Jordan Miles at a hospital with injuries from an altercation with three Pittsburgh police officers in January 2010.
By Rich Lord Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Attorneys today made their opening statements to the eight-member jury that will decide whether three Pittsburgh police officers falsely arrested, excessively beat and maliciously prosecuted Jordan Miles on a Homewood street.
If the openings were any guide, a trial expected to last at least two weeks will focus on the three minutes from 11:05 p.m. to 11:08 p.m. Jan. 12, 2010 -- and it will present very different versions of that short span.
"The police in this case used deadly force to the point where they beat this young man to where he was unrecognizable," said J. Kerrington Lewis, representing Mr. Miles, 20. "You will see pictures of his gruesome injuries."
Mr. Miles, he said, is 5'7", 150 pounds, and faced three big, toned, trained fighters. "He was no match for one of those men, let alone three."
James Wymard, the attorney for Officer David Sisak, countered that Mr. Miles was "150 pounds, but 150 pounds of dynamite."
He said that Mr. Miles' poor decisions -- to run, to fight, to keep resisting -- were the cause of his injuries. "Only thing he had to do was stop on the sidewalk [when ordered to do so], and we wouldn't be here today."
Mr. Lewis presented his statement first, calling Mr. Miles "a soft-spoken, mannered, respectable and kind young man."
Homewood was riddled with crime, he noted. "But Jordan chose a different path," he said. "He wasn't a problem. He was good.
"He was a talented kid. He played viola. ... He played in the orchestra. ... He performed for the first ladies of the world" with students from the city's school of Creative and Performing Arts.
That night, though, a car approached him as he walked from his mother's house to his grandmother's, where he usually slept. "The driver yelled, 'Where's the drugs? Where's the money?'" Mr. Lewis said. He ran, and the officers, without identifying themselves, he said, gave chase. "They delivered blows on this kid, head to foot.
"They were so mad, and beat him so bad, that his life has been forever changed. Nobody can give him back the mind that he had before," Mr. Lewis said, claiming that medical testimony will document permanent brain damage and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Mr. Wymard presented Mr. Sisak and fellow officers Michael Saldutte and Richard Ewing as public servants who worked plainclothes trying to solve "robberies, rapes, burglaries, drugs, homicides, assaults ... a very, very difficult job."
When Mr. Saldutte saw somebody leaning up against a dark house, he said, "Clearly, it would appear suspicious."
Mr. Miles admitted that it wasn't his house, Mr. Wymard said. "Officer Saldutte says, 'Then what are you doing sneaking around that house?'.. His response was not to answer. It was to bolt, to take off."
When Mr. Saldutte grabbed Mr. Miles' arm, the officer took an elbow to the head, Mr. Wymard said. "When you strike a police officer, members of the jury, that is aggravated assault."
Much of the damage to Mr. Miles' head, including the swelling captured in photographs, was probably caused when Mr. Sisak tackled him into hedges, Mr. Wymard said. The swelling caused by subsequent infections, he said, lasted for around 10 days.
"They took a picture two weeks later of Jordan Miles on his front porch," he said. "There's no swelling, no deformity, like nothing happened, two weeks later."
Mr. Saldutte's attorney, Bryan Campbell, also made an opening statement today, and Mr. Ewing's attorney, Robert Leight, is expected to make his introduction to the jury tomorrow. Then witness testimony will start, likely including Mr. Miles' grandmother Patricia Porter and his girlfriend from his days at CAPA, Jamiah Anderson.
The jury of five men and three women includes one black man. Racial attitudes have been a component of the jury selection process because Mr. Miles, 20, is black and the accused officers are white.