Ammo magazine, bullets can be used as evidence in Jordan Miles lawsuit trial
March 3, 2014 11:16 PM
Jordan Miles enters the Federal Courthouse in 2012.
By Rich Lord / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The second Jordan Miles civil trial could be much different from the first, following a judge's order issued Monday that allowed a handful of bullets into evidence, and opened the door to possible testimony on three police officers' past behavior.
Mr. Miles, 22, of Homewood has always maintained that he was unarmed as he walked Tioga Street on Jan. 12, 2010. Plainclothes Officers Michael Saldutte, David Sisak and Richard Ewing have said that they saw a bulge in his coat, which they assumed was a gun, but which may have been a Mountain Dew bottle.
Days after the snowy night on which the officers tackled, struck and arrested Mr. Miles, the woman in whose yard the incident ended reported that she saw an ammunition magazine. Police then recovered several bullets, though not a magazine.
Neither the bullets nor the woman's account of the magazine were admitted at the first trial, in 2012, held by the late Chief Judge Gary Lancaster. U.S. District Judge David Cercone, though, ruled that they will be admissible at the second trial set to start Monday, though their importance is debatable.
"That's a big one," said James Wymard, attorney for Officer Sisak. "I think it's significant in that maybe there was a gun. Maybe the gun disappeared and the bullets remained."
Joel Sansone, one of the attorneys representing Mr. Miles, said he did not agree with the ruling.
"There isn't anything to tie my client to these bullets," Mr. Sansone said. "It's not surprising that you find bullets in a high-crime area."
Mr. Miles "never touched a weapon in his life," the plaintiff's attorney said.
Mr. Sansone was buoyed by another aspect of Judge Cercone's two-page order: He will review Judge Lancaster's ruling under which the past acts of the three officers were largely off limits to Mr. Miles' legal team at the first trial.
The defense "had an expert testify that these [officers] are trained to always identify themselves" at the beginning of any encounter, Mr. Sansone said. "We think we should be allowed to have testimony that they didn't identify themselves" in other incidents in the neighborhood.
Mr. Miles has said that he did not know that the three men were police.
"They acted this way more than once in the same neighborhood with people of color, not identifying themselves, jumping out of a car with no badge out and attacking people," Mr. Sansone said.
Mr. Wymard said that if Judge Cercone allows evidence of the officers' prior records, it could create mini-trials within the larger case. "Then we have to go and get witnesses, bring them in to testify that that's just not true, it did not happen," he said.
The first trial ended with a defense verdict on a malicious prosecution count but hung juries on false arrest and excessive force counts. Most of the jurors favored the officers on all counts.
Mr. Sansone said this trial could last four weeks, and could end differently.
"We're going to call a lot of witnesses, some who were never called at the first trial," he said. "We know we're going to get a good jury this time, and we know we're going to get another answer this time."
Mr. Miles was a viola student at the Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts High School at the time of the encounter, and later went on to work at a CVS Pharmacy.
Officers Saldutte and Sisak are still members of the Pittsburgh police. Officer Ewing left for another department.
Mr. Miles has replaced the lawyers who represented him in 2012 with Mr. Sansone and Michigan attorney Robert M. Giroux of the nationally known firm Fieger, Fieger, Kenney, Johnson & Giroux.
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