United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
DAVID E. HILL, Plaintiff,
HARLEY LAPPIN, et al., Defendants.
H. RAMBO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
E. Hill, a federal inmate, filed this
Bivens action alleging that numerous defendants
violated his rights by placing him in four-point restraints
for approximately 43 hours. (Doc. 1). District Judge Richard
P. Conaboy previously granted in part Defendants' motion
for summary judgment, but denied that motion as to Defendants
B. Bledsoe, Lt. J. Hepner, Lt. M. Saylor, Lt. M. Edinger, and
Lt. P. Carrasquilla (collectively “Remaining
Defendants”) after concluding that genuine issues of
material fact existed as to whether Remaining Defendants'
actions were justified by a legitimate penological interest.
(Docs. 124, 125).
Judge Conaboy noted that, on the morning Hill was placed in
four-point restraints, he had threatened to harm any cell
mate with whom he was placed and, as a result of that
refusal, was placed in ambulatory restraints. (Doc. 124 at
9-10). Hill agreed to accept a cell mate but, after he was
released from ambulatory restraints, again refused a cell
mate, threatened staff and other inmates, and allegedly
displayed signs of imminent violence. (Id.; Doc. 70
at 12). Videotape of the incident demonstrated that Hill was
cooperative, calm, and deliberative, and was placed in
restraints without incident or violence. (Doc. 124 at 14-15).
Notwithstanding Defendants' allegations that Hill
threatened others and displayed signs of imminent violence,
Judge Conboy concluded that Hill's indisputably calm and
cooperative demeanor undercut Defendants' claims that the
use of four-point restraints was necessary, particularly
since “this was not an emergency situation, i.e. one
where an inmate's behavior was out of control.”
(Id. at 15).
Defendants asserted that, after Hill was placed in four-point
restraints, he was uncooperative, agitated, and aggressive,
which necessitated the continued use of such restraints for
approximately 43 hours from June 22, 2010, until June 24,
2010 (“Relevant Period”). (Doc. 70 at 12-14).
However, Judge Conaboy determined that a genuine issue of
material fact existed as to whether Hill presented such a
threat that he needed to be maintained in four-point
restraints for so long with only one bathroom break.
(Id. at 17-18; Doc. 124 at 15-16).
matter was later assigned to this Court, which denied
Hill's motion for summary judgment and scheduled the
matter for trial. (Docs. 152, 153). Hill has filed two
motions in limine seeking to prevent Remaining
Defendants from referencing during trial Hill's: (1) past
convictions or facts underlying those convictions; (2) prison
misconduct history, including any reference to alleged acts
of misconduct or threats made between June 22, 2010, and June
24, 2010, for which Hill was not found guilty; (3) places of
incarceration, housing units, or restrictions during
confinement; and (4) length of current sentence. (Docs. 161,
162, 171, 172). Hill contends that any such evidence
constitutes improper character evidence under Fed.R.Evid.
608(b) and, in any event, should be excluded under
Fed.R.Evid. 403. (Doc. 162 at 3).
Defendants in turn contend that evidence of Hill's
disciplinary history, conduct during the Relevant Period, and
placement in the special management unit (“SMU”)
are admissible under Rule 404(b)(2). (Doc. 165 at 4-9; Doc.
173 at 3-9). They assert that such evidence “is
critical to the issue of the knowledge and intent of
Defendants placing and continuing Hill in restraints for a
legitimate peneological [sic] interest.” (Doc. 165 at
6; see Id. at 7-9). Remaining Defendants do not
contest Hill's other requests, and explicitly state that
“are not seeking the introduction of evidence of a
conviction.” (Id. at 5-6; Doc. 173 at 6).
Rule of Evidence 404(b)(1) provides that “[e]vidence of
a crime, wrong, or other act is not admissible to prove a
person's character in order to show that on a particular
occasion the person acted in accordance with the
character.” Nevertheless, such evidence “may be
admissible for another purpose, such as proving motive,
opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity,
absence of mistake, or lack of accident.” Fed.R.Evid.
404(b) directs that evidence of prior bad acts be
excluded-unless the proponent can demonstrate that
the evidence is admissible for a non-propensity
purpose.” United States v. Repak, 852 F.3d
230, 240 (3d Cir. 2017) (internal quotation marks omitted).
“Because Rule 404(b) is a rule of general exclusion,
the party seeking to admit other-acts evidence has the burden
of demonstrating the evidence's applicability.”
Id. at 241 (brackets and internal quotation marks
Admissibility under Rule 404(b) requires the satisfaction of
four distinct steps: (1) the other-acts evidence must be
proffered for a non-propensity purpose; (2) that evidence
must be relevant to the identified non-propensity purpose;
(3) its probative value must not be substantially outweighed
by its potential for causing unfair prejudice to the
defendant; and (4) if requested, the other-acts evidence must
be accompanied by a limiting instruction.
Defendants have satisfied the first step by identifying a
non-propensity purpose for introducing evidence of Hill's
disciplinary hearing and placement in SM U.Specifically,
Remaining Defendants seek to introduce such evidence to show
their states of mind regarding their perception of Hill's
threat level and the measures needed to restrain Hill in
order to protect themselves and other inmates. (Doc. 165 at
6-7). “‘State of mind' or ‘mental
state” is not one of the enumerated exceptions to the
general rule of exclusion of other-act evidence, but
nonetheless is a permissible non-propensity purpose.”
Collins v. Bledsoe, No. 3:12-CV-2244, 2018 WL
6617693, at *3 (M.D. Pa. Dec. 18, 2018).
regard to the second step, Remaining Defendants must
demonstrate that the “proffered evidence . . . fit[s]
into a chain of inferences-a chain that connects the evidence
to a proper purpose, no link of which is a forbidden
propensity inference.” Repak, 852 F.3d at 243
(internal quotation marks omitted). “This chain must be
articulated with careful precision because, even when a
non-propensity purpose is at issue in a case, the evidence
offered may be ...