By Nigel Parry for Rustbelt Radio, with additional material credited below.
Yesterday we heard testimony from Jordan Miles’ grandmother, from his mother, and from one of his very good friends/onetime girlfriend.
Day 4, Video Update, 9:15am
9:30am, upstairs in the Courtroom
Just before court commenced, attorneys began to flood into the courtroom. Sisak, Saldutte and Ewing slid in along the back of the viewing gallery and proceeded to their seats on the courtroom floor. Sisak gives me a shifty look as he walks by. Some of their friends, clearly police officers, greet them from the gallery as they enter the courtroom floor. Hand shaking and pats on the back all round.
Watching the three react to events in the courtroom has been interesting. For the most part, Saldutte has been impassive, with only Ewing shaking his head at witness statements. Today, Saldutte finally began reacting in the same way.
There are several extra rows of chairs in the courtroom today. Around 50 people filled the public gallery. Some are Miles supporters, others are friends of the three police officers, some are other lawyers that appear to be assisting the police attorneys, others are city officials, law students, the media, and members of the public. The extra interest appears to support the rumor that Jordan Miles will be testifying today.
9:39am: Court commences. Melissa Pearlman, CAPA High School Principal on the stand
Melissa Pearlman, principal of the Pittsburgh School for the Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA) High School in downtown Pittsburgh, was first on the stand when court resumed.
When cross-examining Jordan’s mother and grandmother on the witness stand in previous days, police attorneys had seemed interested in whether Jordan attended school on the morning of the events. Pearlman confirmed that “Jordan was tardy on the morning of the 12th but he did attend all of his classes.” (The officer’s attorneys did not suggest that Jordan was tardy on a regular basis.)
Helen Gerhardt reports:
As plaintiff, Jordan Miles is suing for compensatory damages for having “suffered physical, emotional and psychological injuries, all of which occurred by reason of the beating and trauma” at the hands of Saldutte, Sisak, and Ewing. The officers’ attorneys seem to be working hard to highlight Jordan’s mixed academic record and several low test scores to discredit any correlation of his academic plunge with their client’s assault on Jordan as potential evidence of such emotional and psychological damages.
Also highly significant in the court of public opinion is the often-used characterization by supporters of Jordan as an “honors student” – that description was sharply questioned during cross-examination by the officer’s attorneys. While receiving consistently outstanding grades in courses related to his music major, Jordan began his high school years at CAPA with Cs and Ds in English, algebra, applied biology and civics.
When Ms. Pearlman noted that during his junior year and the first semester of his senior year Jordan had achieved high grades across a range of academic topics to earn honors status, David Sisak’s attorney, James Wymard, questioned whether these higher grades might reflect lower academic standards of a school mainly focused on the performing arts. The CAPA principal firmly rebutted the suggestion by noting that in 2009 the school was named a blue ribbon school by the Department of Education for achieving superior standards of academic excellence.
Ms. Pearlman also explained that junior year in most high schools is the most rigorous, with higher levels of difficulty across all topics – colleges usually consider that year to be the most important in weighing the relative values of semester GPAs across a range of time. While class ranking is strongly affected by a student’s early transition semesters from junior to senior high school, many colleges will consider improvement during the junior year as crucial evidence of potential for academic achievement in college undergraduate programs. “Jordan rose to the challenge,” Ms. Pearlman stated of his performance in those three semesters that he earned honors status. Only after the beating by Sisak, Saldutte and Ewing did Jordan’s grades again fall, from a 3.3 GPA in his first senior semester, to a 2.3 in his final semester at CAPA.
In the context of other evidence presented by Jordan’s attorneys, the CAPA principal’s testimony outlined a clear narrative arc to this observer. Jordan Miles had struggled with several non-artistic academic subjects in what Ms. Pearlman characterized as “transition years from junior high,” but he had worked hard in his junior year and first senior semester to demonstrate that he could indeed also do very well outside his areas of clear musical giftedness (during his senior year, he was first chair in the string section of the CAPA orchestra and played for Michelle Obama and other UN dignitaries during the G-20). But Jordan had plunged academically after the beating he received in January.
One interpretation of the correlation is that Miles faltered academically after the beating due to the cognitive effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which often strongly erodes memory, concentration, and motivation. Upcoming testimony by medical and psychiatric professionals in the next few weeks should address the validity of such interpretations.
Yesterday, Sisak’s lawyer Jim Wymard had argued that the second standardized test Miles took at CAPA, which showed an improvement in math skills, was taken after the incident. Don Carpenter noted that during a 5-minute afternoon break yesterday, defense lawyers were laughing about Wymard’s focus on Jordan’s test scores in Math and his argument that they were better after the incident with police.
On the stand, CAPA’s principal stated that this was incorrect, as the second test was in fact taken in October 2009, three months before Miles’ brutal beating. So apparently cop lawyers can’t read the dates on forms.
Helen Gerhardt reports:
Ms Pearlman was asked if Jordan had ever caused any trouble or altercations, if he had ever gotten into any fights. “No, never.” During her testimony, she repeated several times that Jordan was universally perceived as “courteous,” “mild-mannered,” “decent and kind”. With what seemed to me to be dignified but deep feeling, the CAPA principal strongly asserted that this young man was “highly respected by all students, teachers and staff alike.”
This was her testimony.
Jordan’s grandmother confirmed to us before Pearlman went to the witness stand that Jordan will also be on the stand today to testify, which explains why the court is currently the busiest it has been since it began on Monday.
Today at noon, the Alliance for Police Accountability (APA), the Black Political Empowerment Project (BPEP) and other community allies are holding a rally outside the courthouse at noon.
10:20am, Jordan Miles on the stand
Ellipses usually indicate a gap in my notes or where a question was asked by an attorney. Brackets indicate that I am inserting what I believe was said but am not sure of, or if some explanatory filler seems needed to make a sentence or event understandable. -HG
Jordan’s attorney built a transition between the CAPA principal’s testimony regarding his academic life and character by asking how he liked CAPA. “It was a tremendous honor to receive acceptance for CAPA…Many people compete for places at that school. I have a close relationship with most of my teachers…
“…I liked that I could express my passion for music there. That was very important to me…I started playing viola when I was nine years old. I played in the string quartet ensemble, in the orchestra and the jazz band…Yes, I was first chair in the orchestra my senior year…” Jordan also played Les Miserables for the First Lady and the spouses of other world leaders during the G-20.
During the cross-examination of Jordan’s grandmother, Patricia Porter, by Attorney Wymard on the first day of testimony, she had asserted she could not remember that Jordan had ever gotten into a fight in school. When reminded of his suspension for a fight in the 8th grade, she had expressed her utter confidence that Jordan would not have thrown the first blow.
“Why, because he’s your grandson?”
“No,” Ms. Porter declared with calm but decided emphasis, “because I know Jordan.”
Today, Miles described what he remembered of that incident. “In 8th grade there was a bully. I must have said something that rubbed him the wrong way. He did throw [a punch] on me. I didn’t throw one back. But we were both suspended.”
When asked if he respected the police, both before and after the incident. Jordan answered with gravity, “Yes, I do.”
His attorney established that Jordan regularly attends church, assists the choir director with music, and affirmed that his faith is very important to him. “It pushes me on, motivates me each and every day.”
The night of the beating
Jordan’s lawyer, shows him a Google Map satellite photo of his mom’s and grandmother’s homes, and asked him to outline the route he took home. He turns right out of his mom’s home at 7920 Tioga Street onto Tioga, right again at Pitt Street, and right again on Susquehanna Street, where his grandmother lives at 7942. View images of the area here.
Jordan recounted what happened. He had spent a few hours, from about 9-10:30pm playing video games with his brother in his room, then began a long phone conversation with his friend Jamiah. Later than usual to leave for his grandmother’s, Jordan stayed on the phone with Jamiah as he got ready to go.
His mother, Terez Miles, complimented him on the new coat his grandmother had given him the night before for his birthday. It was the first time she had seen the gift and she got up to look closely, feeling the thickness and commenting that it seemed well made. Jordan agreed with her, said goodnight and left for his grandmother’s house, even as he continued to stay on the phone with his friend, Jamiah.
Jordan affirmed that he left his mom’s house with wallet, keys, and ipod in his pants pocket, but nothing in the pockets of the new coat. Jordan reaffirmed that he did not have a bottle of soda in his coat or elsewhere. He was holding the cell phone, still talking to Jamiah walking up the street.
It was bitter cold and he remembered between “5, 6, 8 inches of snow” on the ground, thicker on the sidewalks, which had not yet been plowed, so he walked down the quiet street where earlier car traffic had made a path. As he walked, he saw a “light-colored” car parked opposite a bus stop near the intersection with Pitt Street, underneath a street light. The car pulled away from the curb – he could not remember if the lights had been on when it was parked, but confirmed for his attorney that he remembered the headlights shining as it began to speed up and come towards him. Jordan jumped to the side of the road.
“I thought I was going to get hit.” The car skidded to a halt right in front of him.
The driver and passenger side doors opened and the interior light went on, showing three men wearing dark clothes in the vehicle. The front occupants launched themselves out of the car his way. While this was happening, Miles exclaimed “Stop, chill!” which Jamiah overheard on the other end of the phone.
One of the three men, who had exited the vehicle, shouted “Where’s your money? Where’s the drugs? Where’s the gun?”
Miles dropped his phone, on which he had still been talking to Jamiah, and ran back towards his mother’s home.
