By Nigel Parry for Rustbelt Radio. Check out our upcoming broadcasts at radio.indypgh.org • Additional research by Don Carpenter
The day began with more private questioning of the prospective jurors. The same process that had been going on behind closed doors since we left the courthouse at 1:30pm yesterday, continued throughout the morning.
Day 2, Video Update 2, 1:30pm
After a break for lunch, we heard that there was news from the court. The private questioning of jurors was expected to conclude around lunch time, and word was that witness testimonies would begin in the early afternoon, after a lunch break.
Day 2, Video Update 2, 12:20pm
The first witness to be called will be Jamiah Anderson, Jordan’s good friend at the time of the 12 January 2010 incident, later his girlfriend. Jamiah was talking to Jordan on the phone at the time the undercover police car pulled up.
1:00pm: the final jury is reported to contain just a single African American man, Juror 54 (this number may change to reflect the final selected jury status). Eight jurors have been selected in total, with two alternates ready.
1:05pm: Court is recessing now, scheduled to resume at 1:50pm.
2:09pm: Judge’s opening remarks and preliminary remarks to the jury
“I am going to give you a lot on your plate right now,” District Judge Gary Lancaster said as he began his instructions to the jury. The federal court system exists, he said, to take things “out of the hands of the judges, where decisions are made by members of the community.”
Court will begin promptly at 9:30am Monday to Thursday with a mid-morning and a mid-afternoon 15-minute break, and lunch between 12:00pm-12:15pm with a recess until 1:30pm. No court on Fridays, unless deliberation needs to take place then. For the jury, no internet researching on the case, no media, no social media statements, and no discussing with friends or family.
“You the jurors are not allowed to talk about the case, even among yourselves,” emphasized Lancaster.
Judge Lancaster addressed the prominence of the case. “This case has been well publicised in the local media. Having seen a newspaper article or TV report doesn’t exclude anyone from the jury.” Lancaster carried on to note that “media reports are not always accurate or unbiased,” adding “I guarantee that by the end of this trial, you will have more information about this case than any reporter to date” and encouraging jurors to “put anything else you learned out of your mind.”
Some of the judge’s summary of the case seemed flawed with his minimizing description of a case “between Jordan Miles and the three police officers who arrested him on the night of 12 January 2010,” when the core of the case is, in fact, a brutal assault.
At other times, the judge highlighted aspects of the charges that Miles was bringing against the three officers, explaining the “continuum of interactions” that police have with citizens, and underlining that the minds of the jury will be made up by facts and how credible they feel the various witnesses are.
Blogger Bram Reichbaum detailed more of the judge’s instructions to the jury at his blog, The Pittsburgh Comet:
Judge Lancaster told the eight jurors that in order to determine the merits of the False Arrest charge, they will first have to decide whether the officers acted with “Reasonable Suspicion” in stopping and searching Mr. Miles, and then whether they had “Probable Cause” for making an arrest.
The judge also stressed that the jurors must weigh all the “objective evidence”, not “subjective” evidence based on what may have been in the three officers’ minds. They were instructed to “conjure an image of an ideal, objective police officer” in determining whether the defendants had Reasonable Suspicion and Probable Cause.
Finally, Judge Lancaster told the jury they are to weigh which side’s story is buttressed by the “Preponderance of evidence” — objective evidence is what matters over all else, he repeated — such that it “tips the scales.”
Judge Lancaster emphasized that there was no need for subjective assessments of what the police officers were thinking. “You aren’t deciding what these three police officers reasonably concluded but what any police officer should reasonably conclude.”
The judge also told jurors not to expect to have access to transcripts of the court proceedings before the jurors’ deliberation. Transcripts would seem an important tool to help jurors collect their thoughts on cases, and seems easy to fulfill, given that the transcripts are typed live and are presumably available in a digital format. It seems that democracy would benefit from that simple push.
Top Row, from Left to Right: Older white woman; Older white man; Older white woman; Youngish white man
Bottom Row, from Left to Right: Middle aged black man; Older white man; Middle aged white man; Older white woman.
2:53pm: Opening Statement from Miles lawyer J. Kerrington Lewis
After thanking the jurors, Lewis explained the various charges, noting at one point that “excessive force” was a synonym for “police brutality”.
Some quotes from his presentation:
“The police in this case violated the Constitution, the supreme law in this country.”
“They beat this young man until the point he was unrecognizable.”
“One of the police told investigators, ‘We thought he was going to die’.”
This case will be about “the gruesome facts of the defense’s savage beating of this young man.”
“In this case there’s no dispute that Jordan Miles was a young man that every parent would be proud of. In an area riddled with criminality, he resisted pressure to fit in. Jordan chose a different path.”
“Jordan had a lot of nice friends, kids just like himself, doing the right thing. He was active in his church, helped with the choir.”
“Snow was everywhere, 6 inches deep. Jordan was walking on the street because it was easier. He was talking to Jamiah Anderson on the phone for half an hour at his mom’s house. As he walked up the street, he’s still talking on the phone. Call records are here.”
