United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit
Civil Rights — false arrest — evidence
Even though the district court barred the defense from referring to the neighborhood as a “high-crime area” in a false arrest trial, the defense did not violate the order by questioning the plaintiff about his knowledge of drug dealing in the neighborhood.
“The three alleged violations of the motion-in-limine ruling to which the plaintiffs point all involve defense counsel’s inquiries into drug activity on the block. The plaintiffs essentially ask us to conclude that questions about drug activity on the block are synonymous with painting the block as a ‘high-crime area.’ But this is not what the motion-in-limine ruling prohibited. Rather, the court’s ruling ‘bar[red] references to the 5500 block of West Congress Parkway as a high-crime area.’ In keeping with the district court’s ruling, defense counsel never referred to the block as a ‘high-crime area.’ And counsel was certainly entitled to elicit testimony about the block’s characteristics. Indeed, establishing the frequency of drug activity on the block was relevant because the underlying charges were drug-related and the plaintiffs denied any knowledge of drug activity on their block. If the defense was able establish frequent drug activity (or, much more, the plaintiffs’ knowledge of drug activity), that evidence would tend to discredit the plaintiffs’ testimony—a necessary tactic in a case where the parties gave disparate accounts of the events. Accordingly, the district court did not err in allowing defense counsel to question witnesses about drug activity on the block and we need not conduct a review for plain error.”
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Lefkow, J., Manion, J.