James Wymard’s closing argument
Helen Gerhardt reports:
David Sisak’s defense attorney, James A. Wymard, presents his own speculative vision of what happened between all participants in the “incident” just after 11pm, on December 12, 2010.
You ask yourself, ‘What really happened?’” I propose this – he was walking along Tioga…after 11pm on a school night…much later than he usually goes home…it’s cold out, lonely, he gets halfway up the block…senses a car coming up the street behind him. You’ve heard Jordan Miles testify that after he was arrested he said, ‘I’m glad they were police, because if they were gangbangers, I’d be dead’…[he knows it's a high crime area, he's afraid, like any of us would be afraid...So Jordan thinks...] ‘I’ll duck into the side of this house until they go by and then I’ll continue on my way to Grandma’s house…He emerges, thinking that they’ve gone by…the police get out and ask ‘What are you doing sneaking around that house?’ He’s scared…now he’s really in a jam…He bolts back to Mom’s house…He’s panicked…first from fear of what he thought were gangbangers…now of the police.”
Wymard pauses, considers his audience of eight. “I understand [his fear]… Jordan Miles was a victim of circumstances, but the police saw him [as a potential burglar, peeping Tom, violent perpetrator, wielder of gun...] Do you remember the testimony by Dr. Leathers, Jordan’s psychiatrist? …Most revealing…He said, “Jordan had the sense he did something wrong…that he made a mistake.’ Yes, [when the police approached him] he should have stood there…but he ran….”
Wymard pauses again.
…We know the consequences when you run from the police.”
Soon after this statement, the judge calls for a ten-minute recess. I walk out of the court room and run into Tim Stevens, longtime member of the Alliance for Police Accountability and the Black Political Empowerment Project, founder of the Black and White Reunion – and faithful champion of Jordan Miles. He tells me that a few years ago, two veteran police officers of many decades had approached him at his home to tell him, “There’s a tradition, an unwritten policy…that if you run from the police, you’ll be beaten up.”
Of course, no one who follows news of police behavior in Pittsburgh will be surprised by such news, although the police officers’ expressed concern and the honesty of the admission to a man in Tim’s leadership roles is unusual.
The public status quo is better expressed by the previous testimony that Wymard reminds the jury of after the recess.
The police officers’ use of force meets reasonable standards of behavior as assessed by experts, including Chief Harper and our expert, Stine.” These experts [in law enforcement] testify that it was the duty of the three officers to return [and if they had an] “articulable suspicion” [of potentially criminal behavior under such circumstance,] then they had the right to make an investigative detention.
Once Jordan returns an elbow strike to one of the officers, Wymard asserts, then it’s no longer a detention, it’s an arrest in response to an aggravated assault. They had “adequate probable cause to make an arrest.”
It doesn’t matter if that charge was dropped because Monica Wooding changed her testimony. Of course the charges had to be dropped,” [but in order to meet the second criteria of guilt in this civil case, you [the jury] would have to determine initial] lack of probable cause to file charges and initiate proceedings.
Did they use excessive force? That’s the real question in this case. You have to analyze two things.
First what was the nature of the force?
“No broken nose.
No fractured skull.
No fractured occipital or orbital bone
No broken jaw.
Wymard pauses after this list of all the injuries that did not happen.
A flashlight would have left a mark.”
Wymard walks back over to the legal defense team desk to pick up a police officer’s flashlight, then back toward the jury. He raises the flashlight, points to the corrugations along the side that he says would have left distinctive marks that would have been observed by the emergency room doctor.
Then Wymard raises the flashlight again and makes a striking motion towards his own head. “If he was struck with this, Jordan Miles would have had a fracture for sure.” Fractures happen all the time, he asserts. “What were the medical consequences?” No fracture, no loss of consciousness, and the MRI and CAT scan had showed no injury, no evidence of concussion. [This assertion ignores the expert testimony of Dr. Twichell, who had made very clear that MRIs and CT scans do not show concussion.]
