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Craig L. Johnson v. Kevin Tuffey

September 15, 2011

CRAIG L. JOHNSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
KEVIN TUFFEY, CHIEF OF POLICE, KEVIN REEDY, POLICE OFFICER, MARK VANGARDEREN, POLICE OFFICER, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mae A. D'Agostino, U.S. District Judge:

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Familiarity with the facts and procedural history of this matter is assumed based upon the prior Memorandum-Decision and Orders of this Court. The trial of this action is scheduled to commence on September 20, 2011. Presently before the Court are defendants' motions in limine. Plaintiff has not responded to the motions.

II. DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS

A. Plaintiff's Medical Records Relating to Drug Use and Mental Health

Defendants seek an Order permitting defendants to introduce medical records demonstrating plaintiff's history of drug abuse and mental health problems. Defendants seek to introduce the following records: (1) Albany Medical Center Hospital Inpatient Psychiatry reports from January 25, 1999 through February 4, 1999; (2) Albany Medical Center Pre-Admission Services report dated March 23, 1999; (3) Albany Medical Center Hospital Inpatient Psychiatry reports from January 30, 2001 through February 2, 2001; (4) Capital Cardiology Associates report dated August 27, 2004; (5) Albany Medical Center reports from October 14, 2005 through October 16, 2005; and (6) plaintiff's November 28, 2001 medical records from Downstate Correctional Facility . Defendants argue that plaintiff has placed his physical and mental condition at issue and thus, the reports are relevant and admissible.

Rule 402 provides that "evidence which is not relevant is not admissible". Relevant evidence has "any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence." Fed. R. Evid. 401. However, even if evidence is relevant, it may be excluded if its probative value is outweighed by its potential to unduly prejudice a party. Fed. R. Evid. 403. A plaintiff's past drug use may be admissible with respect to damages and what, if any, were proximately caused by the defendants. See Fletcher v. City of New York, 54 F.Supp.2d 328 (S.D.N.Y. 1999).

In his complaint, plaintiff claims that he suffered physical pain and mental anguish. The Court has reviewed the records at issue. The reports contain statements regarding plaintiff's use of cocaine, crack and marijuana and notations relating to plaintiff's mental and emotional issues including his desire to harm himself and others. Upon review, the Court finds that the records contain notations that are arguably irrelevant and potentially prejudicial.

Defendants claim that the records are relevant on the issue of damages only. The Court cautions defendants that any attempt to introduce these records to prove, "action in conformity with character" would be impermissible pursuant to Rule 404(b). Outside the context of trial, the Court is constrained to rule on this issue. However, preliminarily, the Court holds that even if the records are deemed relevant and admissible, should defendants seek to introduce these records, the records must be properly authenticated pursuant to Rule 803(6) and hearsay exceptions. Defendants' motion in this regard may be renewed at trial.

B. Criminal Convictions

Defendants seeks an Order from the Court permitting defendants to impeach plaintiff and plaintiff's witness, Dirck Clark, with evidence of their prior convictions. Specifically, defendants seek to introduce evidence, or elicit testimony regarding: (1) plaintiff's 2001 conviction for 4th degree grand larceny for which he was sentenced to 20 to 40 months; and (2) Clark's conviction for 3rd degree attempted robbery for which he was sentenced to 18 to 36 months.

Rule 609 of the Federal Rules of Evidence vests broad discretion in the Court to admit or exclude evidence of prior convictions. United States v. Pedroza, 750 F.2d 187, 202 (2d Cir.1984). Rule 609 provides:

Rule 609. Impeachment by Evidence of Conviction of Crime (a) General rule. For the purpose of attacking the credibility of a witness,

(1) evidence that a witness other than an accused has been convicted of a crime shall be admitted, subject to Rule 403, if the crime was punishable by death or imprisonment in excess of one year under the law under which the witness was convicted, and evidence that an accused has been convicted of such a crime shall be admitted if the court determines that the ...


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