
See Wilson v. City of Chi., 758 F.3d 875, 883 (7th Cir. 2014) (rejecting
evidentiary objection to expert testimony on plaintiff’s past drug and alcohol use
where the testimony was relevant to the issue of loss-of-society damages and where
plaintiff had waived the objection by failing to raise it at trial); Estate of Escobedo v.
Martin, 702 F.3d 388, 401 (7th Cir. 2012) (permitting expert testimony from
plaintiff’s therapist, who had conducted a psychological assessment of plaintiff and
informed police of plaintiff’s history drug use and mental health issues prior to the
events underlying plaintiff’s excessive force claim); Thomas v. Landrum, No. 11 C
09275, 2014 WL 11370447, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 18, 2014) (permitting evidence of
plaintiff’s mental health in false arrest case where plaintiff claimed he had
previously had negative interactions with police that resulted in the need for
If Plaintiff does, in fact, open the door to this issue at trial, then Defendants may
request at that time—outside the presence of the jury—that the Court reconsider its ruling
on the admissibility of Dr. Halaris’s first four opinions.
psychological counseling). Most importantly, the proffered experts in the cases that
Defendants cite did not assume one side’s version of central disputed facts to be
true, as Dr. Halaris has done here.
Defendants’ reliance upon these cases is
For the reasons stated herein, Plaintiff’s motion in limine to bar Defendants’
expert witness Dr. Angelos Halaris  is granted.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
John Z. Lee
United States District Judge
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