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United States v. Ingino

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

January 9, 2020

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
VINCENT JOHN INGINO Defendant

          MEMORANDUM

          MALACHY E. MANNION UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Presently before the court is the defendant Vincent John Ingino's (“Ingino”) motion in limine to exclude death scene photographs. (Doc. 43). Based on the following, Ingino's motion, (Doc. 43), will be GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         II. BACKGROUND

         On November 13, 2018, Ingino was indicted on two counts of distribution and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance. (Doc. 1). The charges stem from alleged drug transactions that resulted in the death of two individuals, Patrick Pasquariello and Ryan Donahue. (Doc. 1). Ingino pleaded not guilty to the charges against him on November 26, 2018. (Doc. 11).

         On March 25, 2019, Ingino filed a motion to suppress statements he made to police on September 17, 2018. (Doc. 22). On July 15, 2019, this court held a hearing on the suppression motion. (Doc. 32). By memorandum and order dated November 14, 2019, the court denied the motion to suppress. (Doc. 36; Doc. 37).

         On December 19, 2019, Ingino filed the present motion in limine. (Doc. 43).[1] The government filed a brief in opposition on January 2, 2020. On January 3, 2020, Ingino filed a reply brief. (Doc. 51). The matter is now ripe for disposition.

         III. STANDARD

         Ingino's motion is filed pursuant to Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure 401, 402, and 403. It is axiomatic that “irrelevant evidence is not admissible.” Fed.R.Evid. 402. Evidence is relevant if “it has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence” and if “the fact is of consequence in determining the action.” Fed.R.Evid. 401. Even if evidence is relevant, the court can exclude it if “its probative value is substantially outweighed by a danger of one or more of the following: unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, misleading the jury, undue delay, wasting time, or needlessly presenting cumulative evidence.” Fed.R.Evid. 403. Rule 403 contemplates that some evidence will be prejudicial; however, “[t]he question is whether that prejudice ‘substantially outweighs' its probative value.” United States v. Bledsoe, 449 Fed.App'x 159, 163 (3d Cir. 2011). In a criminal case, “‘unfair prejudice' . . . speaks to the capacity of some concededly relevant evidence to lure the factfinder into declaring guilt on a ground different from proof specific to the offense charged.” Old Chief v. United States, 519 U.S. 172, 180 (1997).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         Here, the government has submitted four photographs of the death scenes of the two victims that it proposes to use at trial. Ingino argues these photographs should be suppressed because they are not probative of the ultimate issue in this case, which is whether Ingino provided the victims the drugs that ultimately caused their deaths. Ingino emphasizes that this is a drug case and not a murder case, and notes that he does not dispute that the victims are dead or their manner of deaths. Ingino asserts that the victims' death certificates “would readily prove the information necessary for the government's case.” (Doc. 44, at 2). Finally, Ingino argues that, even if the photographs were relevant, the likelihood they will inflame the minds and passions of the jury outweighs any evidentiary value.

         In response, the government argues that it seeks to introduce only a few selected photographs of hundreds that were taken from both scenes. The government contends that these photographs are probative and relevant in that they will allow the jury a complete visual picture of events, corroborate witness accounts, and establish the overall timeline of events. The government contends the photographs shed light on timing because they show that both victims died:

almost immediately upon use; both [victims] injected the drugs sold by the defendant, as opposed to snorting the drugs as the defendant claims he did; both [victims] have hypodermic needles alongside their bodies-as is evidenced by the photographs; both [victims] purchased their drugs from the defendant within hours of their death[s]; [and] the Government's expert toxicologist relied, in ...

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