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United States v. Throckmorton

March 1, 2006

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
THOMAS EDWARD THROCKMORTON



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Terrence F. McVerry United States District Court Judge

MEMORANDUM ORDER OF COURT

Presently before the Court for disposition are three Motions in Limine, with brief in support, filed by Defendant, Thomas Edward Throckmorton (Document Nos. 33, 34, and 35, respectively). The government has filed an omnibus Response to these motions (Document No. 38).

After consideration of the filings of the parties, and the relevant statutory and case law, the Court makes the following rulings.

DEFENDANT'S FIRST MOTION IN LIMINE (Document No. 33)

Defendant's criminal record reveals prior convictions in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, at CC200216209, for one Count of Simple Assault and One Count of Terroristic Threats. In his first motion in limine, Defendant requests that the government be precluded from introducing any evidence of these prior convictions pursuant to Rule 404(b) of the Federal Rules of Evidence.

The government responds that it "intends to offer evidence of the defendant's prior convictions a trial" and requests "that a ruling on this matter be postponed until such time as the issue becomes ripe for determination." Govt's Resp. at ¶¶ 15, 17.

Under the Federal Rules of Evidence, an accused's prior bad acts are inadmissible to prove that the defendant had a propensity for criminal behavior. Fed. R. Evid. 404(a). A jury may not draw the inference that because a defendant committed a crime previously, he committed the crime for which he is currently on trial. Fed. R. Evid. 404(b). However, there are purposes for which evidence of prior convictions may be admissible substantively. Under Rule 404(b),

[e]vidence of other crimes . . . is not admissible to prove the character of a person in order to show action in conformity therewith. It may, however, be admissible for other purposes, such as proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake or accident. . . .

Id. Thus, prior convictions are only admissible if they fall within the second sentence of Rule 404(b). The government has not proffered any "other purpose," under Rule 404(b) for which such evidence would be admissible in this case, other than to state that "[a]ll convictions for serious offenses have some probative value as they are indicative of a tendency on the part of the defendant to put his desires above those of society, . . . ." Govt's Resp. at ¶ 4.

The Court has considered the probative value of this proposed evidence as well as the prejudicial effect of admitting same and finds that the risk of prejudice to the Defendant from such evidence is substantial and far outweighs its probative value. Accordingly, the Court finds and rules that Defendants' prior convictions for assault and terroristic threats are inadmissible in the government's case-in-chief.

However, Rule 609(a) controls the question of whether an accused may be impeached by the government through the introduction of evidence concerning his prior conviction(s). Conviction of a crime punishable by imprisonment in excess of one year under the law under which the witness was convicted may be used to impeach a defendant's credibility in the circumstances set forth in Rule 609(a)(1). Therefore, the Court will reserve a ruling as to whether such evidence may be admitted on cross examination if the Defendant takes the witness stand and testifies.

Defendant's First Motion in Limine is GRANTED to the extent that Defendant's prior criminal convictions for Simple Assault and Terroristic Threats may not be introduced in the government's case-in-chief.

Defendant's Second Motion in Limine (Document No. 34)

Defendant seeks to prevent the government from introducing any testimony and/or evidence which pertains to prior trips to Arizona by Robert Gailey ("Gailey") to secure marijuana for Defendant. Defendant argues that such testimony and/or evidence is not admissible pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b) and further should be excluded under Rule 403 because its probative value is substantially ...


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