“The defendants were in an unmarked undercover car, a “99 car”, used by undercover police with tinted windows, made to look like a street car, hot rod kind of thing. The car sped towards him and crossed into his lane, cut in front of him just a few feet away. Jordan jumped to the side. Men began existing the vehicle yelling ‘Where’s your money? Where’s the drugs? Where’s your gun?’ They were looking for drug dealers. Men in dark clothes with no badges.”
“At 11;05pm, Jamiah heard Jordan exclaim ‘Chill, stop’ on the phone. He was just one minute from his house at this point. They delivered a beating to Jordan from head to foot, and never identified themselves. All of these defendants are 6 foot tall, weigh 200 pounds or more, and are in good shape. Two of these defendants have trained in, and do training in, martial arts. Sisak also TASERed Miles. Jordan is 5′ 7″ and weighs 150 pounds. Any one of these men could take Jordan down.”
“After the brutal beating they handcuffed him. He was on his knees with his face in the snow. Praying. One defendant grabbed him and choked him, telling him to ‘Shut the f**k up!’ and pushed his face back in the snow.”
“That beating would leave him with brain injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.”
“Jordan dropped his phone at 11:05pm and the police van came at 11:08. He was taken to West Penn Hospital with eye and head injuries, and a 1.5 inch piece of pen width twig impaled in his gum. He consented to a drug test. ”
“Saldutte, Sisak and Ewing would then write a report which I’ve called ‘a fairy tale’. Jordan was charged with aggravated assaults and resisting arrest.”
“Jordan went to UPMC Shadyside after his release, 22 hours later. The ER doctor will testify later, to ‘high impact injuries’. There were abnormalities in the CAT scans. A hemorrhage in his eye. Jordan has permanent brain damage. The defendants fabricated a probable cause warrant. The defendants covered up their false arrest of Jordan. Jordan denies having anything in his front coat pocket.”
“Chief Harper is going to testify that the missing Mountain Dew bottle was ‘evidence’ and should have been logged into the evidence room.’”
“His life has been forever changed. No one can give him back the mind he had, the peace of mind he had on 12 January 2010. The policeman, in this case, are rogue in their actions.”
Toward the end of Lewis’ opening statement on behalf of Jordan Miles, David Sisak and Richard Ewing kept shifting in their chairs uncomfortably. Michael Saldutte remained emotionless, sitting as still as a statue.
Lewis concluded at 3:21pm.
3:22pm, opening statements by police attorneys
Jim Wymard, Sisak’s lawyer began. We’ve nicknamed him Mr. Burns (from The Simpsons). Spend 5 minutes in the court and you’re not going to be asking why. He has a nasty streak when cross-examining, often mocking and sarcastic. Not sure what he’s thinking about how that plays with the jury.
“The burden of proof rests solely with the plaintiff,” he said, “What we lawyers say to you here is not the evidence, but what the witnesses say, the facts, etc. We have to go last. Our witnesses won’t be heard until next week. They are consuming much of the first week, into the second, with their witnesses. Please wait until you have heard the defense in this case. It will be a vigorous one. Each of these three officers will take the stand and testify under oath.”
Blogger Bram Reichbaum offered an overview of the first two opening statements by the police attorneys:
…Two attorneys for two of the three police defendants… raised and emphasized the topic “credibility” on many occasions when speaking of the jury’s duty to identify weighty evidence.
These attorneys presaged evidence including details of the training which local and state police officers receive on the use of force, on the “continuum of control” and in responding to “levels of resistance.” They also recalled the high levels of crime and danger prevalent in the Homewood Brushton area, for which it is the officers’ mission to be “pro-active” in such areas.
On the subject of the Malicious Prosecution charge, one officer’s attorney told the jury that after a witness living at the home near which the encounter took place “changed her story,” the district magistrate “just threw the case [against Mr. Miles] out” of criminal court. After shrugging broadly and moving on to describe thrown elbows and donkey kicks at the incident in question, the implication by the attorney was clear that the jury ought to believe that the District Magistrate erred — and that Mr. Miles really ought to have been found guilty of resisting arrest as well as aggravated assault against the officers.
One of the interesting claims in the police story is that, after the car came to a halt, the cops then had an entire conversation with Jordan Miles. They claimed Richard Ewing, who was driving, held his badge up to the window and said, “Pittsburgh Police, remove your hands.” Miles complied. The cops asked him where he lived. To this, Jordan supposedly replied, “4-5 doors down the street.” Yet, after telling the cops where he lived, when they supposedly asked him the next question, “What are you doing sneaking around this house”, he supposedly ran.
This makes absolutely no sense: “Hi, I live over there, now I’m running from the cops”.
[Transcript still being worked on]
From the local press…
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Rights trial tangles unfold, 17 July 2012:
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Lawyers give different stories in Miles case, 17 July 2012: