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Illinois Prisoner Loses Use of Force Suit on Evidentiary Rulings

by Ed Lyon

Thomas Lovelace and another prisoner fought over some pencils on November 6, 2011, at the Dixon Correctional Center in Illinois. Guards handcuffed Lovelace and placed him in a van to be transported to a segregation unit.

Lovelace kicked at one of the van’s windows, breaking it. Guards allegedly beat him after moving him out of the van. They allegedly beat him again after placing him in another van and again after placing him in a segregation cell before reportedly taking his clothing, leaving him naked and alone.

A medical exam found tenderness on Lovelace’s side and one bruise. He reported back pain. He told a psychologist that guards "kicked my ass.”

At trial, he testified to sustaining a black eye that swelled shut, bruised ribs and an injured back.

The court would not allow the psychologist to testify that Lovelace told her that guards “kicked his ass,” ruling it hearsay. A prisoner witness’ deposition statement’s fear of not being returned to Dixon in retaliation for being Lovelace’s witness was excluded as comments whose prejudicial nature to the defendants outweighed their probative value.

The Seventh Circuit appeal court affirmed the trial court’s negative evidentiary rulings, agreeing with the witness deposition’s excluded portions. The psychologist’s notes were ruled to be hearsay under Rule 803 of the Federal Rules of Evidence but pointed out this could have been admitted under Rule 80l(d)(l)(B) as a prior consistent statement, had that rule been urged at trial.

See: Lovelace v. McKenna, et al., Case No. 17-1393 (7th Cir. 2018)  Additional source:

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Related legal case

Lovelace v. McKenna, et al.