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Pittsburgh lawyers' requests nixed in police brutality suit

Monday, May 7, 2012, 6:16 p.m.
 

Lawyers who missed deadlines to request a psychological exam and witness interviews might have helped a Homewood man's police brutality lawsuit against their clients, but it's hard to gauge how much, two legal experts said on Monday.

Jordan Miles, 20, claims Pittsburgh police Officers Richard Ewing, Michael Saldutte and David Sisak beat him during a 2010 arrest. His civil lawsuit is scheduled for jury trial on July 16.

The city settled with Miles for $75,000 on his claims against the administration, but taxpayers remain on the hook for any monetary award Miles might win against the officers.

Lawyers for the city and the officers asked U.S. District Judge Gary Lancaster in March to compel Miles to undergo a mental examination by their expert psychologist, and sought grand jury testimony of two of Miles' friends.

Lancaster denied the requests, saying the attorneys missed an Oct. 1 deadline to request examinations and depose witnesses. The lawyers knew Miles' lawsuit claims the beating caused him psychological damage, and they knew his friends would be witnesses at trial, the judge said.

Attorney Bryan Campbell, who represents the officers, declined comment. The Tribune-Review couldn't reach Michael Kennedy, the city solicitor handling the case.

Bruce Antkowiak, a law professor at St. Vincent College near Latrobe who is not involved with the case, said the defense could call investigators to testify about what Miles' friends told them, and then compare that to their testimony at trial, so it's hard to estimate how much the ruling could hurt the defense.

"You can still get the impeachment," he said. "You just don't get it through the sworn testimony (of the two friends)."

David Harris, a University of Pittsburgh law professor, said judges tend to be tough about deadlines. In criminal cases, personal freedom is at stake; in civil cases, money.

"They either ignored the opportunities they had or made other choices," he said of the attorneys in the Miles case. "And when you do that, you have to live with the consequences."

Lancaster will allow Miles' attorneys to depose three private investigators the officers hired. The city lawyers didn't notify Miles' attorneys until March that they hired the investigators, so they couldn't conduct the interviews before the deadline, the judge ruled.

J. Kerrington Lewis, one of Miles' attorneys, said the judge's reasoning was "pretty straightforward."

"From all appearances, this case is going to trial," he said. "I don't see any other course at this point."

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