United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER REGARDING OUTSTANDING
KETANJI BROWN JACKSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
parties have submitted extensive objections and arguments
regarding the proposed exhibits and witnesses for the
upcoming trial. This Court previously resolved many of the
objections Defendants submitted in their omnibus motion
in limine (ECF No. 235) during the Initial Pretrial
Conference held on May 29, 2018, and the remaining issues in
the omnibus motion-motions F, G, J, and K-will be addressed
at the Final Pretrial Conference scheduled for June 21, 2018.
(See Defs.' Omnibus Mot. in Limine;
see also Pls.' Opp'n to Defs.' Omnibus
Mot. in Limine, ECF No. 239; Defs.' Reply for
Omnibus Mot. in Limine, ECF No. 241; Hr'g Tr. of
May 29, 2018 (reflecting the Court's oral rulings on
motions A, B, C, D, E, H, and I).)
this Court at present are the remaining evidentiary disputes,
as raised and briefed in various sets of filings.
(See Revised Pls.' Exhibit List and Defs.'
Objections, ECF No. 247-3; see also Defs.' Supp.
Mot. in Limine, ECF No. 236; Pls.' Opp'n to
Defs.' Supp. Mot. in Limine, ECF No. 243;
Defs.' Reply for Supp. Mot. in Limine, ECF No.
245; see also Pls.' Proffer of Evid. and Mem.,
ECF No. 247; Defs.' Resp. to Pls.' Proffer of Evid.
and Mem., ECF No. 252; Pls.' Reply for Proffer of Evid.
and Mem., ECF No. 253; Def. Brown's Resp. to Pls.'
Proffer of Evid. and Mem., ECF No. 256.) The Court has
reviewed all of the objected-to exhibits and witnesses, as
well as the various arguments that the parties have offered
pertaining to the evidentiary value and admissibility of the
proffered evidence. This Order reflects the Court's
rulings, which will be expounded upon if necessary at the
Final Pretrial Conference in this case, which is scheduled
for June 21, 2018 at 10:30 AM.
what follows is a brief statement of the reasons for the
Court's rulings with respect to each exhibit that is
addressed below; the Court's conclusions were reached
based upon its careful consideration of the parties' most
meritorious arguments. Given the number of objections and the
myriad bases that were raised and briefed for each disputed
exhibit, the Court will not comment upon every argument
raised by the parties with respect to each exhibit that is
EVIDENCE FROM THE CRIMINAL TRIAL AND ARBITRATION
common theme underlying a significant number of the
evidentiary disputes in this case is the extent to which
evidence related to the previous proceedings that form the
bases of the present common law malicious prosecution claims
can be admitted at trial, and for what purpose. Accordingly,
in its Order Scheduling Pre-Trial Conference and Submission
of Joint Pre-Trial Statement, this Court instructed the
parties to “brief, among other issues, whether and to
what extent evidence from and concerning the previous
administrative and criminal proceedings is relevant to the
instant case and should be admissible” in their renewed
motions in limine. (ECF No. 231, para. 5(a); see
also Min. Order of Apr. 26, 2018 (instructing the
parties to file such a supplemental brief after seeing no
such submission in the pretrial materials).) Because of the
importance of these evidentiary rulings to this case and the
presentation of evidence regarding the previous criminal
trial and the administrative proceeding in the context of
Plaintiffs' malicious prosecution claims, the Court finds
it appropriate and helpful to expound upon its reasoning with
respect to these issues.
general matter, in resolving these evidentiary disputes, the
Court faces a tension between, on the one hand, allowing
Plaintiffs to introduce evidence related to the previous
proceedings to the extent such evidence is probative of the
remaining claims in this case, and on the other, preventing
the risk of prejudice to Defendants that would occur if
evidence unrelated to their alleged conduct becomes a
dominate factor at trial or if the prior proceedings are
re-litigated in the context of the instant proceedings.
