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United States v. Lasley

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Cedar Rapids Division

December 2, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
GORDON LASLEY, JR., Defendant.

ORDER

LINDA R. READE, Chief District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

The matters before the court are Defendant Gordon Lasley, Jr.'s "First Motion in Limine" ("First Defense Motion") (docket no. 34), the government's "Motion for a Pretrial Order Regarding the Admissibility of Evidence" ("Government Motion") (docket no. 38) and Defendant's "Second Motion in Limine" ("Second Defense Motion") (docket no. 53).

II. RELEVANT PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On April 9, 2014, the grand jury returned an Indictment (docket no. 2) charging Defendant with two counts of first degree murder within the confines of the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa Meskwaki Settlement in violation of 18 U.S.C. ยง 1111. On October 28, 2014, Defendant filed the First Defense Motion. On October 31, 2014, the government filed the Government Motion. On November 4, 2014, the government filed a Resistance to the First Defense Motion (docket no. 40). Also on November 4, 2014, Defendant filed a Resistance to the Government Motion (docket no. 41). On November 10, 2014, the government filed a Reply to the Resistance to the Government Motion ("Government Reply") (docket no. 49). On November 12, 2014, Defendant filed a Sur-Reply (docket no. 54). On November 12, 2014, Defendant filed the Second Defense Motion. On November 18, 2014, the government filed a Resistance to the Second Defense Motion (docket no. 65). On November 19, 2014, Defendant filed a Reply to the Resistance to the Second Defense Motion (docket no. 66). The Motions are fully submitted and ready for decision.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Defense Motions

In the First Defense Motion and the Second Defense Motion (collectively, "Defense Motions") Defendant moves for an order preventing the government from introducing evidence about Defendant's prior bad acts, including: "driving while intoxicated, minor assaults, swearing at a police officer, and breaking a window." Brief in Support of the Second Defense Motion (docket no. 53-1) at 2.[1] Defendant also moves for an order preventing the government from calling "jail employees, nurses, and other non-mental-health professionals to offer opinions on [Defendant's] mental status at various times during his life, including the time following his incarceration." Id. The court will first address Defendant's arguments regarding his prior bad acts. The court will then turn to Defendant's argument about non-mental-health professional opinions regarding Defendant's mental status.

1. Prior bad acts

a. Parties' arguments

While Defendant does not specify Defendant's prior bad acts to which he objects, the government states that it may attempt to use evidence of the following: (1) Defendant was referred to juvenile authorities at around fourteen years of age, including the Wittenmyer Youth Center, the Keystone Treatment Center and the Eldora Boys Reformatory; (2) Penny Roberts will testify about a December 2006 incident in which Defendant broke windows at her home because of a dispute with her daughter; (3) Lowell Youngbear will testify about a February 2007 incident in which Defendant was a passenger in a car stopped for a traffic infraction and Defendant threatened a police officer and was arrested; (4) in August 2007, officers attempted to arrest Defendant for possession of marijuana and Defendant violently resisted arrest and threatened to kill police officers; and (5) in April 2013, Defendant assaulted Mark Marogil and his girlfriend at a bar, hitting Marogil in the face and causing permanent damage to his teeth.

In the Defense Motions, Defendant argues that testimony about these acts should be prohibited pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b) because "[n]othing about this highly prejudicial evidence is relevant to establish motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, absence of mistake, or lack of accident.'" Brief in Support of the Second Defense Motion at 2 (quoting Fed.R.Evid. 404(b)). Defendant additionally argues that evidence of Defendant's prior acts is inadmissible under Federal Rule of Evidence 403 because the probative value of such evidence is substantially outweighed by a danger of unfair prejudice. See Reply to the Resistance to the Second Defense Motion at 3.

In its Resistance to the First Defense Motion, the government states that it "will introduce the evidence only in rebuttal to [D]efendant's insanity defense and not in the government's case-in-chief." Resistance to the First Defense Motion at 3; see also Resistance to the Second Defense Motion at 4 ("[T]he evidence will not be offered in the government's case-in-chief on the issue of Defendant's guilt, but, rather, to rebut Defendant's insanity claim."). The government argues that testimony about Defendant's prior bad acts is relevant to "show [D]efendant's history of failing to control his anger, threats against others, and violent outbursts [as] inconsistent with the claim that the murders resulted from a psychotic episode." Resistance to the First Defense Motion at 1-2. The government argues that such evidence is not improper pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b) because it will not use the evidence to show Defendant's propensity to commit bad acts, but rather "to rebut the claim that [Defendant's] conduct was the result of insanity." Id. at 3.

b. Applicable law

Federal Rule of Evidence 402 provides that "[r]elevant evidence is admissible" unless proscribed by "the United States Constitution; a federal statute; these rules; or other rules prescribed by the Supreme Court." Fed.R.Evid. 402. "Irrelevant evidence is not admissible." Id. "Evidence is relevant if... it has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence; and... the fact is of consequence in determining the action." Fed.R.Evid. 401.

Federal Rule of Evidence 403 provides:

The court may exclude relevant evidence if its probative value is substantially outweighed by a danger of one or more of the following: unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, misleading the jury, undue delay, ...

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