United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee.
Aldo Brown Defendant-Appellant.
September 8, 2016
from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 14 CR 674 -
Virginia M. Kendall, Judge.
Flaum, Rovner, and Sykes, Circuit Judges.
investigating a tip that illegal drugs were being sold from a
south-side convenience store, Chicago Police Officer Aldo
Brown sucker-punched a store employee for no apparent reason.
As the dazed employee attempted to stagger away, Brown
continued to beat and kick him for about two minutes. The
beating was caught on the store's surveillance camera. A
federal grand jury indicted Brown for willfully depriving the
employee of his Fourth Amendment right to be free from
excessive force inflicted by a law-enforcement officer.
trial Brown sought to introduce expert testimony from a
former Chicago police officer who would testify that
Brown's actions were consistent with departmental
standards. Ruling on the government's motion in limine,
the district judge excluded the expert witness, reasoning
that departmental policy was immaterial to the Fourth
Amendment inquiry and that the expert's proposed
testimony might include an improper opinion about Brown's
state of mind.
jury found Brown guilty. He challenges his conviction,
arguing that the judge wrongly excluded his expert witness.
We reject this argument and affirm. Expert testimony about
police standards may appropriately assist the jury in
resolving some excessive-force questions, but sometimes
evidence of this type is unhelpful and thus irrelevant,
particularly when no specialized knowledge is needed to
determine whether the officer's conduct was objectively
unreasonable. The misconduct alleged here was easily within
the grasp of a lay jury, so the judge did not abuse her
discretion in excluding the expert.
September 27, 2012, Chicago Police Officers Aldo Brown and
George Stacker entered a convenience store in Chicago's
South Shore neighborhood to investigate a tip that drugs were
being sold there. The officers handcuffed several people near
the entrance, including a store employee named Jecque Howard.
The officers then searched the store. After completing his
search, Stacker returned to the front of the store and spoke
to Howard for a few minutes, removing his handcuffs. Brown
approached and ordered Howard to show his waistband. Howard
lifted his shirt in compliance with the officer's order.
while Howard stood motionless, Brown punched him in the face.
As Howard reeled from the blow, Brown grabbed him by the neck
and held him against a large refrigerator. At Brown's
direction Howard retrieved a small bag of marijuana from his
back pocket and turned it over to Brown. Without provocation,
Brown punched Howard in the ribs and pulled him down an aisle
toward the back of the store where he forced him to lie on
the floor on his back. When Howard attempted to sit up, Brown
hit him in the face again and forced him back to the ground
on his stomach. Brown then handcuffed Howard, searched his
back pockets, and found a handgun. Brown confiscated the gun
and walked toward the front of the store to show it to his
partner, then returned to kick Howard in the ribs before
placing him under arrest. Surveillance cameras captured the
episode on silent video.
arrest report, Officer Brown described the incident as an
emergency takedown and explained that it was necessary
because Howard reached for the firearm. In his
tactical-response report, the officer stated that Howard
"fled" and "pulled away" after the
takedown. The tactical-response report has a space for the
officer to record whether he used a "close hand
strike/punch" or "kicks" during the incident
in question. Brown left those boxes unchecked.
federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Brown with
three crimes: two counts of falsifying a police record,
see 18 U.S.C. § 1519 (one count for each
report), and one count of willfully depriving another of a
federal right under color of law, see id. §
242. The § 242 count alleged that Brown used excessive
force against Howard, depriving him of his Fourth Amendment
right to be free from unreasonable seizure.
trial Brown testified that he delivered the first punch
because he noticed the gun in Howard's back pocket. He
testified that he extended the confrontation only because
Howard threatened him, incited onlookers to rough him up,
failed to comply with his orders, tried to grab his gun, and
attempted to flee.
support his theory that his actions were reasonable given the
circumstances, Brown planned to call John Farrell, a former
Chicago police officer, as an expert witness. According to
Farrell's expert report, his proposed testimony would
take the jury through a frame-by-frame narration of the
surveillance video and describe how the Chicago Police
Department's "Use of Force Model" applied to
Brown's confrontation with Howard. Specifically, Farrell
planned to testify that Howard was an "active
resister" and an "assailant, " to use the
parlance of the Use of Force Model. Farrell based this
opinion primarily on his review of the video and an interview
he conducted with Brown. Farrell also ...