United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
April 4, 2014
BERTRAM EMEKEKWUE, Plaintiff,
IKE AGWUEGBO, Defendant.
CHRISTOPHER C. CONNER, Chief District Judge.
AND NOW, this 4th day of April, 2014, upon consideration of the motion (Doc. 31) in limine filed by Bertram Emekekwue ("Emekekwue") seeking exclusion at trial of certain exhibits identified by Ike Agwuegbo ("Agwuegbo") during a pre-trial conference on February 20, 2014, wherein Emekekwue contends that a Punch Newspaper clipping dated February 19, 1999 (Doc. 30 Ex. A); an affidavit authored by an individual identified as Kenechukwu Christian Okolocha ("Okolocha") with regard to missing police diary reports in Nigeria (id. Ex. B); various docket sheets from Pennsylvania state trial and magisterial district courts (id. Exs. C-D); and an email between Kingsley Offor and Emekekwue's deceased ex-wife, Venessa Emekekwue (id. Ex. E), are irrelevant or otherwise inadmissible under the Federal Rules of Evidence, and the court observing that Rule 401 defines relevant evidence as that which tends to make a fact of consequence more or less probable than it would be without the evidence, see FED. R. EVID. 401, and that relevant evidence in the defamation matter before the court is thus any evidence which tends to prove the truth or falsity of the allegations made against Emekekwue in a December 8, 2011 email drafted by Agwuegbo,  (Doc. 6-1 (asserting single claim of defamation arising from purportedly false criminal allegations in email)), and, following a thorough review of Emekekwue's allegations and the various exhibits submitted by Agwuegbo, the court concluding: first, that the Punch Newspaper article, a foreign document, has not been properly authenticated as required by Federal Rule of Evidence 902(3), see FED. R. EVID. 902(3) (requiring foreign documents to be "signed or attested by a person who is authorized by [the] foreign country's law to do so" and include a "final certification that certifies the genuineness of the signature and the official position of the signer or attester"), and is not sufficiently reliable to prove that Emekekwue was arrested for robbery in Nigeria, which is the document's apparent purpose, because the document does not clearly identify Emekekwue or otherwise prove that the plaintiff was charged with a crime, FED. R. EVID. 401 (evidence is relevant only if it tends to prove a fact of consequence), and that circumstances otherwise do not establish "good cause" to presume the article's authenticity, FED. R. EVID. 902(3)(B); second, that the Okolocha affidavit, apparently offered only to supplement the Punch Newspaper article and explain the lack of police records supporting the alleged crime in Nigeria, is inadmissible for all of the same reasons, see FED. R. EVID. 401 (evidence only admissible if it tends to prove a consequential fact), 902(3) (articulating requirements for authentication of foreign documents); third, that the email chain between Offor and Venessa Emekekwue is inadmissible because the author of the principal and pertinent contents of the communication, Venessa Emekekwue, is deceased and unavailable to testify as to the truth of the matters asserted therein at trial, see FED. R. EVID. 801(c) (defining hearsay as a statement made out of court offered at trial for the truth of the matter asserted), 802 (excluding hearsay from admission unless it falls within an exception to the rule against hearsay), that Agwuegbo failed to establish that the email falls within an exception to the hearsay rule, see FED. R. EVID. 803-804 (setting forth various exceptions to general inadmissibility of hearsay), and that the contents of the email are largely irrelevant to the facts of consequence at trial, see FED. R. EVID. 401, and highly prejudicial to Emekekwue, see FED. R. EVID. 403 (district courts may exclude evidence when its prejudicial effect outweighs its probative value); but fourth, that the state trial and magisterial district court docket sheets are relevant to the matter sub judice to the extent that they are public records which tend to prove facts material to litigation, to wit, whether Emekekwue was ever charged and arrested for sexual assault of his stepdaughter in the United States, and are thus admissible; and for all of the foregoing reasons, it is hereby ORDERED that:
1. Emekekwue's motion (Doc. 30) in limine is GRANTED to the extent it seeks exclusion at trial of the Punch Newspaper article (Agwuegbo Exhibit 24), the Okolocha affidavit (Agwuegbo Exhibit 25), and the email conversation between Kingsley between Offor and Venessa Emekekwue (Agwuegbo Exhibits 7-8) at trial.
2. The motion (Doc. 30) is DENIED to the extent it seeks exclusion at trial of the various state trial and magisterial district court docket sheets. (Agwuegbo Exhibits 11-15).