Report from the first day of the Jordan Miles civil trial by Nigel Parry for Rustbelt Radio. Check out our upcoming broadcasts at radio.indypgh.org • With additional research and writing from Helen Gerhardt and Don Carpenter.
Court was scheduled to begin at 9:30am, with a jury briefing. In practice, things moved slowly during the day. If you’re coming to observe court proceedings, expect to wait and bring a book. The trial is taking place in room 3A on the third floor of the U.S. District Court of Western Pennsylvania, 500 Grant Street. A valid photo ID will get you in to watch. Unless you’re media, phones and computers will need to be checked in.
Long stretches of empty waiting room, empty court benches, and empty morning hours welcomed the few people who came to witness jury selection for the Jordan Miles civil suit.
Jordan Miles entered the courthouse with his mother and grandmother, quiet and reserved. They positioned themselves at the opposite end of the 100 foot waiting room from where the three cops and their lawyers stood. The Miles family sat in almost total silence, soberly maintaining their distance from those officers and from reporters, careful not to cross over the lines of “no comment” likely recommended by their attorneys, J. Kerrington Lewis and Timothy P. O’Brien.
Officers Richard Ewing, Michael Saldutte, and David Sisak were all smiles outside the courtroom, cracking jokes, and swapping stories with a uniformed Ross Township court police officer. They clustered in the waiting room, near the door leading to the Honorable Judge Gary L. Lancaster’s empty courtroom, effectively discouraging supporters of the family from approaching the area. Saldutte’s large physical presence and body language in relation to the other two cops would seem to betray his role as a leader within their small group.
After the court resumed after lunch, all 3 officers were allowed to bypass the U.S. Marshall security checkpoint without being searched or even walking through the metal detector that the rest of us were required to pass through.
The question of race in juror selection
Today was juror selection. Jordan Miles is African American and the three cops that beat him brutally on 12 January 2010 are white. The neighborhood he lived in is predominantly African American. The prospective jurors were not.
When the prospective jurors filed in, it was like watching a movie about civil rights in Alabama in the 1950s. The more than 50 jurors filed into the court, all white. We stood there watching them file in, looking for any sign of color. When all of the jurors were in the room, there were only 3 persons of color—all African American men.
Jurors were being questioned in private on the issue of race, the result of motions and rulings in this trial. From the July 9th Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
The judge issued an order late Friday saying that the questioning of individual prospective jurors for the trial will also be held behind closed doors because of the media attention to the case and the relevance of racial attitudes. Mr. Miles is black, while Officer Saldutte, Officer Sisak and Officer Richard Ewing are white.
We won’t pretend to understand, at this point in the trial, how this private questioning of a mostly white jury can make sense, but we offer up PDF files of the various motions and judge’s order filed relating to this issue, for your own research below:
Day 1, Video Update 2, 1:30pm
[hana-flv-player video='http://justiceforjordanmiles.com/media/video/20120716-day1-update2.flv' /]
Jurors with conflicts
After the list of lawyers and witnesses was read, jurors were asked if they had any knowledge of any of those listed.
Juror 119 said she knew Sisak, that her husband was a Pittsburgh narcotics officer, and knows witness Kevin Krauss.
Juror 114 said they knew Saldutte.
Juror 54, one of the only three African American potential jurors, may know a witness’ son from his high school class.
More reporting tomorrow. Please come and meet us in court.