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Casias v. State, Department of Corrections

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

March 14, 2019

ISAHA CASIAS, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF NEW MEXICO DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, TARACINA MORGAN and HERMAN GONZALES, Defendants.

         ORDER OVERRULING IN PART DEFENDANTS' OBJECTION TO PLAINTIFF'S CONTESTED EXHIBIT LIST; GRANTING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION IN LIMINE NO. IV; SUSTAINING IN PART AND OVERRULING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S OBJECTIONS TO DEFENDANTS' FINAL TRIAL EXHIBIT LIST; GRANTING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION IN LIMINE NO. III; SUSTAINING PLAINTIFF'S OBJECTIONS TO DEFENDANTS' DEPOSITION DESIGNATIONS; AND OVERRULING DEFENDANTS' OBJECTION TO PLAINTIFF'S USE OF DEPOSITIONS AT TRIAL

          JOEL M. CARSON III UNITED STATES CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         On March 5, 2019, the parties appeared before the Court for a pretrial conference. At the pretrial conference, the parties orally argued the remaining pending motions and objections. For the reasons set forth below, the Court OVERRULES IN PART Defendants' Objection to Plaintiff's Exhibit List [Doc. No. 186]; GRANTS IN PART Plaintiff's Motion in Limine No. IV [Doc. No. 134]; SUSTAINS IN PART and OVERRULES IN PART Plaintiff's Objections to Defendants' Final Trial Exhibit List [Doc. No. 182]; GRANTS IN PART Plaintiff's Motion in Limine No. III [Doc. No. 133]; SUSTAINS Plaintiff's Objections to Defendants' Deposition Designations [Doc. No. 183]; and OVERRULES Defendants' Objection to Plaintiff's use of Depositions at Trial [Doc. No. 185].

         I.

         On July 11, 2013, Defendants Taracina Morgan and Herman Gonzales transported Plaintiff Isaha Casias, along with other inmates, from one prison to another. During the transfer, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants left the van unattended with the van's engine turned off, and the windows and doors closed. As a result of these conditions, Plaintiff alleges he lost consciousness and convulsed with uncontrollable muscle spasms. Plaintiff claims that during that transfer, Defendants acted negligently and violated his constitutional rights. As a result of this event, Plaintiff alleges he suffered medical and psychological damages.

         II.

         Plaintiff and Defendants have filed various pretrial motions and have lodged objections to evidentiary issues. The Court now addresses each of these pending motions and objections in turn.

         (i) OPS Report of Investigation

         Plaintiff seeks to admit at trial the Office of Professional Standards (“OPS”) report that Derek Williams, Deputy Warden of the Penitentiary of New Mexico (“PNM”), prepared. Doc. No. 193. The Court previously addressed this issue in its September 10, 2018, Memorandum Opinion and Order [Doc. No. 174], but reserved ruling on the admission of the OPS report itself until trial in order to determine if Plaintiff can lay the proper evidentiary foundation for admission under a hearsay exception. Plaintiff contends that the issue is ripe for resolution. Plaintiff argues the report is admissible under Feder Rule of Evidence (“Rule”) 801(d)(2) or Rule 803(6). Defendants object to the OPS report in their Objection to Plaintiff's Exhibit List [Doc. No. 186] by incorporating the objections made in their Response to Plaintiff's Motion in Limine No. II [Doc. No. 155]. Defendants' Response to Plaintiff's Motion in Limine No. II, however, does not contain specific objections regarding the admissibility of the OPS report.

         Rule 801(d)(2) provides an exclusion to the rule against hearsay for opposing party statements. Fed.R.Evid. 801(d)(2). An opposing party's statement is a “statement . . . offered against an opposing party, ” and among other things, “was made by a person whom the party authorized to make a statement on the subject.” Id. Plaintiff offers the OPS report as evidence against Defendants. Williams created the report after OPS requested Williams investigate the incident. OPS is part of Defendant New Mexico Department of Corrections (“DOC”). A party to this case thus authorized Williams to make a statement on the subject. The OPS Report satisfies the requirements of Rule 801(d)(2). See Reid Brothers Logging Co. v. Ketchikan Pulp Co., 699 F.2d 1292, 1306 (9th Cir.1983) (explaining that a report prepared by third party at request of defendant company was admissible under Rule 801(d)(2)(C)). The Court overrules Defendants' objection to the OPS report.

         (ii) Defendants' interviews with Derek Williams

         Plaintiff seeks to admit transcripts or audio recordings of Williams' interviews of Herman Gonzales and Taracina Morgan. Doc. No. 193. At the pretrial conference, Defendants objected to the admission of this evidence because the contents of the interviews are not sworn statements. A statement by a party opponent, however, is not required to be sworn to be admissible. See SE Techs., Inc. v. Summit Elec. Supply Co., 2002 WL 34705613, at *3 (D.N.M. Feb. 7, 2002) (describing that unsworn statements are admissible under Fed.R.Evid. 801(d)(2)); Fed.R.Evid. 801(d)(2). Like the evidence discussed above, the statements in both interviews are admissible under Rule 801(d)(2). The statements are statements by a party to the case in his or her individual capacity offered by Plaintiff against the party-declarant. See Fed. R. Evid. 801(d)(2)(A). Accordingly, the statements are an exclusion from hearsay and may be offered as substantive evidence. See United States v. Williamson, 53 F.3d 1500, 1517 (10th Cir. 1995) (explaining that because 801(d)(2) is an exclusion from hearsay, evidence admissible under that rule is admissible as substantive evidence). The Court overrules Defendants' objection to this evidence.

         The Court, however, believes the introduction of both the transcript and audio recording from each interview is unnecessarily cumulative. Fed.R.Evid. 403. Therefore, Plaintiff shall only be allowed to admit the transcript from each interview for use at trial.

         (iii) Hand-drawn diagram of sallyport area

         Plaintiff seeks to admit a hand-drawn diagram created by Edward Urtiaga of the sallyport area at PNM. Doc. No. 193. Subject to a minimal foundation being laid at trial (i.e., a witness who can identify the diagram), Defendants indicate they will not object to this evidence. Therefore, the Court does not exclude the hand-drawn diagram from evidence at this time. In the event ...


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