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Eric Lyons v. Jeffrey Beard

August 9, 2011

ERIC LYONS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JEFFREY BEARD, ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: (Magistrate Judge Carlson)

MEMORANDUM OPINION

I. Statement of Facts and of the Case

In this action, plaintiff Eric Lyons has sued past and present employees of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections at the State Correctional Institution at Camp Hill ("SCI-Camp Hill"). Plaintiff alleges that in May and June of 2006, certain correctional officers actively solicited inmates within the Special Management Unit ("SMU") at SCI-Camp Hill to assault him, and that other correctional supervisors ignored Lyons when he warned them that the officers they supervised were planning to have him attacked.

Plaintiff also claims that on June 19, 2006, while Lyons was housed in the SMU at SCI-Camp Hill, he engaged in a fight with another SMU inmate, Anthony Boyking. Plaintiff has alleged that Boyking initiated a fight with him after being urged to do so by correctional officers. Plaintiff further contends that certain of the defendants failed to intervene or stop the fight until Boyking yelled for help, and that once they intervened, these defendants used excessive force in subduing Lyons. Lyons claims to have suffered physical injuries as a result of both the fight with Lyons and defendants' alleged use of excessive force. Plaintiff brought this lawsuit claiming that these alleged actions violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. A jury trial in this case is scheduled to commence on August 8, 2011.

Now pending in the above-captioned action is a motion in limine in which defendants request entry of an order precluding plaintiff from seeking to introduce certain evidence at trial. (Doc. 158.) Specifically, defendants argue that plaintiff should be precluded from introducing testimony from two inmate-witnesses who are expected to testify about other wrongs allegedly committed within the SMU that are unrelated to the events of June 19, 2006. As the defendants note, it would be physically impossible for these two inmate witnesses to testify about the actual incident at issue here since the two inmate witnesses-- Inmates Hankin and Royster-- were not housed in the SMU on June 19, 2006, and had been transferred from that facility months prior to this incident. The motion is now fully briefed and ripe for disposition.

On July 21, 2011, we entered an opinion and order regarding a related motion in limine in this case, which spoke to the issue of whether the Court would entertain testimony regarding unrelated alleged assault incidents. (Doc. 167) At that time we concluded that;

No inmate-witness will be permitted to testify about events that are unrelated to the June 19, 2006, incident that is the subject of this lawsuit in order to prove that Defendants had the "habit" of arranging fights between inmates or otherwise harassing disliked inmates or preventing them from graduating from the SMU. (Id., p. 14.)

However, in order to permit the plaintiff one final opportunity to demonstrate the relevance of this proof we provided that:

On or before Friday, July 29, 2011, plaintiff may submit a final proffer about the intended testimony of inmate-witnesses in order to demonstrate that their testimony about events not directly related to the June 19, 2006, incident that is the subject of this action is both relevant and admissible. If plaintiff submits such a proffer, he is instructed to take into account the guidance set forth in this order. (Id.)

We further noted that this admonition that the plaintiff should provide a more detailed proffer of relevance specifically applied to the testimony of Inmates Royster and Hankin, stating that:

In addition, defendants submitted a second motion in limine arguing that the Court should also exclude the testimony of Inmates Hankin and Royster because these witnesses were not housed at SCI-Camp Hill on or near any of the dates defendants contend are relevant to the claims in this case. (Doc. 158) Plaintiff has not yet responded to this motion. Because we are providing plaintiff with one final opportunity to explain the relevance and admissibility of the intended testimony of inmate-witnesses about the conduct of defendants that is not directly related to the June 19, 2006, incident at issue in this case, plaintiff will necessarily be required to explain the relevance and admissibility of the testimony of Inmates Hankin and Royster. To that plaintiff is unable to make this demanding showing, the Court will not permit Inmates Hankin and Royster to testify at all in this case, and will enter an order quashing the subpoenas issued to these witnesses, and modify the Court's June 23, 2011, order authorizing plaintiff to engage in limited communication with the inmate witnesses he intends to call prior to trial. (Id., p.9, n.2.)

The plaintiff has not submitted any further proffer of relevance, as directed by this Court. Therefore, this motion in limine is ripe for resolution. Upon consideration, and for the reasons that follow, we will grant defendants' motion to exclude testimony of Inmates Hankin and Royster about other wrongs that defendants allegedly committed within the SMU that are entirely unrelated to the events of June 19, 2006.

II. Discussion

A. Testimony and Evidence By Inmates Royster and Hankin Regarding Other Wrongs in the SMU Not Related to the June 19, 2006 ...


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