United States v. Asher, No. 17-6251 (6th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
Hill turned on the sink in a detox cell and let the water overflow. Jailor Hickman punched Hill, knocking him to the floor, severely injuring his jaw. Hickman and Asher kicked Hill while he laid curled on the floor; mocked Hill for soiling his pants; and stated, “We’re the law, dawg. We can do what we want.” They threw Hill into a restraint chair. Asher watched as Hickman pounded Hill’s face. Bruises on Hill’s wrists memorialized his attempts to free himself. The jailors left Hill in the restraints, sitting in his own feces. Hill woke up on the floor and asked to see a doctor. Hickman testified that he and Asher took Hill to another room, where a “doctor” looked at him and that the “doctor” was Asher in disguise. Hill filed a complaint. Hickman wrote a report stating that Hill was the aggressor. Asher signed Hickman’s report and later wrote a corroborating report, claiming that Hill slipped on the water and hit the wall.
Asher was charged with depriving Hill of his civil rights, 18 U.S.C. 242, and falsifying a record to impede a federal investigation, 18 U.S.C. 1519.2. The court allowed the prosecution to introduce testimony that Asher had battered a different prisoner and concealed that crime. over Asher's objection and offer that if the jury believed that he committed the charged assault, he would admit intent. The Sixth Circuit vacated. The charged conduct provided a sufficient basis for the jury to find intent; the prior-act evidence had only incremental probative value. Evidence of Asher’s guilt was not overwhelming. Absent the prior-act evidence, Asher’s arguments that Hickman lied might have persuaded the jury. Hill testified that he could not remember much about Asher’s role.