Accordingly, Federal Rule of Evidence 403, which governs the
exclusion of relevant evidence “if its probative value
is substantially outweighed by a danger of . . . unfair
prejudice, confusing the issues, misleading the jury, undue
delay, wasting time, or needlessly presenting cumulative
evidence[, ]” Fed.R.Evid. 403, plays a large part in
the Court's analysis of the evidence, and the Court has
proceeded with an acute awareness of the need for Plaintiffs
to demonstrate how the evidence being offered is
probative of the elements of the claims that are bring tried
in this case. This means that Court has been, and will
continue to be, focused on the elements of the claims, and
will not allow protracted engagement with the underlying
facts of the previous proceedings beyond what is relevant to
and probative of the elements of the claims at issue.
Evidence Pertaining To The Prior Criminal Proceeding
seek to offer a number of exhibits and witnesses with respect
to the prior criminal proceeding, including Exhibit 75
(Docket Sheet, United States v. Amobi, 2006 CMD 12120),
Exhibit 77 (2007.06.04 Testimony of Derrick Brown from
Criminal Trial), Exhibit 80 (2007.06.04 Testimony of Elbert
White from Amobi Criminal Trial), and Exhibit 81 (Findings of
the Court from Amobi Criminal Trial). In addition, Plaintiffs
also seek to offer the testimony of Danny Onorato, the
attorney who represented Amobi in his criminal trial. The
Court has addressed each of these in turn.
The Criminal Court's Findings (Exhibit 81)
respect to the findings of the trial court in Amobi's
criminal case, this Court finds that any probative value of
this exhibit is significantly outweighed by the danger of
unfair prejudice and confusing the jury. See Fed. R.
Evid. 403. “Within this district, courts have
consistently avoided potential jury confusion and unfair
prejudice in related actions by excluding judicial findings,
convictions, and similar evidence on Rule 403 grounds.”
Moore v. Hartman, 102 F.Supp.3d 35, 143 (D.D.C.
2015) (internal quotation marks and alterations omitted)
(quoting Athridge v. Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co., 474
F.Supp.2d 102, 109 (D.D.C. 2007).) Here, the presentation of
the criminal court's findings to the jury carries with it
the risk that the jury would “accord more weight to
the analysis of the evidence laid out in the  [o]pinion
than to their own perceptions of the evidence simply because
the opinion was authored by a judge.” Id.
and in particular, it is clear that the criminal court's
findings explicitly rest on that court's own credibility
determinations (see Exhibit 81 (noting that
“the Court observed the demeanor of the
witnesses” and has found Amobi not guilty on the basis
on of its observations and the evidence in the case)), and in
this Court's view, introducing such findings and
determinations to the jury in the instant malicious
prosecution case carries the risk of interfering with the
jury's freedom to determine the credibility of the same
witnesses for itself. Furthermore, the criminal court's
opinion may confuse the issues and mislead the jury with
respect to the claims in this case, because that court's
‘not guilty' finding was made on an entirely
different standard and a different factual inquiry than the
issues of fact presented in the instant case. See
Fed. R. Evid. 403; Moore, 102 F.Supp. at 144.
Therefore, much like other courts in this jurisdiction that
have contended with motions in limine seeking the
exclusion of the previous judicial opinions in the criminal
cases underlying a malicious prosecution claim, this Court
will GRANT Defendants' motion with
respect to Exhibit 81 and exclude the
court's findings in Amobi's criminal trial.
Transcripts of Prior Testimony (Exhibits 77, 80)
seek to offer the prior testimony of then-inmate Derrick
Brown and former Defendant Major Elbert White as evidence in
this case. As a threshold matter, it is clear beyond cavil
that former testimony implicates the hearsay rule, and thus
must be evaluated on a case-by-case (and perhaps even
line-by-line) basis, to determine what the out-of-court
statements are being offered to prove and, if necessary,
whether such statements fit an exception to the rule against
hearsay. See, e.g., Fed.R.Evid. 803, 804. As a
general matter, Plaintiffs here have failed to indicate
clearly the purposes for which they seek to offer Inmate
Brown and Major White's prior testimony, and they have
also not uniformly pointed to particular hearsay exceptions
to justify the admission of this evidence. The Court has done
its best to ...