“I immediately ran. I didn’t want to be robbed,” he said. “I was only to take a couple of steps before I slipped on the ice…I was able to catch myself with my hands…Almost immediately after falling I remember one of the men diving onto my back and starting to hit me and trying to tear my coat off. I’m not 100% sure, but I thought it was the driver because he was closest to me [when he got out of the car and they started to chase]…I remember being hit in my head and my face. “…I managed to get to my knees, elevated a little bit [out of the snow], [but then felt] an impact in my back…felt like I was being beat on all parts of my body at the same time…I grabbed my coat around the zipper and tried to hold it together…”- Jordan demonstrates by grasping either side of his shirt collar and pulling it closed – “but the coat was eventually ripped open and removed from my body…”
“I remember my arms pulled behind my back…at the same time I was still being beat…my face was still on the ground…Seemed like it was forever. I couldn’t tell you [exactly how long.] After I was handcuffed, they were still hitting me. I was saying my prayers, one of them choked me and told me to shut up. I tried to lift my face from the snow because it was very hard to breathe. I tried again to say the Lord’s Prayer and someone choked me again. ”
“Could you taste the blood?” Jordan’s attorney asks.
“Yes. “The third time I lifted my head I was struck very hard.”
“Did it feel like a hard object?”
“Yes, I gave up and stopped trying to get my head out of the snow…I fell into a daze…They went into my pants pocket, took out my wallet. [They asked me, “Where were you going?] I told them I had come out of my mother’s house, going to my grandmother’s. They asked me, “Where’s the cash?” I told them that I didn’t normally carry cash with me but that it had just been my birthday and I would go to the ATM and get all my cash if they would let me live. One of them laughed sarcastically and he said he would let me live…I was gasping for air….”
Then he saw the marked police van pull up.
“I was in joy. I was relieved. I thought I was going to be saved. I thought maybe one of my neighbors had heard me screaming and had called the police.”
“When did you realize that these men were undercover police officers?”
“When I realized that I was the one getting arrested not these three men [who had beaten him.]”
Jordan’s attorney seems to lay the ground work for differences in the testimony of the three defendants and the owner of the property on which they carried out their beating. “This basically happened on Monica Wooding’s front lawn…Was there ever a light shone on you to identify you [for her?]” “No,” Jordan answers.
“I was taken to West Penn Hospital. I remember being seen in the emergency room. I was asked to take a drug test. I consented. I remember a branch being removed from my gums…”After Jordan’s initial treatment, he was taken to Allegheny Jail and placed in a cell with about six other arrestees. “My head was throbbing in pain. I felt pain in both my eyes. It hurt to speak. My arms were in pain. My neck was in pain. My back was in severe pain. It hurt to stand…Even my finger joints hurt…I couldn’t make a fist…The inmates told me I had a big bald spot on the right side of my head… I was there about 22 hours…I remember talking to my grandmother on the phone.”
After Jordan was arraigned for assaulting a police officer, prowling and loitering around Monica Wooding’s house and resisting arrest, he was finally released to his mother and grandmother.
“I walked out of jail and saw my mom standing next to the car…As I approached her, she didn’t say anything…I said, ‘I need to go to the hospital.’…She started crying. She tried to hug me but it hurt too bad…I twitched up…She was screaming, “Look at what they did to my son!”
Jordan’s attorney asked him what he continued to receive treatment for and what differences he noticed in his own cognitive functioning.
“Headaches, migraines, aches and pains in ankles and knees, PTSD…brain injury…I notice the difference in my level of comprehension, my ability to do math, my ability to recall and remember, to process information. I’m not in the same condition. I can’t do a lot of things I used to do…when I’m running around on the football field, I have to take frequent breaks.”
“I fenced myself from friends and family, became quick to anger…I distanced myself so I wouldn’t get into fights with them…I lost my appetite.. I have flashbacks of the incident, I have nightmares of the incident. I never had an experience like that in my life before when they jumped out…My environment was very dangerous…a lot of drugs, a lot of robberies…
“It is very hard to speak about the incident. I feel ashamed and I feel embarrassed to speak about it [at rallies in support of Jordan Miles and other victims of police brutality.]
During his cross examination, Jordan explained his terror, his confusion even after he was cuffed. “I did not know they were three police officers. When I was in cuffs, they continued to beat me. I didn’t know of any police officers that would do that.”
12:00pm, “Rally of love and support” outside the Courthouse
The call had gone out a couple of days before:
Join the Alliance for Police Accountability(APA), Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP) and Community members today at the Federal Courthouse, 700 Grant Street 15219 at 12:00p.m. as we display our public support for Jordan Miles and family. He will be testifying today and we will be there, gathered outside the courthouse to show him that we still stand with him and are still seeking justice on his behalf.
- Listen to/Download the statement outside the Courthouse
Don Carpenter reported that, after court commenced after the lunch time rally, two spectators who had entered the courtroom wearing “Justice 4 Jordan” T-shirts were escorted out, and the jury temporarily evacuated. The two supporters were allowed back in after covering up the message on their shirts.[This section of the transcript is still being worked on]