United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION IN LIMINE (DOC. NO.
M. SPECTOR, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
plaintiff, Lawrence Franko, filed this motion in
limine to preclude the defendants, Warden Timothy
Farrell, Warden Jon Brighthaupt, Dr. Ricardo Ruiz, and Social
Worker Lisa Simo-Kinzer,  from introducing evidence at trial
concerning the plaintiff's criminal convictions and
possible prison disciplinary record. (Doc. No. 74). The
plaintiff argues that evidence concerning his criminal
convictions is inadmissible under Fed.R.Evid. 404(b) and 609,
and that his prison disciplinary record, to the extent such a
record exists, is inadmissible under Fed.R.Evid. 404(b).
(Doc. No. 74 at 1).
reasons detailed below, the plaintiff's Motion in
Limine (Doc. No. 74) is GRANTED in part and DENIED in
plaintiff filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983, alleging that the defendants acted with deliberate
indifference to his serious medical needs in violation of his
Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual
punishment. (See Doc. No. 1 at 1; Doc. No. 73 at
3-4). The plaintiff claims that he suffers from severe
claustrophobia and that, despite knowledge of this medical
condition, on October 1, 2014, the defendants refused to
grant the plaintiff's request for special transportation
and instead transported him in a crowded judicial marshal
van. (Doc. No. 73 at 3-4). The plaintiff alleges that, while
in the van, he began feeling claustrophobic and complained to
the judicial marshals; however, the judicial marshals ignored
him. (Doc. No. 1 at 5-6; Doc. No. 73 at 3). The plaintiff
claims that he suffered a claustrophobia-induced seizure,
during which he fell face-first on the ground and suffered
injuries as a result. (Doc. No. 1 at 6; Doc. No. 73 at 3-4;
Doc. No. 74-1 at 2). The plaintiff claims also that he
subsequently learned he had suffered a minor heart attack
during the incident. (Doc. No. 1 at 8; Doc. No. 73 at 4). The
defendants deny the plaintiff's material allegations.
(Doc. No. 73 at 4).
plaintiff contends that Fed.R.Evid. 609 bars admission of his
criminal history, as “all but his most recent
conviction occurred well over ten years ago, and evidence of
his most recent conviction is of minimal probative value in
this § 1983 case and is highly prejudicial.” (Doc.
No. 74-1 at 2). He argues also that, to the extent the
plaintiff has a prison disciplinary record, it “is
inadmissible under Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b) as
evidence of prior bad acts.” (Doc. No. 74-1 at 2).
motion in limine to preclude evidence calls on the
[C]ourt to make a preliminary determination on the
admissibility of evidence under Rule 104 of the Federal Rules
of Evidence.” Highland Capital Mgmt., L.P. v.
Schneider, 379 F.Supp.2d 461 (S.D.N.Y. 2005) (internal
quotation marks omitted). “The 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.” Dougherty v. County
of Suffolk, No. CV 13-6493 (AKT), 2018 WL 1902336, at *1
(E.D.N.Y. Apr. 20, 2018) (internal quotation marks omitted);
Highland Capital Mgmt., 379 F.Supp.2d at 467.
“[O]nly when the evidence is clearly inadmissible on
all potential grounds should such evidence be excluded on a
motion in limine.” Dougherty, 2018 WL
1902336, at *1 (internal quotation marks omitted). “A
district court's in limine ruling ‘is
subject to change when the case unfolds, particularly if the
actual testimony differs from what was contained in the . . .
proffer.'” Highland Capital Mgmt., 379
F.Supp.2d at 467 (citing Luce v. United States, 469
U.S. 38, 41, 105 S.Ct. 460, 83 L.Ed.2d 443 (1984)); see
Dougherty, 2018 WL 1902336, at *1.
THE PLAINTIFF'S CONVICTIONS FROM 1975-1982
plaintiff maintains that evidence regarding his prior
convictions from 1975 through 1982 is inadmissible under
Fed.R.Evid. 609(b). Specifically, the plaintiff argues that
these convictions “occurred between 1975 and
1982” and that “[h]e was released from prison for
the last of th[e] convictions, sexual assault in the first
degree, in 1997-over twenty years ago.” (Doc. No. 74-1
at 3). The plaintiff adds that this evidence “would not
only inflame the jury against [the plaintiff], but would also
confuse what this trial is about, i.e., whether the
[d]efendants were deliberately indifferent to [the
plaintiff's] severe claustrophobia.” (Doc. No. 74-1
at 3). The Court agrees with the plaintiff.
purpose of Rule 609(b) is to “limit the admission of
evidence of criminal convictions that are too remote in time
to be reliably probative of truthfulness.”
Dougherty, 2018 WL 1902336, at *3. “Criminal
convictions more than ten years old are not admissible for
impeachment unless the court determines that, in the interest
of justice, the probative value of the conviction
substantially outweighs its prejudicial effect.”
Id. (quoting Daniels v. Loizzo, 986 F.Supp.
245, 249 (S.D.N.Y. 1997) (citing Fed.R.Evid. 609(b))
(internal quotation marks omitted). “[T]he Second
Circuit has recognized that Congress intended that
convictions more than ten years old be admitted very rarely
and only in exceptional circumstances.” Id.
(quoting Daniels, 986 F.Supp. at 252 (quoting
Zinman v. Stanley Black & Decker, Inc., 983 F.2d
431, 434 (2d Cir. 1993))) (internal quotation marks omitted).
the plaintiff has eleven convictions, which date from 1975 to
1982, and are comprised of mostly misdemeanor and some felony
offenses. (See Doc. No. 74-2 at 3). The
plaintiff's most serious prior conviction (before the
offense resulting in his current incarceration term) is the
June 1982 conviction for first degree sexual assault, which
resulted in a sentence of twenty years' imprisonment,
execution suspended after fifteen years (Doc. No. 74-2 at 3);
he was released from confinement on that sentence in 1997
(Doc. No. 74-1 at 3). There does not appear to be any
compelling argument that this case presents one of the
“exceptional circumstances” warranting admission
of the plaintiff's prior convictions from 1975 through
1982, see Dougherty, 2018 WL 1902336 at *3, the most
recent of which is nearly thirty-seven years old.
Accordingly, as to the plaintiff's convictions spanning
from 1975 through 1982, the Court grants the plaintiff's
motion to exclude his prior convictions under Fed.R.Evid.
THE PLAINTIFF'S 2008 CONVICTION
plaintiff also argues that evidence regarding his 2008
conviction of second degree kidnapping is inadmissible under
Fed.R.Evid. 609(a). Specifically, the plaintiff maintains
that “[e]vidence of [his] most recent conviction cannot
survive the Rule 403 balancing test incorporated into Rule
609(a)(1), ” and that, because the plaintiff's
current conviction “plainly did not require proof or
admission of a dishonest act or false statement[, ]”
the evidence is not admissible under Fed.R.Evid. 609(a)(2).