If opening arguments are any indication, the eight jurors hearing testimony in the Jordan Miles civil case have a tough road ahead. They will, among other things, have to decide whether Miles was a mild-mannered high-school student who ran afoul of police two years ago ... or whether he's "150 pounds of dynamite," as one of the lawyers facing off against him claimed in federal court today.
And a opening arguments began this afternoon -- they are set conclude at 9:30 Wednesday morning -- jurors were given two completely versions of what happened January 12, 2010 at 11:05 p.m. between Miles, then an 18-year-old student at the CAPA performing arts high school, and three undercover City of Pittsburgh Police officers.
Miles' attorney, J. Kerrington Lewis, told jurors that his client was merely walking down Tioga Street in Homewood from his mother's home to his grandmother's when a vehicle drove up on him and one of the three men inside demanded: "Where's your drugs? Where's your money?" Miles ran, Lewis said, because he thought the three men were trying to rob him; they pounced on him and delivered what the attorney called a "savage beating."
Lewis pointed out that Miles was 5'7 and weighed just 150 pounds at the time. The officers -- David Sisak, Michael Saldutte and Richard Ewing -- were all nearly 6 feet tall, each weighing more than 200 pounds.
"Jordan was no match for one of these men, let alone three," Lewis told jurors. Lewis said Miles received brain damage and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. "No one gave him back the mind he had before this happened," Lewis said. "And no one can give him back the peace of mind he had either."
The officers' version of events is quite different. Attorney Bryan Campbell, who represents Officer Saldutte in fact said the two stories were "night and day." Each officer has his own attorney (paid for by the city) and each one is delivering an opening argument. Attorneys for Sisak and Saldutte delivered their openings today; Ewing's will follow tomorrow.
Not that the lawyers are going over the same material. Saludutte's attorney Jim Wymard talked about the officers' version of events while Campbell talked about the level of force the officers used. Ewing's lawyer will handle the medical evidence.
Wymard urged jurors to listen to all of the evidence and wait until the officers had a chance to present their case before making up their minds. The story he told jurors is the one that officers have been telling since Miles' preliminary hearing: The officers in an unmarked car saw Miles on the side of a Tioga Street home, they pulled up slowly beside him, identified themselves as police officers and asked him, "What are you doing sneaking around that house?"
"His response?" asked Wymard. "He bolted, and now the level of suspicion is increased."
Like Lewis, Wymard also described a violent confrontation -- but he makes Miles the aggressor, calling the former CAPA student "150 pounds of dynamite."
Miles will call his first witnesses Tuesday morning and his case is expected to stretch into next week. The entire trial is expected to last between two and three weeks.
Follow updates on the trial through the day here and on Twitter by following @charliedee71.