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Miles' attorney says the case is about 'abuse of power'

| Tuesday, March 11, 2014, 12:14 p.m.

Even in their version of what happened, three police officers used excessive force when they arrested a Homewood man, an expert witness said on Tuesday.

R. Paul McCauley, a retired Indiana University of Pennsylvania criminology professor, said trained officers should have been able to subdue Jordan Miles without resorting to force.

“Given the totality of the circumstances, the officers had no reason to strike Jordan Miles multiple times in the head,” he said in the opening day of a civil lawsuit against the officers.

Miles, 22, says that Pittsburgh Officers Michael Saldutte and David Sisak and then-Officer Richard Ewing lacked probable cause and beat him during the Jan. 12, 2010, arrest on Tioga Street in Homewood.

The officers say Miles acted suspiciously and tried to run when they questioned him.

McCauley, called to the stand by Miles' attorneys, will resume testifying on Wednesday. His testimony had not finished when U.S. District Judge David Cercone adjourned for the day. Other witnesses scheduled to testify include an officer who drove Miles to the hospital and at least one of the defendants.

Patricia Porter, Miles' grandmother, testified that Miles recovered physically but shows some mental signs of trauma.

Miles lives with Porter and works at a pharmacy, she said.

He has trouble sleeping and is reluctant to get into new situations, but he opens up more than he did in the weeks after his arrest, she said.

“He'll talk to you more now,” Porter said. “I can hear him upstairs on the phone with his friends, laughing.”

In opening statements, one of Miles' attorneys told jurors that his client's recollection of what happened is probably less accurate than that of the police because of trauma. The officers stayed at the scene and discussed what happened while Miles was on his way to a hospital and then jail, attorney Robert Giroux said.

“What this case is about, we believe, is abuse of power,” Giroux said.

Giroux said the encounter scared Miles because he didn't understand why three men jumped him. He spent most of his time with his back to the officers, trying to get away, Giroux said.

“I'm not here to tell you these officers are bad people,” he said. “I'm not here to tell you they're bad officers.”

In the course of working the streets, however, the officers repeatedly “crossed the line” of legal behavior until “someday, they can't even see the line,” he said.

James Wymard, the lawyer for Sisak, said the officers were patrolling a high-crime area and specifically checking abandoned houses that drug dealers reportedly used when they spotted someone loitering beside a house. When they turned their car around and came back, they saw Miles and stopped to question him. If Miles had simply answered their questions, “we wouldn't be here today,” he said.

The trial is expected to take at least two weeks.

Brian Bowling is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-325-4301 or bbowling@tribweb.com.

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