Officers accused in Jordan Miles case seek to limit testimony
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Attorneys for three city of Pittsburgh police officers who are accused of beating Jordan Miles in 2010 asked today to have the resulting civil trial broken into two parts, and to bar testimony they view as misleading.
Attorneys Bryan Campbell and Chris Conrad, backed by others from the city's Law Department, said they want one trial on liability, and a separate trial, if necessary, on damages. The first would focus on whether officers David Sisak, Michael Saldutte and Richard Ewing had probable cause to stop and arrest Mr. Miles, then 18. If they are found liable for his injuries, the second would determine the harm done.
"If the trial is not bifurcated," they wrote in one of several motions submitted today, the officers "will be unduly prejudiced because evidence of damages could improperly affect the jury's determination of liability."
Mr. Miles, then a student at the city's Creative and Performing Arts high school, claims physical and psychological injuries, and a loss of earnings potential.
The officers' attorneys also don't want the jury to hear from numerous proposed witnesses for Mr. Miles, notably city police Commander RaShall Brackney. The commander would testify to "alleged prior misconduct" by the officers, according to another defense motion, prompting "a 'mini-trial' within the actual trial, as Defendants contest the accuracy of her statements."
Discussion of the officers' past isn't relevant, they argued, since the city has already settled out of the case, precluding Mr. Miles from arguing that the officers' superiors ignored prior misdeeds.
Similarly, any past complaints filed with the city against the officers are irrelevant, their attorneys said in another motion.
Another motion seeks to bar any mention of the fact that charges filed by the officers against Mr. Miles were thrown out by a district judge.
"Just because the criminal charges were dismissed at the preliminary hearing does not automatically mean that probable cause for the arrest and detention is negated," the attorneys wrote.
The officers' attorneys don't want the judge to allow testimony from three doctors who are lined up to talk about Mr. Miles' injuries, saying their reports were submitted too late; nor from an economist whose analysis of the young man's lost income potential is "based on unsupported speculation," they wrote.
They also want to limit testimony by R. Paul McCauley, hired by Mr. Miles' attorneys as a policing expert. He has limited relevant experience, they wrote in another motion, and almost always testifies for plaintiffs against officers.
The civil trial is set to start July 16 before U.S. District Chief Judge Gary Lancaster, who will rule on the motions.
Mr. Miles has said the officers did not identify themselves, chased him down and beat him. The officers have said they identified themselves, he ran and they thought he had a gun. Both federal and county prosecutors found insufficient evidence to prosecute the officers. The city settled the counts against it for $75,000, but would still be on the hook for any verdict against the officers.
First Published June 18, 2012 6:22 pm