United States District Court, D. Nevada
LARRY R. HICKS, District Judge.
Before the court is defendant Justin Paul Ramos's ("Ramos") motion challenging evidence and motion in limine. Doc. #24.
I. Facts and Procedural History
Defendant Ramos is charged by Indictment of a single count of being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2). Doc. #1. In anticipation of the trial set to begin on Wednesday, April 23, 2014, the government submitted an intended exhibit list identifying several documents and other physical evidence it seeks to introduce at trial. Doc. #23. Thereafter, Ramos filed the present motion in limine to exclude several of the identified exhibits. Doc. #24.
III. Legal Standard
A motion in limine is used to preclude prejudicial or objectionable evidence before it is presented to the jury. Stephanie Hoit Lee & David N. Finley, Federal Motions in Limine § 1:1 (2012). The decision on a motion in limine is consigned to the district court's discretion-including the decision of whether to rule before trial at all. See Hawthorne Partners v. AT&T Technologies, Inc., 831 F.Supp. 1398, 1400 (N.D. Ill. 1993) (noting that a court may wait to resolve the evidentiary issues at trial, where the evidence can be viewed in its "proper context"). Motions in limine should not be used to resolve factual disputes or to weigh evidence, and evidence should not be excluded prior to trial unless "the evidence [is] inadmissible on all potential grounds." See, e.g., Indiana Insurance Co. v. General Electric Co., 326 F.Supp.2d 844, 846 (N.D. Ohio 2004). Even then, rulings on these motions are not binding on the trial judge, and they may be changed in response to developments at trial. See Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 (1984).
In his motion, Ramos seeks to exclude four separate exhibits as either (1) irrelevant to the charge of felon in possession of a firearm, or (2) as unfairly prejudicial. See Doc. #24. The court shall address each challenge below.
A. Exhibits 5a to 5i
The government has identified and marked several documents purporting to establish that defendant Ramos is a felon, being previously convicted of the crime of voluntary manslaughter in San Joaquin County, California. These documents are marked and identified as government exhibits 5a through 5i. See Doc. #23.
In his motion, Ramos argues that these documents are insufficient to establish that he was found guilty of the crime of voluntary manslaughter because they do not contain a certified judgment from the California court, or other reliable document of conviction. Rather, Ramos argues that the court documents - including minute orders, an abstract of judgment, clerk's minutes, the initial charging document, and a prison commitment - are insufficient on their own to establish that he is a felon, and for that reason, the documents are irrelevant to this action and should be excluded from trial.
Evidence is relevant if it has "any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence." FED. R. EVID. 401. Generally, all relevant evidence is admissible. FED. R. EVID. 402. The determination of whether evidence is relevant to an action or issue is expansive and inclusive. See Sprint/United Mgmt. Co. v. Mendelsohn, 552 U.S. 379, 384-87 (2008).
The court finds that the identified exhibits, although not the most direct or easiest manner to establish a prior conviction, are still relevant to this action as they have the tendency to make a fact of consequence, to wit, whether Ramos was convicted of a felony in San Joaquin County, California, more probable than it would be ...