Poitra, Jr. Motion In Limine

Dennis Poitra, Jr., escorted into the Sheridan County Courthouse in August, 2009.
Dennis Poitra, Jr., escorted into the Sheridan County Courthouse in August, 2009.

In Limine. Pronounced “in lim-ee-nay”, it's a Latin term which means “at the threshold,” and in legal jargon, it's a motion made before the start of a trial requesting that the judge rule that certain evidence may, or may not, be introduced to the jury in a trial. Sheridan Media's Mary Jo Johnson has more.

In two days, Monday, August 30th, Dennis Poitra, Jr. will be the first of three defendants to be tried for the August 26th, 2009 early-morning murder of Sheridan businessman Robert Ernst, who was shot in his own home during a break-in and robbery.

Friday morning, Sheridan County Attorney Matt Redle, prosecutor for the State, went before Judge John Fenn in 4th Judicial District Court on an In Limine motion. The State sought the motion to limit testimony of a psychologist Dr. Holmberg, an expert witness the Defense retained earlier this summer.

Poitra's defense team, Sheridan public defender Erin Wardell and Laramie-based public defender Vaughn Neubauer, wanted to be able to argue that at the time of the alleged crime, Poitra was suffering from “Involuntary Intoxication” from the effects of a mental health drug called Seroquel. Poitra had been prescribed the drug on the morning of August 25th upon being discharged from Sheridan Memorial Hospital; however, even though he'd taken doses while admitted, he did not take the drug once he was discharged. The defense wanted Dr. Holmberg to be allowed to give testimony to the chemical effects the drug can have on a person's psyche.

Judge Fenn received and reviewed Dr. Holmberg's report, dated – but unsigned – August 16th, and which was filed with the Court just this past Monday, August 23rd. In the report, Dr. Holmberg indicated that in interviewing Poitra, he took into consideration his medical history, his hospitalization two nights prior to the alleged crime, the Seroquel prescription, and Poitra's decision not to take the medication after leaving the hospital.

While Dr. Holmberg indicated in the report that it was possible that Poitra could have been suffering from Seroquel-induced akathisia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aka..., the doctor was of the opinion that Poitra was within his mental capacity to follow the law and chose not to, as further evidenced, the report said, by Poitra's anti-social demeanor.

Judge Fenn told the Court Friday that while the information meets the Rule 401 burden of relevant evidence, the testimony would be excluded because of Rule 403, which states that evidence may be excluded if it could cause unfair prejudice, mislead the jury, waste time or cause an undue delay.

Judge Fenn added that regarding the Involuntary Intoxication argument, the Court found it to be most persuasive, but not submitted early enough for the State to have time to prepare its argument and for the Court to make a ruling. The judge said that the Court would decline to make a determination in the matter.

Jury selection will begin in Poitra's trial at 9 o'clock sharp Monday morning.

Reporting for sheridanmedia.com news, I'm Mary Jo Johnson.

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