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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Miles jury finds for officers on one claim; deadlocks on more serious claims of abuse, false arrest

Posted By on Wed, Aug 8, 2012 at 4:15 PM

Despite deliberating for parts of five days, the jury in the Jordan Miles civil lawsuit delivered a partial verdict in favor of officers Michael Saldutte, David Sisak and Richard Ewing but deadlocked on the more serious claims of excessive force and false arrest.

In the high-profile case of a black former honor student who was beaten by three white police officers, the jury found in favor of the officers on a single claim, that of malicious prosecution. But on the other two charges, the jury’s foreman — the lone African American on the jury — told U.S. District Court Judge Gary Lancaster, “We are hopelessly deadlocked.”

Jordan Miles said nothing to reporters as he left the courtroom. He filed the civil lawsuit because, he says, the three officers jumped him on a Homewood street in January 2010, failed to identify themselves and beat him until he was unrecognizable. The trial has taken its toll on Miles, as every aspect of his young life was paraded in front of a jury.

The officers also left without speaking — although Sisak was not in court for the verdict — but their attorneys seemed emboldened by the verdict. Attorney Bryan Campbell, who represented Saldutte and represents the Fraternal Order of Police, was asked what message the verdict sends to the public. His response: “The cops are usually right.”

The three officers claim they saw Miles skulking around a neighbor’s house at 11 p.m. on Jan. 12, 2010. They stopped him and identified themselves, they say. And they say Miles had a bulge in his jacket, acted like he had a gun and ran. They say he later assaulted Sisak and Saldutte and was the aggressor in the altercation, despite being outweighed by the officers’ combined weight of more than 600 pounds. Charges against him, however, were later dropped.

General reaction to this story will be broadcast and written about everywhere in the next 24 hours, but there are some things worth noting. Miles’ legal team intends to retry the case on the claims of excessive force and false arrest. When told of that, Campbell told reporters, “Be our guest. They won’t get a different result.”

That could be a fair assumption, except that on retrial Miles’ attorneys say they intend to try to present a lot of evidence that this jury wasn’t allowed to hear. Particularly about the way the officers have conducted themselves in previous cases. 

Tim O’Brien, one of Miles’ lawyers, said there was evidence of past arrests by the officers when they used similar force on a suspect. They have also, according to O’Brien, been involved in arrests where they have likewise claimed that suspects had a suspicious bulge in their coat, force was used and, again, no weapon was recovered. Miles’ lawyers were barred from presenting such evidence in this trial because the judge ruled, basically, that it would unfairly prejudice a jury against the officers. 

Lancaster would be in charge of a retrial. But, O’Brien says, he believes that things have changed.

“This jury didn’t get to hear this evidence, “ he said, but added that “things happened in this trial” — testimony and facts were presented that could allow the evidence to be admitted at future proceedings.

Even the officers’ one-time supervisor, police Commander Rashall Brackney, had concerns about the three officers in the past.

From City Paper’s most recent trial coverage:

According to court documents, Brackney gave a deposition in which she claimed the trio “had a history of lying and taking action” even if a suspect's behavior had “not ris[en] to [the] level of reasonable suspicion.” Brackney had apparently ordered that Sisak and Ewing “be closely monitored and supervised.” Such claims might have thrown light on the Miles case, in which the officers are accused of chasing down Miles for no good reason, and inventing a justification for it afterward.

If a jury was having trouble believing that three police officers would do something as horrible as Miles claims they did, evidence like that could have pushed them toward a verdict in Miles’ favor. With new evidence or without, though, a second trial — barring a settlement from the city — will happen.

“Mr. Miles is a good guy, he’s a good man,” said Miles attorney J. Kerrington Lewis. “We will go back at it.”

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