The three Pittsburgh police officers accused of violating Jordan Miles’ civil rights will be back in an federal courtroom Monday, and the lawyer representing Miles says the jury could hear some new evidence.
A jury in August of 2012 found that the actions of officers Richard Ewing, Michael Saldutte and David Sisak did not rise to the level of malicious prosecution as had been alleged in the civil trial, however that same jury remained deadlocked on the allegation that the men falsely arrested Miles and used excessive force while doing so.
The three officers arrested then 18-year-old Jordan Miles of Homewood in January 2010 after seeing him walking on the sidewalk near his grandmother’s house with what they said looked to be a gun. A weapon was never found and the officers said what they saw was most likely a pop bottle. But a bottle was never discovered either.
At the same time the defense wants to have put into evidence bullets and a magazine found days later in the yard where Miles was arrested.
During the arrest, Miles suffered several injuries to his head and face. It is still in dispute whether those injuries came from the officers fists or if they came when Miles was tackled and fell through a bush on the way to the ground.
The judge hearing the case made a ruling on the admissibility of evidence regarding the officers “past practices and conduct” that even the lawyer had a hard time understanding. Miles’ attorney Joel Sansone said he will try to get that evidence, which he said does not paint a good picture of the officers, before the jury.
“These police have a long history of breaking the rules, of using excessive force, of lying when they make reports out,” Sansone said. “So much so that their commander had put them on a watch and monitored their conduct.”
It is unclear how the new judge will respond to the admissibility of the evidence. Common Please Judge Jerry Lancaster, who presided over the first trial, died in April of 2013 and has been replaced by Judge David S. Cercone.
Attorney Joel Sansone is also new to the case. He was not part of the team of J. Kerrington Lewis and Tim O’Brien who represented Miles in the first civil trial. Sansone does not want to lay out his case before heading into the courtroom Monday but said he could use other evidence, tactics and arguments not used in the first trial.
Sansone stands behind Miles’ decision to reject a $180,000 settlement offered by the city even though he was not Miles’ lawyer at the time.
“My client is not a person who is concerned on any level with money. This is not about money and never has been about money,” said Sansone.
Instead, Miles is looking for “justice.”
“If there is nothing else that comes out of this my client will be satisfied to hear eight citizens from the community say this was wrong and a violation of his rights,” Sansone said.
U.S. Attorney David Hickton declined to prosecute the three officers and Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala followed suit. That seems to put some extra weight on this trial.
“This case is a bellwether for how we in American intend to police our police. If we give the police free reign to do whatever they want then incidents like the Jordan Miles case will happen all the time,” Sansone said.
The lawyers for the three officers did not return calls requesting interviews but have in the past maintained their clients did nothing beyond their duties as police officers.