United States District Court, D. Utah
ORDER ON MOTION IN LIMINE 3
N. Parrish United States District Court Judge
the court is Defendant Mario Garcia's Motion in Limine
Regarding Prosecution Exhibits 32 through 44 (ECF No. 214),
filed early this morning. The court heard oral argument on
the motion this afternoon. For the reasons below, Mr.
Garcia's motion is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN
Garcia moves the court to prevent the United States from
introducing into evidence Government's Exhibits 32, 33,
34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, and 44. These
exhibits can be divided into five groups. Exhibits 32-35 are
photos of the Gateway Motel, where the alleged shooting of
Victor Rodriguez occurred. Exhibits 36 and 37 are photos of
Mr. Rodriguez sitting in a chair at the motel with a wound in
his thigh. Exhibit 38 is comprised of medical records
authored by Andy Avery and Clark Rasmussen as they treated
Mr. Rodriguez for a gunshot wound at Intermountain Medical
Center. Exhibits 39 and 40 show a man who appears to be Mr.
Rodriguez lying in a hospital bed. And Exhibits 41-44 show a
gunshot wound in increasing detail.
Garcia identifies two reasons the photos should not be
admitted: first, they are substantially more prejudicial than
probative under Rule 403; and second, they run afoul of the
Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment.
Under Rule 403 of the Federal Rules of Evidence,
[t]he court may exclude relevant evidence if its probative
value is substantially outweighed by a danger of one or more
of the following: unfair prejudice, confusing the issues,
misleading the jury, undue delay, wasting time, or needlessly
presenting cumulative evidence.
Fed. R. Evid. 403. Exhibits 32, 33, 34, and 35 are clearly
probative. They corroborate Officer Nathan Groves's
testimony regarding the scene of the alleged shooting and the
appearance and medical state of the victim. And the exhibits
do not appear to be unfairly prejudicial. They are
36 and 37 also corroborate Officer Groves's testimony.
However, they are graphic in nature. Each depicts a man
(presumably Victor Rodriguez), seated in a chair, with what
appears to be a gunshot wound to his right thigh and blood
streaming down his leg. The graphic nature of the photos does
create some danger of unfair prejudice to Mr. Garcia, but the
court finds that this danger does not significantly outweigh
these exhibits' probative value. They are also
government represented at oral argument that it does not
intend to introduce Exhibit 38 as evidence. Rather, it
intends to use the medical record to refresh certain
witnesses' recollections. And counsel for Mr. Garcia
indicated that he had no objection to the records' use
for that purpose.
39 and 40 do not appear to have significant probative value.
They simply show a man (again, presumably Victor Rodriguez)
lying in a hospital bed, naked from the waist up, connected
to wires and monitors. However, these images do appear to
carry a significant danger of unfair prejudice that would
substantially outweigh their probative value. Consequently,
they are not admissible.
41-44 are somewhat more probative. They show a bullet wound
that corroborates the physicians' testimony regarding Mr.
Rodriguez's presentation and treatment at Intermountain
Medical Center. They also support the conclusion that Mr.
Rodriguez did suffer a gunshot wound (rather than a knife
wound, for example). However, the only significant difference
between Exhibits 41, 42, 43, and 44 is that the latter
exhibits show the wound in increasingly gruesome detail.
Displaying all of these exhibits would be needlessly
cumulative. Moreover, given their cumulative nature, any
additional probative value of the close-up shots would be
significantly outweighed by the potential for unfair
prejudice. Consequently, Exhibit 41 is admissible. Exhibits
42, 43, and 44 are not.
Garcia's argument that the exhibits are barred by the
Confrontation Clause is meritless. As the Supreme Court
explained in Crawford v. Washington, the
Confrontation Clause “applies to ‘witnesses'
against the accused-in other words, those who ‘bear
testimony.'” 541 U.S. 36 (2004). “Testimony,
in turn, is typically a solemn declaration or affirmation
made for the purpose of establishing or proving some
fact.” Id. (internal quotation marks and
brackets omitted). The photographs at issue here are not
“witnesses” against Mr. Garcia. They cannot
“bear testimony” because they cannot declare or
affirm anything with a “purpose.” Their admission
does not violate the Confrontation Clause. See United
States v. Brooks, 772 F.3d 1161, 1167 (9th Cir. 2014)
(holding that admission of photographs of a seized parcel did
not violate the Confrontation Clause because the photographs
were not witnesses against the defendant); United States
v. Lopez-Moreno, 420 F.3d 420, 436 (5th Cir. 2005)
(holding that admission of a voter identification card did
not violate the Confrontation Clause because it did not
involve a witness bearing testimony).