Submitted: January 11, 2018
from United States District Court for the Eastern District of
Missouri - St. Louis
COLLOTON, BENTON, and ERICKSON, Circuit Judges.
BENTON, Circuit Judge.
3, 2012, Maurice Walker, an inmate at Farmington Correctional
Center, received a new cellmate, Jerome Nash. According to
Walker, he immediately told corrections officers Dale White
and Catherine Amonds he feared living with Nash. Six days
later, Nash raped Walker. Walker sued the two officers under
42 U.S.C. § 1983, for failure-to-protect in violation of
the Eighth Amendment. The jury found for the officers. Walker
appeals, arguing the district court made evidentiary errors.
Having jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, this court
trial, the officers moved to exclude any reference to officer
White's disciplinary file. Walker wanted to cross-examine
White about an incident that he thought showed White's
character for untruthfulness. The district court refused to
allow the cross-examination, because the "unfair
prejudice outweighs the probative value of it."
also moved to exclude any reference to his "sexual
orientation or sexual relationships/encounters." The
officers responded that evidence of Walker's
sexually-aggressive behavior toward previous cellmates was
relevant to whether "everyone should have known"
Walker was in danger. The court said that admissibility
depended on how Walker presented his case. The court
instructed the officers' counsel not to introduce this
evidence "until we've had a sidebar."
trial, with the rape stipulated to, the parties focused on
whether the officers were aware of a substantial risk of
serious harm. See Whitson v. Stone Cty. Jail, 602
F.3d 920, 923 (8th Cir. 2010) ("In order to establish an
Eighth Amendment failure-to-protect claim, a plaintiff must
show that the prison official was deliberately indifferent to
a 'substantial risk of serious harm.'"). Walker,
testifying first, said Nash was "six foot something,
" "200 plus pounds, " and "well-known for
sexual assaults." (Walker was five-and-a-half feet tall,
and about 160 pounds.) Walker said that the day Nash moved
in, officer Amonds told him she knew what Nash was
"capable of" and would "lock him up" if
there were any problems. Officer White added,
"You'll be all right." According to Walker, he
told them he "felt threatened" by Nash, but did not
ask for protective custody. Walker claimed he also told
officer Douglas W. Baker he felt threatened. Walker admitted
he did not mention this to any officers after these
then called White and Amonds to testify. White said he did
not remember Walker, or any conversation with him. Walker did
not attempt to ask White about his disciplinary file. Amonds
recalled telling Walker-with White present-to let an officer
know if he had any troubles with Nash, something she
customarily told individuals with new cellmates. But
according to Amonds, Walker expressed no fears. Amonds knew
Nash to be a "bully, " but not violent or known for
officers' only witness was officer Baker. He was in
charge of cell assignments and had paired Walker and Nash.
Baker testified, contradicting Walker, that Walker did not
tell him he felt threatened by Nash. According to Baker, he
did not talk to Walker during July 2012. Baker described his
process of assigning inmates, pairing "aggressive"
inmates with others who are at least not "timid."
Over Walker's objection (and after a sidebar discussion),
Baker said he paired Walker and Nash because of Walker's
aggressive behavior toward cellmates.
challenges the district court's evidentiary rulings.
"The admission or exclusion of evidence is reviewed for
abuse of discretion; evidentiary rulings are reversed only
for a clear and prejudicial abuse of discretion."
Davis v. White, 858 F.3d 1155, 1159 (8th Cir. 2017)
(internal quotation marks omitted). This court gives
"substantial deference to a trial court's
exclusion of evidence under Federal Rule of Evidence 403 so
long as the trial court's exercise of discretion [does]
not unfairly prevent a party from proving [its] case."
United States v. Condon, 720 F.3d 748, 754 (8th Cir.
2013) (alterations and emphasis in original) (internal
quotation marks omitted).
contends that the district court should have allowed
cross-examination of White about a disciplinary incident
allegedly probative of his character for untruthfulness.
Walker summarized his position at the pre-trial hearing on
motions in limine:
THE COURT: What is it that you say he was disciplined for,
and exactly what evidence are you going to introduce? Not
why. You want to cross-examine him on it, or you're not
going to introduce an exhibit?
MR. MEYER [Walker's counsel]: It would not be through an
exhibit. It would be under 608(b) through inquiry only ...