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The Jordan Miles case: Telling verdict

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Friday, Aug. 10, 2012, 8:58 p.m.

The partial verdict reached by the jury in Jordan Miles' racially charged federal civil rights lawsuit against three Pittsburgh policemen is yet another indicator that clear evidence of law-enforcement wrongdoing in this case simply doesn't exist.

The jury of eight unanimously cleared the white officers of one of the black plaintiff's claims, malicious prosecution — a claim stemming from criminal charges against him that were dismissed. The jurors deadlocked on Mr. Miles' two other claims of false arrest and excessive force.

That outcome's especially significant when this civil trial's burden of proof — easier to meet than a criminal trial's — is factored in.

Neither federal prosecutors nor Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. found evidence of police misconduct strong enough to try the officers on criminal charges. And now, even with that easier civil burden of proof, a federal civil jury also has decided that the evidence isn't strong enough to rule against them.

The case thus boils down to one side's word against the other's. Though found wanting again, Miles' side has the right to pursue its remaining claims in a second civil trial, as his lawyers have vowed to do. But this partial verdict already has denied him outright vindication.

That verdict must be respected. So must any verdict on Miles' remaining claims. Accepting the legal system's outcome is the key step toward focusing on positive ways for all concerned to move beyond this regrettable, heated controversy.

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