United States District Court, District of Columbia
C. Lamberth United States District Judge.
the Court is defendant Nicholas Slatten's motion in
limine to exclude evidence of post-Kia shootings and
victims. ECF No. 716. Mr. Slatten argues that the evidence
should be excluded because it is irrelevant and unduly
prejudicial. Upon consideration of the pleadings, the oral
representations of both parties at the hearing on May 9,
2018, the relevant legal authorities, and the entire record
in this case, the Court DENIES Mr.
case has been summarized on numerous occasions-including
recently by the Court of Appeals in United States v.
Slatten, 865 F.3d 767, 810-11 (D.C. Cir. 2017)-the Court
will only offer a brief outline of the factual and procedural
background, with a focus on the facts most relevant to Mr.
Slatten's motion in limine.
Slatten and his former codefendants were security contractors
for Blackwater Worldwide ("Blackwater") in 2007, at
which time Blackwater provided security services to the U.S.
State Department in Iraq. Mr. Slatten and his former
codefendants were members of Raven 23, a Blackwater support
team. On September 16, 2007, Raven 23 was called upon to
assist in evacuating a U.S. diplomat in Baghdad. In the
course of that mission, the Raven 23 team attempted to
"lock down" Nisur Square, a traffic circle in
downtown Baghdad. In doing so, at least 32 Iraqi civilians
were injured or killed.
first trial, the government proved that Mr. Slatten fired the
first shots that day at the head of the driver of the white
Kia sedan, Ahmed Haithem Ahmed Al Rubia'y, who died as a
result. The jury found Mr. Slatten guilty of first-degree
murder, the sole charge filed against him at the first trial.
The jury also found his codefendants guilty on separate
manslaughter and attempted manslaughter charges for an
additional 30 deceased or wounded victims. Mr. Slatten
appealed and on August 4, 2017, the D.C. Circuit vacated his
conviction, finding that the Court erred in not allowing Mr.
Slatten to introduce hearsay statements by his codefendant in
a separate trial. Slatten, 865 F.3d at 810-11. The
government is now retrying Mr. Slatten on the same
single-count Indictment for first-degree murder.
neither the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure nor the
Federal Rules of Evidence expressly provide for motions
in limine, the Court may allow such motions
"pursuant to the district court's inherent authority
to manage the course of trials." Luce v. United
States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 n. 4 (1984). Motions in
limine are '"designed to narrow the evidentiary
issues for trial and to eliminate unnecessary trial
interruptions.'" Graves v. District of
Columbia, 850 F.Supp.2d 6, 10 (D.D.C. 2011) (quoting
Bradley v. Pittsburgh Bd. of Educ, 913 F.2d 1064,
1070 (3d Cir. 1990)). The Court has the "discretion to
rule in limine or to await developments at trial
before ruling." Graves v. District of Columbia,
850 F.Supp.2d 6, 11 (D.D.C. 2011) (citing Stephen A.
Saltzburg et al., FEDERAL RULES OF EVIDENCE MANUAL
§ 103.02[l3] (9th ed. 2006)). And "in some
instances it is best to defer rulings until trial, [when]
decisions can be better informed by the context, foundation,
and relevance of the contested evidence within the framework
of the trial as a whole." Casares v. Bernal,
790 F.Supp.2d 769, 775 (N.D.I11.2011) (citation omitted).
Slatten seeks to exclude all evidence "relating to
alleged shooting and victims in Nisur Square after the
shooting of the white Kia." 14-cr-107, ECF No. 716 at 1.
He does not articulate particular pieces of evidence within
that category of evidence, but rather argues that none of it
is relevant to the single charge against him. He further
contends that even if the evidence has some probative value,
that value is outweighed by the prejudicial effect it will
have on the jury. The Court disagrees. The evidence is in
fact probative and the Court is unwilling to say that every
piece of evidence within the category of evidence that Mr.
Slatten seeks to exclude will be unfairly prejudicial.
the Federal Rules of Evidence, "evidence is relevant if:
(a) it has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable
than it would be without the evidence; and (b) the fact is of
consequence in determining the action." Fed.R.Evid. 401.
"Relevant evidence is admissible" unless the
Constitution, federal statute, the Federal Rules of Evidence,
or rules prescribed by the Supreme Court, provide otherwise.
Fed.R.Evid. 402. According to Mr. Slatten, evidence that
other members of Raven 23 shot other individuals in Nisur
Square after the shooting of Mr. Al Rubia'y in the white
Kia-the single count Mr. Slatten is charged with-is
irrelevant to his case. The government offers three theories
of relevance, which the Court will address in turn.
the government contends that "certain post-Kia evidence
is probative of Defendant's premeditation and
motive." ECF No. 730 at 5. To satisfy its burden on the
charge in this case, the government must present evidence to
prove that Mr. Slatten acted with premeditation. "[T]he
government must introduce facts which provide proof beyond a
reasonable doubt that a crime was committed not merely
intentionally, in sustained frenzy or heat of passion, but
with premeditation and deliberation." United States
v. Peterson, 509 F.2d 408, 412 (D.C. Cir. 1974). A court
can "entertain probative circumstantial evidence from
which to infer premeditation and deliberation."
Id. And proof of a defendant's motive
"substantially reinforces the inference of premeditation
and deliberation." Mills v. United States, 599
A.2d 775, 781 (D.C. 1991).
the government's theory is that "while traffic was
at a standstill waiting for the Blackwater convoy to exit the
Square, Slatten fired two shots from a sniper rifle into the
Kia windshield, killing Al-Rubia'y instantly and setting
into motion the day's horrific events."
Slatten, 865 F.3d at 795. The government argues that
Mr. Slatten's "motive for killing the Kia driver
was, in part, to initiate the Raven 23 barrage that
followed" and that the "[p]ost-Kia evidence about
the subsequent onslaught of bullets and grenades is thus
relevant evidence of Defendant's premeditation and
deliberation." ECF No. 730 at 5. As the government did
at the last trial, it plans to present evidence that Mr.
Slatten disdained the Iraqi people, had a history of shooting
Iraqis to instigate a broader conflict, and in fact
encouraged other Blackwater members to engage in similar
conduct. Moreover, the government will try and prove that
once Mr. Slatten shot Mr. Al Rubia'y, he called attention
to the subsequent ...