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Holmes v. Slay

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

January 11, 2017

MICHAEL HOLMES, Plaintiff,
v.
FRANCIS G. SLAY, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          HENRY EDWARD AUTREY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law and for New Trial, [Doc. No. 263]. Plaintiff opposes the Motion. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is denied.

         Background

         This action was tried before a jury from February 29, 2016 through March 3, 2016. The Court denied Defendants' oral motions for judgment as a matter of law at the close of Plaintiff's case and at the close of all the evidence. The jury returned its verdict in favor of Plaintiff and against Defendants Garrett and Sharp on March 4, 2016.

         Plaintiff alleged that his federal civil rights were violated when he was arrested, convicted and imprisoned for a period of over five years based on false evidence manufactured by defendants Garrett and Sharp. The jury rendered its verdict in the amount of $2, 500, 000.00 in favor of the Plaintiff.

         Standards

         A motion for judgment as a matter of law should be granted only if the jury's verdict is utterly lacking in evidentiary support. In re Prempro Prods. Liab. Litig., 586 F.3d 547, 571 (8th Cir. 2009). When deciding a Rule 50 motion, the Court must construe the evidence most favorably to the prevailing party and draw all inferences in his favor, denying the motion “if reasonable persons could differ as to the conclusions to be drawn from the evidence.” Western Am., Inc. v. Aetna Cas. and Sur. Co., 915 F.2d 1181, 1183 (8th Cir. 1990). The Court may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence. In re Prempro, 586 F.3d at 572 (citing Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000)).

         On a motion for judgment as a matter of law, the Court must give “great deference to the jury's verdict.” Heaton v. The Weitz Co., Inc., 534 F.3d 882, 889 (8th Cir.2008)(citation omitted). The nonmoving party receives the benefit of all inferences which can be drawn without resort to speculation. Marvin Lumber & Cedar Co. v. PPG Indus., Inc., 401 F.3d 901, 908-09 (8th Cir.2005). Indeed, the court must consider the evidence in the light most favorable to the jury verdict. Specifically, the Court assumes all conflicts in the evidence were resolved in Plaintiff's favor, assume Plaintiff proved all facts that his evidence tended to prove, and give Plaintiff the benefit of all favorable inferences that reasonably may be drawn from the proven facts. Craig Outdoor Advertising, Inc. v. Viacom Outdoor, Inc., 528 F.3d 1001, 1009 (8th Cir.2008)(citations omitted). The court must make “all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party and view[ ] the facts most favorably to that party.” Lee ex rel. Lee v. Borders, 764 F.3d 966, 971 (8th Cir.2014); see also In re Prempro, 586 F.3d at 571.

         A motion for new trial under Rule 59, Fed.R.Civ.P., is appropriate “when the outcome is against the great weight of the evidence so as to constitute a miscarriage of justice.” Bank of America N.A. v. JB Hanna, LLC, 766 F.3d 841, 851 (8th Cir.2014). When the jury instructions are challenged, the question is “whether the jury instructions, taken as a whole, fairly and adequately represent the evidence and applicable law in light of the issues presented to the jury in a particular case.” Lee, 764 F.3d at 972. Granting a new trial because of jury instructions “is only warranted if a party's substantial rights are prejudiced by instructional error.” Sherman v. Winco Fireworks, Inc., 532 F.3d 709, 720 (8th Cir.2008).

         Discussion

         Judgment as a Matter of Law

         Conspiracy

         Defendants argue that there was no evidence that Defendant Garrett had any material involvement in Plaintiff's arrest on December 9, 2003, and no evidence that he conspired with Defendant Sharp to deprive Plaintiff of his rights. In order to present a submissible case, Plaintiff was required to prove that two or more persons conspired to deprive him of a constitutional right that at least one of those persons took an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy, and by which he was injured. White v. McKinley, 519 F.3d 806, 814 (8th Cir. 2008). As Plaintiff points out, although there may not have been direct evidence to establish Garrett and Sharp entered into an agreement to deprive Plaintiff of his rights, Plaintiff presented evidence that Sharp sought out Garrett and requested him to join him on the narcotics case involving Plaintiff. Both Defendants had previously worked with another officer, Vincent Carr, who was later indicted with Garrett for federal crimes involving on duty drug transactions. The jury also heard evidence that Garrett pled guilty to the federal crimes and that Sharp retired in the wake of these events. Conflicting evidence was ...


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