United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
D. Mariani United States District Judge
before the Court are the following two Motions in Limine
filed by Defendant Lawrence Semenza:
Exclude all Evidence of and Reference to Defendant
Semenza's Relationship with Mary Kate Steppacher (Doc.
Admission of Defendant Semenza's Voluntary Offer to Take
Polygraph Tests (Doc. 269).
Court will address each motion in turn.
Defendant's Motion in Limine to Exclude all
Evidence of and Reference to Defendant Semenza's
Relationship with Mary Kate Steppacher (Doc. 267)
Semenza next seeks to exclude "any evidence of and any
reference to Defendant's relationship with [Mary Kate]
Steppacher." (Doc. 267, at 1). In response, although
Plaintiff opposes Defendant's motion “[i]n the
interests of preserving her right to present rebuttal
evidence should one (1) or more of the Defendants open the
door to evidence of and/or reference to Defendant
Semenza's relationship with Mary Kate Steppacher at
trial" (Doc. 301, at 1), her counsel "affirm[s]...
that they do not intend to call Mary Kate Steppacher as part
of their case-in-chief, and will not present any evidence
regarding her relationship with" Semenza (id.).
on Plaintiffs representations to the Court, Semenza's
motion will be granted in so far as it relates to the
testimony and evidence offered by Plaintiff in her
case-in-chief. The motion will be granted as to all other
parties subject to reconsideration at trial should Semenza
open the door to the relationship at issue.
Defendant's Motion In Limine for the Admission of
Defendant Semenza's Voluntary Offer to Take Polygraph
Tests (Doc. 269)
next motion seeks to "admit evidence of [his] voluntary
offer to take polygraph tests on May 2 and July 6, 2012"
(Doc. 269). Semenza argues that evidence he voluntarily
offered to, and took, two polygraph tests should be admitted
for the limited purpose of showing his "state of mind
when confronted with Plaintiffs allegations."
(Id. at ¶ 13). Specifically, Semenza contends
that "willingness to take two separate polygraph tests
is relevant to show Defendant Semenza's state of mind
that he did not believe he engaged in any inappropriate
physical contacts with the Plaintiff when he was initially
confronted with Plaintiffs allegations." (Doc. 270, at
6). Defendant is not seeking to have the results of the tests
admitted into evidence.
fails to demonstrate how his state of mind is relevant to the
current action and the claims against him. The fact that
Semenza supposedly "did not believe he engaged in any
inappropriate physical contacts with" Burdyn is
only evidence of his subjective belief that any physical
contact he had with her was appropriate. It does not go to
his state of mind that he did not believe he had any
physical contact with Burdyn or show in any way that his
actions were, in fact, appropriate. Whether his contact, if
any, with Burdyn was inappropriate and further whether it
amounted to assault, battery, and/or a violation of her
bodily integrity is a question for the jury.
Defendant cites to U.S. v. Hamilton, 579 F.Supp.2d
637 (D.N.J. 2008) for the proposition that his willingness to
take the polygraph tests is probative as well as not
prejudicial under Rule 403. (Doc. 270, at 4, 7).
Hamilton, a criminal case, is easily distinguishable
on the facts. There, a defendant was facing a charge of
"knowingly and willfully making a false, fictitious, and
fraudulent statement and representation" during an
interview with an agent from the FBI. Hamilton, 579
F.Supp.2d at 639. During the same interview from which he was
charged with making a false statement, the defendant offered
to take a polygraph test. The District Court found that the
defendant's offer to take the test at that interview was
"highly probative of his consciousness of innocence - it
directly implicates" the charge at issue. Id.
at 640. Further, in that case, the offer went directly to an
element of the crime he was charged with, i.e. whether he
"knowingly" gave the false statement. Here,
Semenza's state of mind regarding whether he thought what
he did was inappropriate does not relate to the elements that
Plaintiff must establish to demonstrate any of her federal
and state law claims. Additionally, to the extent that
Plaintiffs testimony bears on any alleged actions of a sexual
nature between Semenza and Burdyn before she turned 16 years
old, the state of mind of the defendant is completely
irrelevant given that Plaintiff could not consent to any of
those actions, even if, in Semenza's mind, they were not
even if the Court were to find that Semenza's offer to
take two polygraph tests was probative, the value of such
evidence would be substantially outweighed by a danger of
unfair prejudice and confusing the issues. Defendant argues
that "many federal courts have permitted the admission
of polygraph evidence" and that "the Third Circuit
has not adopted a per se exclusion on the admissibility of
polygraph results." (Doc. 270, at 3). This second
statement is a direct reference to a non-precedential Third
Circuit opinion wherein the Circuit found that a district
court did not abuse its discretion in admitting a polygraph
test for the limited purpose of proving probable cause. See
Nawrocki v, Tp. of Coolbaugh, 34
F.App'x 832, 838 (3d Cir. 2002). Further,
Nawrocki made clear that although the Court
"has not adopted a per se exclusionary rule",
[m]ore recently, based on the Supreme Court's decision in
Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharms., Inc.,509 U.S. 579,
588-589, 113 S.Ct. 2786, 125 Led.2d469 (1993)... some trial
courts have found polygraph evidence admissible However, most
appellate courts that have discussed ...