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Jackson v. City of Pittsburgh

June 17, 2010

CHARLES JACKSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE CITY OF PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA, TIMOTHY KREGER, MARK GOOB, JAMES JOYCE, GREGORY WOODHALL, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Nora Barry Fischer

MEMORANDUM ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

This is a civil rights case brought by Plaintiff, Charles Jackson, against Defendants, the City of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Timothy Kreger, Mark Goob, James Joyce and Gregory Woodhall, arising from the officers' arrest of Plaintiff on November 2, 2001 and subsequent incarceration after a traffic stop in the Homewood section of Pittsburgh.*fn1 Presently before the Court are motions from both parties requesting pretrial rulings as to the admissibility of the Plaintiff Charles Jackson's prior convictions at the trial of his § 1983 claims against the City of Pittsburgh and four city police officers. (Docket Nos. 124, 125, 133, 134, 143, 144, 146, 148). Upon consideration of the parties' submissions and after hearing oral argument from counsel as to same at the Pretrial Conference held on June 16, 2010, it is hereby ordered that Plaintiff's motion is granted, in part, and denied, in part, and Defendants' motion is granted.

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff intends to testify at trial and, given the factual circumstances of this case, he is the only witness able to substantiate many of his claims. Defendants seek to impeach his credibility with his prior criminal convictions at trial. Plaintiff's prior convictions at issue are as follows:

* September 11, 1990, pled guilty to engaging in receiving stolen property under 18 Pa.C.S. § 3925;

* September 11, 1990, pled guilty to theft by unlawful taking under 18 Pa.C.S. § 3921;

* May 23, 2005, pled nolo contendere to criminal mischief under 18 Pa.C.S. § 3304(a)(3) due to forgery of a deed;

* December 6, 2007, found guilty of attempted theft by deception under 18 Pa.C.S. § 3922;

* December 6, 2007, found guilty of attempted retail theft under

18 Pa.C.S. § 3929; and,

* December 6, 2007, drug trafficking convictions for which he is presently incarcerated.

III. LEGAL STANDARD

Rule 608(b)*fn2 of the Federal Rules of Evidence generally prevents the admissibility of specific instances of conduct for the purpose of attacking or supporting the character of a witness. FED.R.EVID. 608. Pertinent here, Rule 609(a)*fn3 contains exceptions to this general rule; permitting the introduction of a prior conviction of a witness "if the crime was punishable by death or imprisonment in excess of one year under the law under which the witness was convicted," FED.R.EVID. 609(a)(1), and if the "crime required proof or admission of an act of dishonesty or false statements," FED.R.EVID. 609(a)(2). The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has held that "Rule 609(a) differentiates on its face between convictions for crimes punishable by imprisonment of more than one year, which are admissible under 609(a)(1), and convictions for crimen falsi, which are admissible under 609(a)(2)." United States v. Wong, 703 F.2d 65, 67 (3d Cir. 1983). "The former may be admitted only if the trial court determines that their probative value outweighs their prejudicial effect. The latter simply 'shall be admitted.'" Id. (quoting FED.R.EVID. 609(a)(2)). Further, "if the prior conviction involved dishonesty or false statements, the conviction is automatically admissible insofar as the district court is without discretion to weigh the prejudicial effect of the proffered evidence against its probative value." Walker v. Horn, 385 F.3d 321, 333 (3d Cir. 2004)(quoting Walden v. Georgia-Pacific Corp., 126 F.3d 506, 523 (3d Cir.1997)). "Because Rule 609(a)(2) does not permit the district court to engage in balancing, ... Rule 609(a)(2) must be construed narrowly to apply only to those crimes that bear on a witness' propensity to testify truthfully." Id. This rule, however, does not extend to remote crimes. ...


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