Wymard lifts a large photo on foamboard of Jordan Miles on his grandmother’s porch, eyes closed, knit cap covering his head and upper forehead. “Two weeks later, not a mark, scratch, or abrasion. Grandma says ‘he’s back to normal.’” [Wymard's statement contradicts the testimony of Jordan's grandmother who had pointed out that Jordan's closed right eye had still been bloodshot, and that he had still had a mark on his upper right forehead, which had been covered by the knit cap in the photo.]
The hard object [that struck Jordan's forehead] was Ewing’s knee,” Wymard asserts
“He was in the fight of his [Ewing's] life.”
Remember,” Wymard exclaims, “those Myspace photos that Jordan posted. Remember that he called himself, “Bulky J.” Yes, he may have only been [150?] pounds, but he was strong.” Miles was keeping his hands underneath him. It’s very hard to get someone’s hands out from underneath them, Wymard tells the jury. The officers applied pain to get him to take his hands out from underneath his body.
These are the ones that go out there night after night to get the guns and drugs off the street…working in the neighborhood with the highest crime rate in the city, from 6pm to 2am, when most of those crimes occur. Do they [the three officers] know he’s a student from CAPA? What is he engaged in? Is he a peeping Tom, a thief? What would you think?”
Why would he [Ewing] use a taser? He’s trying to use the minimum force necessary…” [but the taser doesn't work, so he] tackles him into a bush…Jordan kicks Sisak…[who falls backward.]
Monica Wooding [corroborated that testimony], when she said she saw snow on Sisak’s back. Ewing was using knee strikes because Jordan’s hands were underneath him…administering pain strikes. Saldutte feels a hard object in Jordan’s pocket and says, ‘gun.’ The whole dynamic changes…what are their options…’If he gets to that gun…we read about officers getting shot…three officers had been shot in that neighborhood just a few months before…Ewing comes up, gives a knee strike to the side of his head…heavy hit to be sure…necessary…experts testified not excessive…reasonable.”’
Chief Harper testified that they behaved as a reasonable officer would have done. He said he was, “satisfied that there was no violation of rules and regulations of the Bureau of the Police.”
“Night after night, these men go into the highest crime neighborhood in the city, where murder, rape…gun violations happen all the time… where Jordan Miles said in his FBI interview he heard gun shots every night…into a neighborhood that you and I wouldn’t drive through because of fear…we would skirt it because we would have known what would happen…”
These three men have endured intense public scrutiny…they haven’t wavered…embracing the motto of the Bureau of Police, to protect and serve. They’re heroes, members of the jury.”
Wymard is done. He has concluded his defense, with two more officer attorneys to still speak their piece for their clients.
The judge calls a break.
[More court notes to come.]
J. Kerrington Lewis, Jordan’s lawyer, closing argument
Here are highlights from Jordan’s attorney, J. Kerrington Lewis’ closing arguments, from the City Paper:
On the officers’ intentions:
“They came down that street and they thought he was a black, drug-dealing punk and they were going to take him down. Well they took him down for the rest of his life.”
On the Mountain Dew bottle:
“Even if he had a pop bottle like they’ve been telling you for three weeks, is he really going to go for that bottle [during a struggle]. It’s delusional. It’s ridiculous. It’s stupid. It’s so ridiculous that it should be dismissed for the story that it is. They thought it would all work out because they thought he was a bad kid, but it didn’t work out because he’s a good kid.”
On the police account of events:
“That report is phony. It was made up two hours later. They knew they had beaten him badly. They’ve got him as a cat burglar [and acting as a drug dealer would]. That’s all boilerplate language. They needed an excuse for what they’d done.”
On the subject of damages:
“Is this about money? Yes because it’s his only recourse. Should he go out and hire six thugs to go give them what they gave him? That’s not our way.”
On Jordan Miles:
“[Miles] has led an exemplary life in an environment [Homewood] that [the defense] has graphically given you a picture of. There are kids who grow up in the best neighborhoods in this country that would be lucky to measure up to this kid.”
— Justice for Jordan (@justice4jordan) August 2, 2012