Jury selected in case of former Pittsburgh student who claims officers beat him

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HOMEWOOD, Pa. - Jury selection is complete in the case of a man who claimed he was wrongly beaten by three Pittsburgh police officers.

Jordan Miles, 22, claims that Officers Michael Saldutte and David Sisak and then-Officer Richard Ewing lacked probable cause and used excessive force when they arrested him on Jan. 12, 2010, on Tioga Street in Homewood.

The jury of eight was seated on Monday.  There are only eight jurors in a civil case.

A jury in August 2012 deadlocked on those claims but found for the officers on Miles' claim that they maliciously prosecuted him on charges that were later dropped.

Miles' second attempt to convince a federal jury that the officers violated his civil rights during the arrest won't be a carbon copy of the first trial, legal experts said.

In addition to eight new jurors, the trial will have a new judge, Miles has new lawyers, and some evidence the first panel did not hear will be aired.

During the first trial, then-police Chief Nate Harper spent nearly five hours on the stand defending the officers' actions. Not counting the recorded testimony of an expert witness, the only other person on the stand that long was Miles.

Since then, Harper has resigned under pressure and pleaded guilty to diverting public money into his own pockets. The former chief is awaiting orders to report to a federal prison to serve an 18-month sentence.

“He was an effective witness last time,” said University of Pittsburgh law professor David Harris. Although the department can call others to testify on the same subjects, “it's not going to carry the same weight because at the time of the trial, Mr. Harper was the top guy at the department, the ultimate authority.”

In the first trial, U.S. District Judge Gary Lancaster wouldn't let the officers' attorneys introduce evidence of bullets that police recovered from the scene several days after the arrest, and a gun clip, never recovered, that a neighbor reported seeing days after the arrest.

U.S. District Judge David Cercone, who took over the case when Lancaster died, ruled last week that the officers can introduce that evidence.

Bryan Campbell, Saldutte's lawyer, and James Wymard, Sisak's lawyer, said the evidence bolsters the officers' claim that Miles was acting suspiciously.

The officers said they believed Miles was armed. Although they later decided that a bulge in his pocket was a Mountain Dew bottle they discarded at the scene, the presence of the gun clip and bullets shows there could have been a weapon, Campbell said. Investigators said they did not collect the soda bottle.

“He could have had a gun somewhere else on his person,” Campbell said.

It seems more than a coincidence that bullets and a gun clip turned up after the snow melted, Wymard said. Robert Leight, Ewing's lawyer, could not be reached for comment.

Joel Sansone, one of the attorneys for Miles, said last week they were disappointed with the judge's ruling but don't believe it will sway the jury.

“These officers cannot continue to escape justice,” he said.

Giroux is a Detroit-area attorney who specializes in police misconduct lawsuits. Local attorneys Kerrington Lewis and Tim O'Brien represented Miles in the first trial.

Channel 11’s news exchange partners at TribLIVE contributed to this report.

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