Testimony ends in Jordan Miles retrial

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Attorneys for Jordan Miles and three officers will make their final pleas today to the eight-person jury that can decide whether the Homewood man was wronged in the brief encounter that left him with a bloated head and a role as the centerpiece of the police-community relations debate in Pittsburgh.

On Wednesday, holding up a photograph of Mr. Miles' distended face, taken following his Jan. 12, 2010, arrest, plaintiff's attorney Joel Sansone asked Officer Richard Ewing, "You did all this in three minutes?"

"He did that to himself, sir," said Officer Ewing, a defendant along with Officers Michael Saldutte and David Sisak.

Closing arguments could start as early as 9 a.m., after which U.S. District Judge David S. Cercone will instruct the jury on the law. Then deliberations will begin.

In 2012, a jury deliberated for 41/2 days before concluding that the officers did not maliciously prosecute Mr. Miles, but failed to reach unanimity on whether they falsely arrested him or used excessive force. A majority of that jury sided with the officers.

This time both sides used the final witness, defense expert Joseph Stine, to preview their closing arguments.

Mr. Stine, a former inspector with the Philadelphia Police Department, said that the officers' actions -- assuming they observed suspicious activity, identified themselves as officers, saw signs that the subject was armed, and reacted as he resisted arrest and struck them -- were so appropriate that he "could use this case as an example" in police training.

"You have to believe that this person was armed," Mr. Stine said of Mr. Miles, noting the reported bulge in his coat pocket. Then, per the officers, Mr. Miles "basically fights with every fiber of his being to resist being taken into custody."

Asked about Mr. Miles' version of the arrest, Mr. Stine said it "has changed over time depending on who he's talking to."

Plaintiff's attorney Robert Giroux asked Mr. Stine to consider the possibility that some witness testimony -- from Homewood residents and other officers who arrived on the scene -- was factual. If so, and if Mr. Miles was on the phone when the encounter began, dropped his phone, called for help and was polite and calm with everyone except the three defendants, then wouldn't the officers be at fault?

"If I accept this fantasy, then it's true" that the officers erred, said Mr. Stine.

Mr. Giroux objected, and Judge Cercone ordered the statement stricken.

The physical evidence in the case -- Mr. Miles' dreadlocks in a broken bush, twigs embedded in his gums, disputed accounts that he was carrying a Mountain Dew bottle and an ammunition magazine was later found at the scene -- seemed less important to the attorneys than poking holes in the credibility of the other side's story.

The officers, for instance, have said that Mr. Miles "bladed" -- turning his body sideways to conceal an object in a pocket. They have said they found the bottle in the pocket.

Mr. Miles has said Officer Ewing, who since left the city's employ for a job with McCandless, and Pittsburgh Officers Saldutte and Sisak jumped out of an unmarked car without identifying themselves as police, then chased and beat him.

The officers have said they saw Mr. Miles lurking between houses, identified themselves as police, questioned him, chased him when he ran and hit him because he fought and seemed to have a gun. They criminally charged him, but a district judge dismissed the charges.

Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1542 or on Twitter @richelord. First Published March 26, 2014 11:27 AM

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