WILLIAMS v. CITY OF PHILADELPHIA et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER THAT JOHN O'CONNOR FIRST MOTION IN LIMINE (ECF NO.39) IS GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART. JOHN O'CONNOR SECOND MOTION IN LIMINE (ECF NO.40) IS GRANTED; ETC.. SIGNED BY HONORABLE GERALD J. PAPPERT ON 2/2/17. 2/2/17 ENTERED AND E-MAILED.(jl, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
JOHN O’CONNOR, et al.,
February 2, 2017
On March 3, 2012 Devin Williams was a passenger in Michael Jacobs’s car in
Philadelphia. (Amended Compl., ¶ 8, ECF No. 8.) Jacobs was driving Williams to meet
Williams’s girlfriend and the pair stopped at Williams’s house so he could pick up a change of
clothes. (Id. ¶ 9.) While Williams was inside, Philadelphia Police Officer John O’Connor and a
fellow officer saw Jacobs sitting in his car counting money; they then saw Williams return to the
car with a shopping bag. (Id. ¶¶ 10–12.) When Jacobs and Williams resumed driving, the
officers followed the car briefly before pulling it over. (Id. ¶ 13.)
Williams contends that the officers immediately ordered him out of the car and frisked
him, though they did not do either to Jacobs. (Id. ¶¶ 14–16.) Williams is African-American and
Jacobs is white. (Id. ¶ 8.) During their search, the police found several small bags of marijuana
in Williams’s pants pocket. The officers put Williams in their police car until another car could
arrive to transport him. (Id. ¶ 17.) While waiting in the police car, Williams hid his gun—
somehow not detected during the frisk—under the seat. (Id. ¶ 17.) Williams was arrested and
subsequently charged with various crimes. He spent approximately thirteen months in prison
awaiting trial. (Id. ¶¶ 20 & 21.) A state court judge eventually suppressed the evidence gathered
during the traffic stop, and Williams was not convicted of any crimes. (Id. ¶ 22.)
Williams sued O’Connor, other officers and the City of Philadelphia, though due to
amendment of Williams’s original complaint and his subsequent voluntary dismissal of other
defendants, Officer O’Connor is the only remaining named defendant. See (ECF Nos. 8 & 25).
Williams contends that O’Connor violated his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by
illegally searching and seizing him and selectively enforcing the laws against him. Trial begins
on February 8, 2017 and O’Connor has filed two motions in limine. The first seeks to preclude
evidence of Williams’s incarceration and alleged lost wages resulting from the traffic stop and
arrest. (ECF No. 39.) The second motion asks the Court to bar Williams from introducing into
evidence the judge’s suppression decision. (ECF No. 40.) For the reasons given below, the first
motion is granted in part and the second motion is granted in its entirety.
In ECF No. 39, O’Connor contends that Williams may “only recover damages based on
the three minutes separating his stop from . . . his arrest,” and evidence of subsequent
incarceration or lost wages is therefore irrelevant and inadmissible. See (id.) O’Connor relies on
Hector v. Watt, 235 F.3d 154, 157 (3d Cir. 2001), for the proposition that a plaintiff “cannot be
compensated for injuries that result from the discovery of incriminating evidence and consequent
criminal prosecution.” (ECF No. 39, at 4.) In Hector, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals
determined that a § 1983 plaintiff alleging Fourth Amendment violations cannot recover
damages for injuries that arise from the discovery of incriminating evidence during an unlawful
search. Hector, 235 F.3d at 157. The Third Circuit reasoned that the damages resulting from the
later prosecution are “too unrelated” to the privacy interests the Fourth Amendment seeks to
protect. Hector, 235 F.3d at 157 (citing Carey v. Piphus, 435 U.S. 247, 264–65 (1978)), see also
id. (“[T]he damages available under § 1983 depend on the type of constitutional right asserted.”
(citing Carey, 435 U.S. at 265); Carey, 435 U.S. at 265 ([T]he elements and prerequisites for
recovery of damages appropriate to compensate injuries caused by the deprivation of one
constitutional right are not necessarily appropriate to compensate injuries caused by the
deprivation of another. . . . [T]hese issues must be considered with reference to the nature of the
interests protected by the particular constitutional right in question.”)). Williams therefore
cannot recover, under his illegal search and seizure claim, damages for his incarceration or lost
wages. See Hector, 235 F.3d at 157 (“The evil of an unreasonable search or seizure is that it
invades privacy, not that it uncovers crime, which is no evil at all.”).
Williams’s alleged Fourth Amendment injury occurred during the search and seizure, not
his subsequent detention. See Alvin v. Calabrese, 455 F. App’x 171, 178 (3d Cir. 2011) (“The
alleged damages [the plaintiff] claims to have suffered after his arrest were not the direct result
of an invasion of his privacy in violation of the Fourth Amendment.”). Any evidence of
Williams’s incarceration or wages allegedly lost while he was incarcerated is therefore irrelevant
and inadmissible in the context of his Fourth Amendment claim.
