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United States v. Barnes

United States District Court, D. Nevada

July 1, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff(s),
v.
DANIEL JAMES BARNES, Defendant(s).

ORDER

JAMES C. MAHAN, District Judge.

Presently before the court is defendant Daniel Barnes's motion in limine to preclude government evidence of text messages, Facebook data and Redbook advertisements. (Doc. # 116). The government has not filed a response, and the deadline to respond has passed.

I. Background

On October 15, 2014, the government filed a superseding indictment against the defendant, charging one count of transporting a minor for prostitution, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2423(a), one count of trafficking of a child, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1591(a)(1)-(2), and one count of sexual exploitation of children, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2251(a). (Doc. # 84).

The government contends that defendant transported J.M., a minor, from Las Vegas, Nevada to California, intending to engage her in acts of prostitution. The government further contends that the defendant produced sexually explicit visual depictions of the minor.

Defendant pleaded not guilty to all counts. (Doc. # 97). The case is currently scheduled for a jury trial to begin on August 24, 2015. (Doc. # 144). In anticipation of trial, the defendant filed the instant motion in limine to preclude evidence. (Doc. # 116).

II. Legal Standard

a. Motion in limine

"The court must decide any preliminary question about whether... evidence is admissible." Fed.R.Evid. 104. Motions in limine are procedural mechanisms by which the court can make evidentiary rulings in advance of trial, often to preclude unfairly prejudicial evidence. United States v. Heller, 551 F.3d 1108, 1111-12 (9th Cir. 2009); Brodit v. Cambra, 350 F.3d 985, 1004-05 (9th Cir. 2003). "Although the Federal Rules of Evidence do not explicitly authorize in limine rulings, the practice has developed pursuant to the district court's inherent authority to manage the course of trials." Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 n.4 (1980).

Judges have broad discretion when ruling on motions in limine. See Jenkins v. Chrysler Motors Corp., 316 F.3d 663, 664 (7th Cir. 2002); see also Trevino v. Gates, 99 F.3d 911, 922 (9th Cir. 1999) ("The district court has considerable latitude in performing a Rule 403 balancing test and we will uphold its decision absent clear abuse of discretion.").

Courts are generally reluctant to grant broad exclusions of evidence in limine, because "a court is almost always better situated during the actual trial to assess the value and utility of evidence." Koch v. Koch Indus., Inc., 2 F.Supp.2d 1385, 1388 (D. Kan. 1998); accord Conboy v. Wynn Las Vegas, LLC, No. 2:11-CV-1649-JCM-CWH, 2013 WL 1701069, at *1 (D. Nev. April 18, 2013). To obtain the exclusion of evidence under such a motion, a party must prove that the evidence is clearly inadmissible on all potential grounds. See Koch, 2 F.Supp.2d at 1388; cf. Luce, 469 U.S. at 41.

"[I]n limine rulings are not binding on the trial judge [who] may always change his mind during the course of a trial." Ohler v. United States, 529 U.S. 753, 758 n.3 (2000); accord Luce, 469 U.S. at 41 (noting that in limine rulings are always subject to change, especially if the evidence unfolds in an unanticipated manner). Denial merely means that without the context of trial, the court is unable to determine whether the evidence in question should be excluded. Conboy, 2013 WL 1701069, at *1.

b. Authentication

"To satisfy the requirement of authenticating or identifying an item of evidence, the proponent must produce evidence sufficient to support a finding that the item is what ...


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