United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Eastern Division, Waterloo
WILLIAMS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on Jason Troy Harriman's
(“defendant”) motion in limine (Doc. 48) and on
defendant's Motion to Take Trial Testimony Via
Videoconferencing (Doc. 50). The government timely resisted
both motions. (Docs. 53, 54). For the following reasons,
defendant's motion in limine (Doc. 48) is denied
in part and held in abeyance in part, and
defendant's motion to take testimony via
videoconferencing (Doc. 50) is granted.
was indicted on two counts of murder for hire, one of which
charged defendant with hiring an undercover law enforcement
officer (“UC”) to murder defendant's
ex-wife-D.H.-and one of which charged defendant with hiring
that same UC to murder D.H.'s boyfriend-A.W. (Doc. 2).
The indictment further states that defendant took steps to
hire the UC while defendant was incarcerated in Forest City
Federal Correctional Institution (“Forest City”).
(Id., at 1). Defendant now seeks to exclude evidence
of his prior convictions and of prior violent actions taken
by defendant against D.H. (Doc. 48). Defendant also seeks
leave of Court to permit a material witness to provide trial
testimony via videoconference, instead of appearing
personally. The Court will consider each motion in turn.
MOTION IN LIMINE
motion in limine seeks to exclude four categories of evidence
under Federal Rules of Evidence 403 and 404(b):
1) Evidence, including underlying facts, of defendant's
January 6, 1997 convictions for burglary in the second degree
and kidnapping in the third degree;
2) Evidence, including underlying facts, of defendant's
April 18, 2006 conviction for assault;
3) Evidence, including underlying facts, of defendant's
April 21, 2007 conviction for domestic abuse assault; and
4) Evidence that defendant attempted to murder his ex-wife,
D.H., on September 27, 2009.
government asserts that it does not intend, at this time, to
introduce evidence of defendant's April 18, 2006
conviction for assault. (Doc. 53, at 1). As such, the Court
holds defendant's motion in limine in abeyance to the
extent defendant seeks to exclude evidence regarding the 2006
assault conviction. Should the government later wish to
introduce evidence of the 2006 assault conviction, or the
underlying facts, the government must alert the Court and
defense counsel first; defendant may then renew his motion at
that time. The Court will address each of the remaining three
categories of evidence in turn.
Rule of Evidence 403, in relevant part, permits the Court to
“exclude relevant evidence if its probative value is
substantially outweighed by a danger of . . . unfair
prejudice . . ..” Rule 404(b) provides that
“[e]vidence of a crime, wrong, or other act is not
admissible to prove a person's character in order to show
that on a particular occasion the person acted in accordance
with the character.” Fed.R.Evid. 404(b)(1). Such
evidence may, however, be admissible to prove motive,
opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity,
absence of mistake, or lack of accident. Fed.R.Evid.
404(b)(2). For Rule 404(b) evidence to be admissible,
“[t]he evidence must be 1) relevant to a material
issue; 2) similar in kind and not overly remote in time to
the crime charged; 3) supported by sufficient evidence; and
4) higher in probative value than prejudicial effect.”
United States v. Williams, 534 F.3d 980, 984 (8th
Cir. 2008) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).
the first category of evidence, defendant's 1997
convictions for burglary of D.H.'s residence and
kidnapping D.H., defendant argues only that the convictions
are too remote in time to be admissible, and that evidence of
the convictions would be more prejudicial than probative. The
1997 convictions occurred approximately twenty-one years
prior to the conduct giving rise to the instant charges.
(See Doc. 53, at 5). The government asserts that
these convictions are not overly remote in time because the
1997 convictions represent the first acts “in a long
and continuing string of violence and threats directed by
defendant toward[ ] D.H.” (Id.). In
determining whether a prior conviction is too remote in time
to be admissible, the Court imposes a reasonableness
standard, evaluating the facts and circumstances of each
case. United States v. Walker, 470 F.3d 1271, 1275
(8th Cir. 2006). “Whether the conviction is close in
time to the charged offense is one factor indicating the
relevancy of the evidence, but there is no specific number of
years beyond which prior bad acts are no longer relevant to
the issue of intent.” Id. (citation and
internal quotation marks omitted).
Court finds that the 1997 convictions are not so remote in
time as to mandate their exclusion from evidence. The 1997
convictions, stemming from violent acts directed at D.H., are
relevant to defendant's intent to harm D.H., which, in
turn, is relevant to defendant's intent to hire an
individual to kill D.H. Further, because defendant allegedly
committed a number of violent acts against D.H. between the
1997 conviction and the conduct charged in the instant
indictment, the Court finds that defendant's intent in
committing the 1997 crimes was not necessarily rendered stale
in the interim. That is, defendant's repeated course of
violent conduct against D.H. shows that defendant's
alleged intent to harm D.H. likely continued, if it ever
existed, from 1997 through May 2018, instead of manifesting
on two separate occasions over a period of twenty-one years.
The Court therefore rejects defendant's argument that
evidence of the 1997 convictions should be excluded for being
too remote in time.
respect to defendant's request to exclude evidence of
defendant's alleged attempt to murder and kidnap D.H. in
2009, the Court finds introduction of the underlying conduct
giving rise to the 2009 charges proper. The Court understands
the government's position to be that the government will
not seek to introduce evidence of the charges against
defendant-of which defendant was ultimately acquitted-nor
will the government seek to elicit testimony as to whether
D.H. believed defendant intended to murder D.H. (Doc. 53, at
5). The government asserts that it intends only to elicit
testimony from D.H. as to “what happened revolving
around defendant breaking into her home and holding her
‘hostage' while holding a knife to her throat and
resulting in her throat being cut.” (Id.).
Because the government only intends to introduce evidence
concerning the underlying conduct and not the subsequent
charges or court proceedings, the government need only prove
“that the act occurred and ...