The opinion of the court was delivered by: BRODY
Plaintiff Andrew DiJoseph ("DiJoseph") brings this Motion for a New Trial after the jury returned a verdict in favor of defendant Officer Carmen Vuotto ("Vuotto"). DiJoseph alleged violations of the Fourth Amendment for excessive force after suffering injuries when Vuotto shot him on September 22, 1993, during a confrontation between DiJoseph and police officers from the City of Philadelphia. DiJoseph enumerates a myriad of reasons for a new trial. Among them, DiJoseph claims that (1) admission of DiJoseph's state court guilty plea of aggravated assault involving the same incidents as those at trial, and (2) admission of evidence of drug possession and paraphernalia caused substantial injustice to DiJoseph's case thereby warranting a new trial. For the reasons outlined below, I find none of the plaintiffs' arguments persuasive. Accordingly, I will deny plaintiffs' Motion for a New Trial.
The facts of this case are clearly set forth in DiJoseph v. City of Philadelphia, 947 F. Supp. 834 (E.D. Pa. 1996) ("DiJoseph I ") and DiJoseph v. City of Philadelphia, 953 F. Supp. 602 (E.D. Pa. 1997) ("DiJoseph II ").
Rule 59 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides in pertinent part:
A new trial may be granted to all or any of the parties and on all or part of the issues (1) in an action in which there has been a trial by jury, for any of the reasons for which new trials have heretofore been granted in actions at law in the courts of the United States.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(a). A new trial is generally warranted only when the district court is persuaded that there has been a miscarriage of justice. Van Scoy v. Powermatic, 810 F. Supp. 131, 134 (M.D. Pa. 1992); see generally 11 Charles A. Wright, Arthur R. Miller, & Mary K. Kane, Federal Practice and Procedure (hereinafter "Wright & Miller") § 2803 (1995) ("Courts do not grant new trials unless it is reasonably clear that prejudicial error has crept into the record or that substantial justice has not been done . . .") Such might occur if a verdict is contrary to the great weight of the evidence or because of errors made at trial, such as the admission of improper evidence or errors in the jury charge. Farra v. Stanley-Bostitch, Inc., 838 F. Supp. 1021; Sandrow v. United States, 832 F. Supp. 918 (E.D. Pa. 1993); 11 Wright & Miller § 2805. At the same time, however, courts must "disregard any error or defect in the proceeding which does not affect the substantial rights of the parties." Fed. R. Civ. P. 61 (harmless error).
DiJoseph outlines dozens of reasons for why I should grant a new trial. Rule 61, however, instructs me to disregard those possible errors or defects that would not affect DiJoseph's substantial rights. Plaintiffs' contentions of arguable merit include (1) DiJoseph's state court guilty plea of aggravated assault should not have been admitted and the attack on the validity of DiJoseph's criminal conviction should not have been precluded; and (2) evidence of DiJoseph's possible drug use or possession or drug paraphernalia found in his home after the shooting should not have been admitted at trial. I will deal with each claim in turn.
A. Admissibility of DiJoseph's State Court Guilty Plea of Aggravated Assault
On November 4, 1994, DiJoseph pled guilty to aggravated assault and possession of a weapon of crime in state court for pointing a gun at Officer Vuotto during the confrontation of September 22, 1993. The facts to which DiJoseph pled guilty read as follows:
On September 22, 1993, at approximately 1:18 p.m., at 6524 Dorel Street, City and County of Philadelphia, [Andrew DiJoseph] while in possession of a fully loaded .38 pistol, did point it at Police Officer Carmen Vuotto, badge number 5393, of the Stakeout Unit in an attempt to cause serious bodily ...