Miles case juror: 'It was very close'
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Was Jordan Miles sneaking around a house on a darkened Homewood street?
Were three Pittsburgh police officers right to stop and talk to him? When Mr. Miles ran from them, was it because he was criminal or just afraid?
And exactly how did he suffer those widely publicized injuries and swollen face?
Those questions were among the most debated and difficult for eight jurors to answer as they spent five long and emotional days deliberating in the Miles civil case, one of them said Thursday.
Jurors found that officers David Sisak, Michael Saldutte and Richard Ewing did not maliciously prosecute Mr. Miles in the Jan. 12, 2010, encounter, but they could not agree on whether they falsely arrested the young man or used excessive force.
The jurors split 6-2 in favor of the officers on the deadlocked counts. The outcome vindicated the officers and left the Miles family shocked and vowing a retrial.
"There was a lot of emotion in that jury room," said the juror, who asked that his name not be divulged. "We did not want to see anyone hurt who did not deserve it. ... It's tough dealing with something like this. It's someone's life, and no one wants to pass judgment on anyone else, but it was our job."
Mr. Miles testified that he was walking to his grandmother's house when the undercover officers pulled up, jumped out, beat and arrested him for no reason.
The officers said they identified themselves as police, got no answer as to why he was near the house at night, thought a bulge in his coat was a gun and chased him when he ran.
The man said he and fellow jurors had a tough case before them that came down to several sticking points: Was Mr. Miles loitering when the officers stopped him? Did it matter?
"The fact was, he was out at 11 o'clock at night in a high-crime area," the juror said. "The police had the right to stop and talk to him. It was a mere encounter."
Why didn't he respond to their questions? Why did he run?
"When he refused to stop and started walking down the street, that gave the police even more reason to believe he was up to something suspicious," the juror said.
Did police brutalize Mr. Miles?
"I don't think the police did anything more than they had to to make the arrest," he said, adding that jurors spent much time discussing Mr. Miles' injuries. "There were no broken bones, no stitches, and we're not sure how he got the bump on his head. ... We spent a lot of time back and forth discussing this."
Two jurors could not agree with the other six on many of these points.
"They just weren't 100 percent there," the juror said. "It was very close."
He said jurors focused solely on the evidence before them.
When deliberations devolved into discussions of personality, they reminded themselves of U.S. District Judge Gary L. Lancaster's instructions that they rely only on the facts. They took the booklet home with them, studying and highlighting it to keep them focused on their task.
"We all thought Jordan was a nice kid, but that doesn't come into play," the juror said. "Each person on the stand, we tried to judge their credibility based on how consistent their statements were."
Jurors, he said, made no decisions on the case before they began deliberating.
Only after the trial ended and he began reading news accounts did he realize how polarizing their decision -- and indecision -- could be. Still, he said, he felt confident the case was not one of police brutality.
The seven other jurors declined to comment or could not be reached.
Mr. Miles' mother on Thursday said the outcome was not a setback but "rather a bump on the road to justice."
"While we were initially shocked and disappointed by the way the trial turned out, we are not discouraged in the least, and we will not give up our pursuit of justice," Terez Miles wrote in the family's first statement since the trial ended. Her son "was a victim of racial profiling and was badly injured in a vicious, unprovoked attack," she wrote. "The fact that his attackers happened to be three white police officers does not absolve them of guilt. In fact, we believe that they are guiltier because police should be out to protect and serve, not to act as a gang of self-aggrandizing thugs, drunk on their own sense of power and impunity."
Ms. Miles' statement came as her son's attorneys began to prepare for a retrial that they hope will include testimony from police brass that will cast doubt upon the character and credibility of the officers.
Witnesses the Miles legal team would like to call include Cmdr. RaShall Brackney, who they have said would testify to "alleged prior misconduct," and Cmdr. Scott Schubert, who would speak about the policies and procedures for the "99 car," the undercover vehicle to which the officers were assigned when they arrested Mr. Miles.
In the last trial, Judge Lancaster allowed attorneys to bring in evidence and testimony of past accusations against the officers only to rebut the three officers' testimony on how they handled the encounter.
Such information could make the next jury's decision a little easier, said J. Kerrington Lewis, Mr. Miles' attorney since the case began.
"The more information someone has about the backgrounds of [the officers] helps them assess their credibility," he said. "The credibility of these people is the central issue to the case."
It could be months before a new trial would begin.
James Wymard, who represents Officer Sisak, said Mr. Miles will have an even more difficult case to prove a second time around.
"There's really no substance behind this case. ... They've got a tough road ahead of them if they want to go back," he said.
The statement from Ms. Miles was the family's first public comment about the verdict. The statement in full:
Jordan Miles was a victim of racial profiling and was badly injured in a vicious, unprovoked attack. His attackers then spun a web of lies in order to protect themselves. Everything that they did was with callous disregard for Jordan's life, health and future. The fact that his attackers happened to be three white police officers does not absolve them of guilt. In fact, we believe that they are even guiltier, because police should be out to protect and serve, not to act as a gang of self-aggrandizing thugs, drunk on their own sense of power and impunity.
Several people have asked members of our family how we stay so calm given all that we're going through. It's no secret that we're Christians and much prayer and Bible reading has kept us comforted, assured and peaceful. Although the first trial ended in a mistrial, Psalm 37:1-2 says, "Do not fret because of evildoers, nor be envious of the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass and wither as the green herb." And while they are too long to include in their entirety, Proverbs 6:12-19 brings to mind the defendants in this case and Proverbs 26:24-26 seems to speak directly of racists.
We do not consider the mistrial a setback but rather a bump on the road to justice. We will continue to trust in the Lord, and will gladly proceed to the next step. We continue to covet the prayers and support of the many people who have been with us from the beginning. Please be encouraged and don't give up because we never will.
First Published August 10, 2012 12:00 am