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Tate v. City of Philadelphia

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

August 28, 2014

JASON TATE, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, SERGEANT PATRICK LOVE, POLICE OFFICER EDGAR VAZQUEZ, and JOHN DOES 1-5, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

ROBERT F. KELLY, Sr., District Judge.

Presently pending before the Court is a Motion in Limine to Permit the Use of Prior Criminal Convictions as Impeachment of Randall Russell filed by Defendants, the City of Philadelphia ("City"), Sergeant Patrick Love ("Love"), and Police Officer Edgar Vazquez ("Vazquez") (collectively, "Defendants"), and Plaintiff Jason Tate's ("Tate") Response to Defendants' Motion in Limine. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Motion is granted.

I. BACKGROUND

Tate asserts claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights during the course of his arrest on June 8, 2011.[1] Compl. ¶¶ 1, 29. Tate claims that the arresting officers, Vazquez and Love, used excessive force while taking him into custody. Id . Tate's Complaint includes claims for assault and battery under state law. Id . ¶¶ 30-31. Defendants contend that Vazquez and Love acted appropriately at all times. (Joint Pretrial Order at 1.)

Tate states that his friend, Randall Russell ("Russell"), is the sole independent witness to the occurrence. (Pl.s' Response Opp'n Defs.' Mot. in Limine at 1.) Defendants agree that Tate and Russell were walking together when Vazquez first approached them to conduct a police investigation. (Defs.' Mem. Law Support Mot. in Limine at 1.) However, Defendants state that "Mr. Russell's testimony regarding what subsequently occurred widely diverges from the testimony of the Defendant police officers." (Id.) "At his deposition, Officer Vazquez testified that Mr. Russell fled the scene once Plaintiff began resisting arrest." (Id.; Ex. A (Vazquez Dep. Trans.) at 14:3-15:15.) Defendants go on to assert that Love will testify at trial that Russell fled the scene by the time that he arrived and saw Tate struggling with Vazquez. (Id.) Russell, however, claims that he remained at the scene until Love arrived and tased Tate. (Id. at 2; Ex. B. (Russell Dep. Trans.) at 24:17-25:21.) Additionally, the parties' versions of events widely diverge in that "Mr. Russell... has testified that Officer Vazquez did deploy his taser... and Sergeant Love tased Plaintiff after he was secured and in handcuffs." (Id.; Ex. B at 23:17-20; 28:6-16.) Defendants assert that, at trial, Office Vazquez will testify that he did not use his taser on Tate, and Sergeant Love has previously testified that he only used his taser because Tate tried to attack the police officers. (Id.)

Clearly, there is a factual disagreement between the parties. Tate argues that he was injured as a result of the excessive force used by Vazquez and Love. Defendants contend that any injuries to Tate were the consequence of his resisting arrest and struggling with the police when they were attempting to lawfully apprehend him. The trial for this action is scheduled for September 22, 2014.

II. DISCUSSION

Defendants' Motion in Limine seeks an order permitting them to use four prior convictions of Russell to impeach his credibility if he takes the stand during trial. (See Defs.' Mem. Law Support Mot. in Limine at 5.) The prior convictions at issue are the following:

• June 2, 2006 - Russell was convicted of possession with intent to deliver under 35 P.S. § 780-113 (a). (Defs.' Mot. in Limine; Ex. D (Certified Copy of 2006 Conviction).) Russell could have received a maximum sentence of five years because he was convicted of dealing oxycontin, a Schedule II narcotic. See 35 P.S. § 780-113(f)(2); Defs.' Mot. In Limine; Ex. D at 5, 11.
• October 19, 2009 - Russell received his third DUI conviction under 75 P.S. § 3802(d)(2). (Defs.' Mot. in Limine; Ex. E (Certified Copy of 2009 Conviction).) Since the conviction was Russell's third DUI conviction, he faced a minimum sentence of one year of imprisonment, see 75 P.S. § 3804(c)(3)(I), and was initially sentenced to 1-2 years of confinement. (Defs.' Mot. in Limine; Ex. E at 4.) Russell managed to get resentenced to a 45 day term. (Id. n.2; Ex. E at 3.)
• July 20, 2010 - Russell was convicted of knowingly possessing an illegal narcotic under 35 P.S. § 780-113(a)(16). (Defs.' Mot. in Limine; Ex. F. (Certified Copy of 2010 Conviction).) Due to Russell's prior conviction under § 780-113, he could have received a sentence of three years in prison for this crime. See 35 P.S. § 780-113(b).
• October 22, 2013 - Russell was convicted of knowingly possessing an illegal narcotic under 35 P.S. § 780-113(a)(16). (Id.; Ex. G (Certified Copy of 2013 Conviction).) This crime could have carried a sentence of three years' imprisonment. See 35 P.S. § 780-113(b).

A. Legal Standard

Except as otherwise provided, the Federal Rules of Evidence state that relevant evidence is admissible and "[i]rrelvant evidence is not admissible." Fed.R.Evid. 402. However, Federal Rule of Evidence Rule 608(b) generally prevents the admissibility of specific instances of conduct for the purpose of attacking or supporting a witness's character. Fed.R.Evid. 608(b). Several exceptions to this general rule are set forth in Federal Rule of Evidence Rule 609. Fed.R.Evid. 609. Specifically, Rule 609(a) permits evidence of prior criminal convictions to be admitted for impeachment purposes.[2] Fed.R.Evid. 609(a)(1). Under Rule 609(a), evidence of a prior criminal conviction may be admitted "to attack[ ] a witness's character for truthfulness" in several circumstances. Id . If the witness was convicted of a ...


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