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Murray v. Harriman City Police Chief Jack Stockton

February 22, 2007

BOBBY MURRAY, BILLY D. MURRAY AND LORETTA MURRAY, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
HARRIMAN CITY POLICE CHIEF JACK STOCKTON, OFFICER AMANDA GODIN, OFFICER KENNETH MYNATT, OFFICER JASON MYNATT, AND CITY OF HARRIMAN, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas W. Phillips United States District Judge

(Phillips/Guyton)

ORDER

This matter came before the Court for motions hearing and for the final pretrial conference on February 21, 2007. The Court received pleadings and entertained argument on the following motions: defendants' motion in limine to exclude the testimony or introduction of evidence as set forth [Doc. 107]; defendants' second motion in limine to exclude the introduction or reference to items set forth [Doc. 113]; plaintiffs' motion to compel [Doc.119]; as well as various objections and oral motions. For the reasons stated during the course of the hearing and for the reasons provided below, the Court finds as follows.

I. Defendants' Motion in Limine to Exclude the Testimony or Introduction of Evidence as Set Forth [Doc. 107]

In regard to the video tape, the defendants claim that the following statements are inadmissible under Rule 401 (relevance), Rule 403 (unfair prejudice and misleading), and Rule 404 (character evidence): 1) the Harriman defendants concealed evidence; 2) the Harriman defendants deliberately left off portions of the video tape and/or doctored the video tape; 3) the Harriman defendants "hid" the video; and 4) Attorney Nathan Rowell hid the video from the plaintiffs or Jack Stockton hid or destroyed the videos relating to this matter. The Court finds that credibility is a question of fact for the jury. Accordingly, the plaintiffs may ask the defendants/witnesses questions regarding the concealment of evidence, doctoring of the video tape, hiding of the video tape, and whether Jack Stockton hid or destroyed the video tape. However, plaintiffs are not permitted to tell or covey to the jury that defense attorney, Nathan Rowell, hid the video from the plaintiffs.

In regard to alleged "lies" by Harriman officials, the defendants claim that the following statements are inadmissible under Rule 401 (relevance), Rule 403 (unfair prejudice and misleading), and Rule 404 (character evidence): 1) Harriman officials "lied" to the Court; 2) Harriman officials "lied" about the video; 3) Harriman officers were not honest; and 4) the Harriman defendants are "liars." Again, the Court finds that credibility is a question of fact for the jury. The plaintiffs may ask defendants/witnesses as to their honesty.

As to alleged altercations involving Billy Murray, Jack Stockton, Ralph Moore, and Tim Murray, the defendants claim that related evidence is inadmissible under Rule 401 (relevance), Rule 403 (unfair prejudice and misleading), and Rule 404 (character evidence). Plaintiffs respond that the beating of Billy Murray shows a pattern of treatment by the Harriman Police Department and provides the reason that Billy Murray fled from Officer Amanda Godin. Plaintiffs state that the Ralph Moore incident and Tim Murray incident further demonstrate the pattern of beatings. The Court finds that Billy Murray can testify as to why he fled from the police. Further, since the incident involving Tim Murray is alleged to be retaliation for the plaintiffs filing of their law suit, at this time, the plaintiffs are permitted to use the testimony of Tim Murray. The defendants may cross examine on such matters. However, as to the altercation involving Ralph Moore, related testimony and/or evidence is not relevant and unfairly prejudicial, and therefore, inadmissible.

As to the mental condition of Billy Murray, the defendants claim that related evidence is inadmissible under Rule 401 (relevance), Rule 403 (unfair prejudice and misleading), and Rule 404 (character evidence). Further, the defendants state that there has been no evidence produced as to Billy's mental deficiency other than conclusory allegations. Plaintiffs state that they have entered medical records of Billy Murray that demonstrate his limited mental functioning. The Court finds that Billy Murray may provide testimony and medical documentation as to his limited functioning. Defense's argument is a proper area for cross examination.

As to plaintiffs' contentions regarding the corruption of judges, court clerks, and the Sheriff of Roane County, the defendants claim that the related evidence is inadmissible under Rule 401 (relevance) and Rule 403 (unfair prejudice and misleading). The Court finds that the testimony is inadmissible in that the testimony is not relevant and/or creates unfair prejudice issues.

As to allegations regarding Jason Mynatt, that is, that he is a "hot head," did not work for the City of Harriman, and allegedly cursed Loretta Murray, the defendants claim that the statements are inadmissible under Rule 401 (relevance), Rule 403 (unfair prejudice and misleading), Rule 404 (character evidence), and Rule 802 (hearsay). The Court will allow the plaintiffs to present evidence and testimony regarding the above issues.

As to plaintiffs' allegations relating to a conversation between plaintiffs and the Circuit Court clerk, that is, that the clerk was instructed by Jack Stockton not to give Loretta Murray anything she asked for, the defendants claim that the following statements are inadmissible under Rule 401 (relevance), Rule 403 (unfair prejudice and misleading), Rule 404 (character evidence), and Rule 802 (hearsay). In response, plaintiffs conceded that the information is not relevant. The Court finds that any related testimony is irrelevant and, therefore, inadmissible.

As to the arrest of Bobby Murray on January 18, 2007, the defendants claim that related evidence is inadmissible under Rule 401 (relevance), Rule 403 (unfair prejudice and misleading), and Rule 404 (character evidence). The Court finds that the plaintiffs may present evidence as to the January 18, 2007 incident. Defendants may cross examine the plaintiffs as to the incident.

As to the complaints regarding the incident between the Murrays and John Elliott, the defendants claim that related evidence is inadmissible under Rule 401 (relevance), Rule 403 (unfair prejudice and misleading), and Rule 404 (character evidence). In response, plaintiffs assert that evidence and testimony regarding an altercation between the brother of Billy Murray's "live-in" girlfriend, John Elliot, and the Murrays should be admissible. Apparently, Officer Godin arrived at the scene during the incident and did not arrest the brother, John Elliot. The Court finds that this incident is too remote. Evidence and testimony as to the incident are excluded based on relevance and/or unfair prejudice.

Plaintiffs list "Donese" Kinsey, Jamie Thomason, Allen Swicegood, the Harriman City Grant Manager, and the Harriman City Budget Director on their witness list. Defendants claim that they were advised of these witnesses for the first time when plaintiffs presented their first witness list. They were not listed in the initial disclosures. Defendants state that any testimony from them would be prejudicial. The plaintiffs assert that Jamie Thomason and Allen Swicegood are witnesses to the violation of the plaintiffs' rights. Plaintiffs withdraw "Donese" Kinsey, the Harriman City Grant Manager, and the ...


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