Friday, August 3, 2012

Jurors still deliberating in Jordan Miles case - Pittsburgh Post Gazette

A jury deliberated all day Friday in the Jordan Miles civil trial but did not reach a decision and will return Monday.

The case stems from Mr. Miles' accusation that on Jan. 12, 2010, plainclothes Pittsburgh police officers Richard Ewing, Michael Saldutte and David Sisak jumped out of an unmarked car, unlawfully arrested, unnecessarily beat and maliciously charged him with five criminal counts that were later dismissed.

The officers have said they arrested and charged him appropriately.

On Friday, Mr. Miles waited outside a U.S. Courthouse courtroom with his mother, sister and grandmother. The officers came and went from the building. Attorneys for both sides were on standby in case the judge had to call them in for a verdict or a jury question, but none came.

The jury can find unanimously for Mr. Miles, in which case the city would pay the verdict and possibly the plaintiff's legal fees; find unanimously for the defense, in which case no damages would be awarded; or close the trial with a hung jury, meaning a second trial could be scheduled.

The amount the city would pay if there is a verdict against it depends on a number of factors.

The jury would have to decide which of the officers was responsible for any false arrest, unnecessary force or malicious prosecution.

Then it would calculate compensatory damages, based on the extent of Mr. Miles' injuries, suffering, distress, defense costs incurred in defending the criminal charges that were filed against him, and future lost wages. Mr. Miles' attorneys hired University of Pittsburgh economist James L. Kenkel, who testified that the 20-year-old plaintiff stood to earn roughly $2.9 million over his work life if he had a four-year degree. But because he twice dropped out of college, finishing just one semester, his projected lifetime earnings were below $1.8 million, he said.

The officers' attorneys argued that Mr. Miles could still finish college or pursue a management career with CVS Pharmacy, where he works as a cashier. Next, the jury would have to decide whether to assess punitive damages against any of the officers.

U.S. District Judge Gary L. Lancaster told jurors Thursday that punitive damages would be appropriate only if they found that an officer acted maliciously or wantonly.

The judge said in deciding on a punitive damage award, the jury would have to determine whether the officer's acts were violent, risked the health and safety of others, and reflected a pattern or an anomaly.

The city has already paid Mr. Miles $75,000 to settle a claim that it failed to properly train and supervise the officers. It also made a June 2011 settlement offer of $180,000 to Mr. Miles that he rejected, leading to the current trial. Both of those acts could limit the city's liability.

The city would get a credit in the amount of the $75,000 settlement against a plaintiff's verdict.

Whether the city would have to pay the bulk of the bill for Mr. Miles' attorneys' work would depend on the amount of a verdict. Under federal rules, if a verdict would come in higher than the $180,000 settlement offer, the city would have to pay all of the costs and fees of Mr. Miles' attorneys. That bill could run to six figures.

If a verdict came in at or below $180,000, the city would only have to pay the costs and fees incurred after the date of its offer, thus avoiding the bulk of the bill.

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