Saturday, August 11, 2012

Expert: Miles attorneys can't challenge instructions to jury - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

By Brian Bowling

Published: Saturday, August 11, 2012, 9:10 p.m.
Updated 58 minutes ago

Lawyers for a man who accused three Pittsburgh police officers of violating his civil rights can't challenge a federal judge's instructions to the jury in his case now that it has rendered a verdict, an expert said on Friday.

Attorneys for Jordan Miles, 20, of Homewood have said that U.S. District Judge Gary Lancaster's instructions justify a new trial.

The last chance for either side in a federal civil lawsuit to challenge instructions comes when the judge reads them to the jury, said Scott Dodson, a professor at the University of California's Hastings College of the Law.

"If they do not, they have waived those objections," he said.

Neither side objected on Aug. 2 when Lancaster read his instructions to the eight jurors.

Miles lawyer Tim O'Brien said Lancaster gave jurors contradictory instructions: that they disregard the officers' possible motives in the case, yet decide whether they acted out of "malice and spite" in filing criminal charges.

"It was virtually impossible for us to succeed on that claim," he said.

Miles claims that officers Michael Saldutte, David Sisak and Richard Ewing violated his civil rights during a Jan. 12, 2010, arrest on Tioga Street in Homewood. The officers say they arrested him after he fled instead of answering a question about his suspicious behavior in a high-crime neighborhood.

After four days of deliberations, the jurors deadlocked Wednesday on Miles' claims of false arrest and excessive force, but unanimously rejected his claim that the officers prosecuted him out of malice.

His lawyers said they plan to file a motion for a new trial on the malicious prosecution claim and pursue a second trial on the claims that deadlocked the jury.

James Wymard, the attorney for Sisak, and Bryan Campbell, the attorney for Saldutte, echoed Dodson: Miles' lawyers didn't raise that objection before the verdict, so they can't raise it now.

Whether the jury even considered "malice and spite" is an open question. Five jurors either declined comment or didn't return phone calls. Three couldn't be reached for comment.

A key part of Miles' case is his claim that he ran because the three men in dark clothing didn't identify themselves as police.

O'Brien said the judge allowed testimony from an expert witness who said the officers always would have identified themselves when questioning people, yet Miles wasn't allowed to call six to eight witnesses who would have said they did not.

"I think that was a critical turning point in this case," he said.

The Office of Municipal Investigations, Pittsburgh's equivalent of an internal affairs division, looked into each of those witnesses' complaints and said "there was nothing ever substantiated against any of these officers," said Robert Leight, Ewing's attorney.

Any good police officer making hundreds of arrests in a year is going to attract some complaints, Leight said.

Lawyers for the three officers maintain that the length of jury deliberations and the verdict in favor of the officers on the malicious prosecution charge show that the jurors mostly accepted the police version of events.

Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-325-4301 or

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