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Jury pool for Miles case has few blacks

Brian Bowling
| Monday, July 16, 2012, 2:32 p.m.
Timothy O'Brien, one of Jordan Miles' attorneys enters the federal courthouse Monday July 16, 2012 for the start of Miles' trial.
James Knox  |  Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Timothy O'Brien, one of Jordan Miles' attorneys enters the federal courthouse Monday July 16, 2012 for the start of Miles' trial. James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
From Left, Richard Ewing, David Sisak and Michael Saldutte enter the federal courthouse Monday July 16, 2012 for the start of Jordan Miles' trial.
James Knox  |  Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
From Left, Richard Ewing, David Sisak and Michael Saldutte enter the federal courthouse Monday July 16, 2012 for the start of Jordan Miles' trial. James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Jordan Miles enters the federal courthouse Monday July 16, 2012 for the start of his trial.
James Knox  |  Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Jordan Miles enters the federal courthouse Monday July 16, 2012 for the start of his trial. James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Lawyers expect to finish picking a jury on Tuesday and begin making opening statements in a much-anticipated federal civil rights trial in the case surrounding a 2010 arrest that injured an honors student from Homewood.

Jordan Miles, 20, who is black, claims Pittsburgh police officers Richard Ewing, Michael Saldutte and David Sisak beat him during the arrest. The officers, all of whom are white, contend Miles resisted arrest and they used proper force.

Sixty-five people called for jury duty spent Monday afternoon sitting in a courtroom while, one by one, 20 of them were interviewed privately about their views on race, police and crime.

Miles and the three officers shared the courtroom with the jurors but there was no interaction between them and the jurors or between the officers and Miles.

The 65 people came from 13 counties in Western Pennsylvania, where blacks make up about 8 percent of the population. Three of the potential jurors are black, which comes to about 5 percent.

J. Kerrington Lewis, one of Miles' lawyers, said that isn't a problem.

“We feel that the jurors are going to be fair,” he said.

The potential jurors are mostly middle-aged but included some people in their late 20s and early 30s, and some who are 60 or older.

Federal civil cases have six jurors instead of the 12 jurors used in criminal cases. U.S. District Judge Gary Lancaster told lawyers to choose two alternate jurors because the lawyers anticipate the case lasting more than two weeks, raising the chance that one of the original jurors will need to leave the trial.

The arrest and subsequent criticism from black community leaders brought some changes in the police department, which now collects and releases more statistics on arrests and racial makeup of those arrested. Minority youths and police officers participate in a program aimed at increasing understanding of one another.

A district judge dismissed charges the officers filed against Miles, and the city put the officers on leave during investigations that ended with announcements by prosecutors that neither state nor federal criminal charges would be filed against them.

Miles sued the officers and the city. The city settled its case for $75,000, but taxpayers would pay any damages a jury awards to Miles.

Bryan Campbell, one of the lawyers representing the three police officers, said they should be able to wrap up jury selection by mid-morning and hold opening statements by early afternoon.

A court clerk had Miles, the three officers and all the attorneys stand up to see if any of the potential jurors knew them. He read off a list of potential witnesses for the same reason.

Two people, including the wife of a city narcotics detective, said they know at least one of the officers. A third person, a teacher, said he might know the father of one of the witnesses.

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

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