O’Connor contends that Hector’s reasoning extends beyond the Fourth Amendment and
applies to claims under the Fourteenth Amendment as well. He cites an unpublished and nonprecedential Third Circuit Court of Appeals case, Washington v. Hanshaw, 552 F. App’x 169 (3d
Cir. 2014). In that case, the plaintiff brought “a virtual cornuocopia of constitutional tort[ ]”
claims, each purportedly grounded in the Fourteenth Amendment. 552 F. App’x at 172.1 The
Third Circuit held that a plaintiff guilty of the underlying offense could not recover damages for
Washington’s claims included “(1) violation of procedural due process, (2) right to substantive due process,
(3) denial of right of access to court, (4) deprivation of the right to liberty, (5) wrongful prosecution, (6) wrongful
coniviction, and (7) wrongful incarceration.” Washington, 552 F. App’x 169 (3d Cir. 2014).
later incarceration. The Court stated: “We believe our reasoning in Hector compels the result
here, notwithstanding [the plaintiff’s] reliance on the Fourteenth rather than the Fourth
Amendment.” Id. at 173.
Washington’s holding is not, however, as broad as O’Connor contends. In that case, the
plaintiff purported to bring Fourteenth Amendment claims that were, in reality, allegations of
Fourth Amendment violations couched in the language of the Fourteenth Amendment. See id. at
173 (“The conduct and harm Washington alleges are the same types as those asserted in Hector:
the police discovered incriminating evidence in the course of a search later determined to be
unconstitutional.”). The court in Washington therefore noted that the plaintiff’s claim was “akin
to a claim asserting ‘a substantive right under the . . . Fourteenth Amendment to be free from
criminal prosecution except upon probable cause.” Id. at 172. Faced with this attempt to expand
Hector, the Third Circuit noted that the Fourth Amendment “provides an explicit textual source
of such constitutional protection,” and refused to permit the plaintiff to collect damages for
events occurring after the search. Id. (citing Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 395 (1989)).
Williams’s situation is different. While the Plaintiff in Washington alleged “the same
types [of claims] asserted in Hector,” Washington, 552 F. App’x at 173—that is, claims that
ultimately sound in Fourth Amendment violations—Williams’s Fourteenth Amendment selective
enforcement claim is distinct from his Fourth Amendment claim. He contends that he not only
was subjected to an unlawful search, but also that he was treated differently from a similarly
situated individual, and that different treatment was based on the impermissible factor of race, a
distinct constitutional interest. See Dique v. N.J. State Police, 603 F.3d 181, 184 n.5 (3d Cir.
2010) (detailing requirements of a Fourteenth Amendment selective enforcement claim).
Williams’s Fourteenth Amendment selective enforcement claim raises issues distinct
from his Fourth Amendment unlawful search and seizure claim. Because he has an equal
protection interest protected by the Fourteenth Amendment, Williams may recover damages for
lost wages and the time he spent incarcerated. Cf., e.g., Hector, 235 F.3d at 157 (“[T]he
damages available under § 1983 depend on the type of constitutional right asserted.” (citing
Carey, 435 U.S. at 265)). Evidence of lost wages and time incarcerated is both relevant and
highly probative of Williams’s damages. Williams may therefore introduce this evidence to
show damages for his Fourteenth Amendment selective enforcement claim only.
O’Connor also contends that evidence of the state court’s suppression decision is
inadmissible. He argues that the decision is irrelevant under Federal Rule of Evidence 401 and
that even if relevant, the probative value of the suppression decision is substantially outweighed
by the risk of unfair prejudice such that the evidence is inadmissible under Rule 403. Williams
contends that the evidence is relevant and highly probative, because O’Connor’s motivations and
credibility are a jury question, and would potentially demonstrate that the search and seizure at
issue here was unlawful.
Evidence of the state court’s suppression decision is inadmissible under Rule 403.
Whatever the decision’s probative value may be, it will be substantially outweighed by unfair
prejudice and risk of confusing the jury. Jurors may give undue weight to the judge’s decision.
Whether there was reasonable suspicion for O’Connor to stop Jacobs and Williams is an
ultimate, if not dispositive, fact at issue in this case. O’Connor will be highly prejudiced if
evidence of the state court’s decision regarding the ultimate question is admitted. Cf. Thomas v.
O’Brien, 539 F. App’x 21, 22 (2d Cir. 2013) (upholding magistrate’s decision to preclude
evidence of state court suppression decision where doing so risked jury confusion); cf. also
Jackson v. City of Philadelphia, No. 11-4294, 2013 WL 101779, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 8, 2013)
(addressing question of issue preclusion and noting that “[c]ase law in this Circuit has
established that a state court finding of no probable cause is not ordinarily binding in a
subsequent § 1983 action” because the parties are different in the state court proceeding).
Williams’s § 1983 claim is distinct from the initial criminal case; the suppression decision
occurred in a separate proceeding between different parties. A previous decision by a judge may
foreclose the issue for the juror, despite the fact that it will be the jury’s duty in this case to
determine whether reasonable suspicion existed.
There is also a substantial risk of misleading or confusing the jury. Jurors will be forced
to speculate about the suppression decision; the reasons for that decision are unknown. The jury
will hear for themselves the reasons for the traffic stop and can make their own decision as to its
An appropriate order follows.
BY THE COURT:
/s/ Gerald J. Pappert
GERALD J. PAPPERT, J.
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