Pacheco v. City of Springfield, Tennessee et al
MEMORANDUM & ORDER: The Motion in Limine regarding prior "bad acts" by the defendant is hereby GRANTED. It is so ORDERED. Signed by District Judge Aleta A. Trauger on 7/26/2017. (DOCKET TEXT SUMMARY ONLY-ATTORNEYS MUST OPEN THE PDF AND READ THE ORDER.)(eh)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE
JOSE OSMIN CALDERON PACHECO,
Case No. 3:11-cv-00221
Judge Aleta A. Trauger
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
Pending before the court is Motion in Limine #10, filed by defendant Officer Will
Johnson, Regarding the Limitation of Testimony Involving his Prior “Bad Acts” (Docket No.
317), to which the plaintiff, Jose Osmin Calderon Pacheco, has filed a Response in opposition
(Docket No. 353). For the reasons discussed herein, the motion will be granted.
BACKGROUND & PROCEDURAL HISTORY
This action centers around allegations that the defendant, while on duty as a police officer
in Springfield, Tennessee, unreasonably used excessive force against the plaintiff, violating the
plaintiff’s constitutional rights and resulting in severe personal injury. On July 7, 2017, the
defendant filed the pending Motion in Limine seeking to prohibit the plaintiff from introducing
evidence of prior “bad acts” by the defendant. (Docket No. 317.) In particular, the defendant
enumerated two categories of evidence regarding prior conduct by the defendant that the plaintiff
might wish to introduce. The first is evidence relating to allegations that the defendant
committed child abuse against his daughter in 2012, including any evidence about the
defendant’s past or present disciplinary practices involving his daughter. The second category is
evidence of instances in which the defendant was subject to disciplinary action while working as
a police officer for the city of Springfield. These disciplinary actions involve the following
conduct by the defendant: charging a woman with unlawful possession of a weapon where her
weapon was later discovered to be a toy, failing to audio record a telephone call, improperly
implementing a high speed chase in response to a misdemeanor, not documenting paperwork as
needed, missing mandatory court appearances, not providing documentation for sick leave, being
accused (but later exonerated) of forging sick leave documentation, and being subject to an
internal investigation regarding bad checks written from his account that were later found to have
been written by his girlfriend.
On July 21, 2017, the plaintiff filed a Response in opposition to the defendant’s Motion
in Limine, arguing that 1) evidence of the defendant’s prior acts involving alleged abuse or
violence against his daughter should be admitted for the purpose of showing that the defendant
has a propensity toward violence and a likelihood to overreact in a situation such as his
altercation with the plaintiff, and 2) evidence of disciplinary actions taken against the defendant
should be admitted because it demonstrates the defendant’s disregard for following police
department policy and procedures, a key factor in the incident giving rise to this action. (Docket
Under Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b)(1), “[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.” Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b)(2) further
provides that “[t]his evidence may be admissible for another purpose, such as proving motive,
opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, absence of mistake, or lack of
accident.” Even when seeking to admit evidence of prior bad acts for non-character purposes, it
must be shown that the probative value outweighs the potential prejudicial effect. See
Huddleston v. United States, 485 U.S. 681, 688 (1988); United States v. Will, 612 F. App’x 265,
267 (6th Cir. 2015) (citing United States v. Clay, 667 F.3d 689, 693 (6th Cir. 2012)).
The plaintiff’s very argument for admitting the evidence at issue in this motion is that the
evidence demonstrates the defendant’s propensity for violence and his likelihood to act in
defiance of police policy and procedures. This is the very definition of inadmissible character
evidence that is offered to prove the defendant’s character (violent and disobedient) in order to
show that he acted in accordance with this character during the incidents giving rise to this
action. To support his position that this evidence should be admitted, the plaintiff cites West v.
City of Philadelphia, Civ. A. No. 86-7487, 1988 WL 21955 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 29, 1988).1 The
plaintiff, however, mischaracterizes this case. The plaintiff suggests that West stands for the
proposition that prior acts of violence and unlawfulness should be admitted to show intent to act
violent and unlawfully during the incident giving rise to the action. In fact, however, the West
opinion, after noting that such evidence would be admissible only if it related to the question of
intent and if its probative value in doing so outweighed any prejudicial effect, ultimately found
this type of evidence to be inadmissible, due to lack of probative value as to intent. Likewise, in
this instance, the evidence in question has no probative value with respect to the defendant’s
intent in his altercation with the plaintiff.
The plaintiff also cites Beck v. City of Pittsburgh, 89 F.3d 966 (3rd Cir. 1966). Beck, however,
is wholly distinguishable because it involved the admissibility of evidence of prior bad conduct
in the context of a municipality defendant’s knowledge of an alleged pattern of misconduct
related to a claim against the municipality for its own policies and procedures of allowing the
misconduct to persist.
Indeed, the plaintiff advances no basis for admitting this evidence for a non-character
purpose under Rule 404(b)(1). Nothing about the plaintiff’s prior conduct at issue in this motion
speaks to his motive or intent on the night in question or to any other aspect of his interactions
with the plaintiff. Moreover, this evidence is highly prejudicial and the prejudice outweighs any
possible probative value. For these reasons, the evidence will not be admitted.
For the foregoing reasons, the Motion in Limine regarding prior “bad acts” by the
defendant is hereby GRANTED.
It is so ORDERED.
Enter this 26th day of July 2017.
ALETA A. TRAUGER
United States District Judge
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