Police officers' lawyers want two separate trials in Jordan Miles case
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Attorneys for police accused of beating Jordan Miles want two trials, not one, when the civil case stemming from the incident goes before a jury in a month.
The jury should first decide whether city of Pittsburgh officers David Sisak, Michael Saldutte and Richard Ewing had reason to arrest Mr. Miles, then 18, in Homewood on a January night in 2010. Only if they find against the police should a second trial, focused on the damages, be held, wrote attorneys Bryan Campbell and Chris Conrad, who are defending the officers with help from the city Law Department, in one of a slew of motions filed Monday.
"If the trial is not bifurcated," they wrote, the officers "will be unduly prejudiced because evidence of damages could improperly affect the jury's determination of liability."
Seeking one trial are attorneys representing Mr. Miles, now 20. Photos of his swollen face after the encounter catalyzed investigations and demonstrations.
"In order to show the extent of force they used, it's required to show the physical damages that Jordan had," said J. Kerrington Lewis, an attorney for Mr. Miles, who was a senior at the Pittsburgh school for Creative and Performing Arts.
The civil trial is set to start July 16 before U.S. District Chief Judge Gary Lancaster, who will rule on the many motions.
The officers' attorneys want to bar some or all of the testimony of several of Mr. Miles' likely witnesses, including city police Cmdr. RaShall Brackney.
The commander would testify to "alleged prior misconduct" by them, according to a defense motion, prompting "a 'mini-trial' within the actual trial," as her accounts came under scrutiny.
Mr. Miles' attorneys initially sued both the officers and the city, saying they were improperly supervised. But the city settled, for $75,000, so the officers' attorneys said it's not proper to raise past complaints against, or discipline of, the officers.
Mr. Lewis countered that evidence of past conduct by the officers "clearly bears on the credibility of the police reports that were filed in this case."
The officers' attorneys don't want the judge to allow testimony from three doctors who are prepared 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. Also, they want to limit testimony by R. Paul McCauley, former chair of the Department of Criminology at Indiana University, who was hired by Mr. Miles' attorneys as a policing expert, in part because he almost always testifies against officers.
Mr. Lewis said he is filing motions to stop FBI Agent Sonia Bush, who probed the incident, from testifying about what witnesses told her. "We want the witness there in the courtroom to give their statement under oath with cross-examination," he said.
A motion by the officers' attorneys seeks to bar 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," they wrote.
Mr. Miles has said the officers did not identify themselves, chased him down and beat him. The officers have said they said they were police, but he ran and they thought he had a gun. Both federal and county prosecutors found insufficient evidence to prosecute the officers. The city would still have to pay any monetary verdict against the officers.
First Published June 19, 2012 12:00 am