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United States v. Palmer

United States District Court, D. Maine

September 6, 2016

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
JACK PALMER

          ORDER ON MOTION IN LIMINE TO ADMIT PHOTOGRAPHS AND EVIDENCE OF PAST CONDUCT

          JOHN A. WOODCOCK, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         With trial looming in this child pornography case, the Court grants in part and dismisses in part the Government's motion in limine. The Court rules admissible photographs of images of naked children that the Defendant posted on the walls of his apartment as well as photographs of the children's clothing and baby pacifiers that law enforcement found in his apartment. The Court declines to make a final ruling as to the admissibility of evidence that the Defendant previously downloaded child pornography at a municipal library and evidence that the Defendant's landlord had prior knowledge of the Defendant's downloading of child pornography. The Court reserves those issues for trial.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. The Procedural Background

         On September 16, 2015, a federal grand jury indicted Jack Palmer for possession of child pornography, an alleged violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2252A(a)(5)(B), 2252(b)(2) and 2256(8)(A).[1] Indictment at 1 (ECF No. 3). The charge is scheduled for jury selection on September 12, 2016, with trial to follow immediately thereafter. Notice of Hr'g (ECF No. 42); Id. (ECF No. 48). On July 27, 2016, the Government filed a motion in limine, asking that the Court rule in advance of trial as to the admissibility of certain photographs and instances of past conduct of the Defendant. Gov't's Mot. in Limine to Admit Photographs and Evid. of Past Instances of Possessing Child Pornography (ECF No. 40) (Gov't's Mot.). On August 17, 2016, Mr. Palmer responded in opposition to the motion. Def.'s Opp'n to Gov't's Mot. in Limine to Admit Photographs and Evid. of Past Instances of Possessing Child Pornography (ECF No. 44) (Def.'s Opp'n). The Government replied on August 29, 2016. Gov't's Reply to the Def.'s Opp'n to Gov't's Mot. in Limine to Admit Photographs and Evid. of Past Instances of Possessing Child Pornography (ECF No. 46) (Gov't's Reply).

         B. Factual Background

         The September 16, 2015 indictment charges Mr. Palmer with possession of child pornography on October 23, 2014. Indictment at 1. The Government represents that on October 23, 2014, law enforcement conducted a search of Mr. Palmer's residence in Winter Harbor, Maine, pursuant to a search warrant, seeking evidence of his unlawful possession of child pornography. Gov't's Mot. at 1. The Government says that as a result of the search, its forensic examination of the computer and hard drive revealed 312 images and five videos of child pornography. Id. It says that law enforcement later reviewed CDs recovered from Mr. Palmer's residence and identified additional child pornography. Id. at 1-2. In addition to the child pornography on the laptop, hard drive, and CDs, the Government represents that law enforcement found inside Mr. Palmer's residence paper photographs of naked children posted on the walls, children's clothing, children's underwear, and pacifiers for babies. Id. at 2.

         The Government also states that a special agent from Homeland Security spoke with Mr. Palmer's landlord, Larry Smith, on May 6, 2016. Id. Mr. Smith confirmed that Mr. Palmer had been living at the apartment complex for about fifteen years. Id. At some point, Mr. Smith became aware that Mr. Palmer had been viewing child pornography, and he pleaded with him to stop doing so. Id. Mr. Palmer responded that he would not get into trouble because he was not downloading child pornography. Id.

         On at least one occasion, Mr. Smith said Mr. Palmer entered Mr. Smith's office and used Mr. Smith's computer to view child pornography. Id. Mr. Smith called the police and removed the computer to ensure Mr. Palmer did not continue to view child pornography in his office. Id. at 2-3.

         On July 8, 2013, according to the Government, the Winter Harbor Library expelled Mr. Palmer for viewing child pornography at the library. Id. at 3. Mr. Palmer admitted being expelled from the library for doing so. Id.

         To its motion, the Government attached:

(1) twelve photographs of child pornography that it says were posted on Mr. Palmer's wall, Id. Attach. 1;
(2) seven photographs of Mr. Palmer's apartment depicting where the child pornography was posted, Id. Attach. 2;
(3) two photographs of children's clothing, Id. Attachs. 3, 4;
(4) two photographs of children's underwear, Id. Attachs. 5, 6;
(5) a photograph of baby pacifiers, Id. Attach. 7;
(6) an October 28, 2014 report of a polygraph examination of Mr. Palmer, Id. Attach. 8;
(7) an October 23, 2014 report of an interview with Mr. Palmer, Id. Attach. 9;
(8) a May 16, 2016 report of an interview with Larry Smith, Id. Attach. 10;
(9) a July 8, 2013 report of an incident at the Winter Harbor Library, Id. ...

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