Jordan Miles Civil Trial #2 Day 12 Recap Defense Closing Arguments
Joel Sansone sat in the empty jury box before the opening of court, quietly reflecting and getting ready to argue for Jordan Miles. He briefly stepped out before court began, to joke with media that they weren’t reporting how good he looks. Mainstream and independent media sat quietly chatting with one another and speculating on how long deliberations would take. At 9:30 a.m., Judge Cercone’s tiny courtroom became Sparta for seven hours as both sides aggressively fought and argued for their clients.
James Wymard delivered a one-hour-long argument on behalf of his client, David Sisak, that literally put several members of the audience to sleep. After thanking the jury for their sacrifice in being jurors, Wymard would opened up with a question, “Does it make any common sense for these officers to disregard their training and assault Mr. Miles? It doesn’t make sense, ladies and gentlemen of the jury.” “The only thing that makes sense in this case is what these officers have testified to,” Wymard would tell jurors. Wymard would put the officers on a pedestal, as the defense has always done, telling jurors, “They’re out there putting their lives on the line, patrolling streets you and I wouldn’t dare drive on… They’re on the front line and they have never complained once… This is Homewood, home of the drive-by and the home of the gangbanger,” Wymard would tell jurors, after playing up Homewood’s high crime status. “Three white guys in Homewood with handcuffs, but he (Miles) didn’t know they were cops?” Wymard asked jury, encouraging them multiple times to question Miles’ story when they went into deliberations. Wymard would go on to question Miles’ alleged injuries, noting that Miles didn’t leave West Penn Hostpital or UPMC Shadyside hospitals in a neck brace.
Jude Cercone would intervene twice during Wymard’s argument, to tell Wymard his personal beliefs are irrelevant in this case and to stick to the facts. Following Wymard’s lengthy but boring closing argument, a sidebar between lawyers and Judge Cercone was called for about six minutes. These proceedings cannot be heard from the court gallery.
Fraternal Order of Police and officer Mike Saldutte attorney, Bryan Campbell, was up next to shove the Use Of Force Continuum (that outlines acceptably levels of escalation of force by police officers) down the jury’s throat in his 30-minute-long closing argument. Campbell would ask jurors to look at this case from the officers’ point of view and keep in mind that the officers’ reputations are on the line. He would ask jurors not believe “any of Jordan Miles’ falsehoods”. Campbell would also try and demonstrate where Jordan Miles blew his own credibility, where “for the first time in four years told the truth and broke from his story.” “That was a come-to-Jesus moment, when for the first time in four years Jordan Miles broke his story and told the truth.” Campbell based this claim on Jordan’s original account of where he was beaten differentiating by 20 feet, suggesting this was evidence that Jordan was a liar. Never mind that Jordan had a concussion, his eye was swollen shut, and he was in so much pain that it’s understandable he was disoriented. “For a while, he was sort of a media darling,” Campbell said, continuing his personal attack on Jordan Miles, before mocking Miles’ injuries. “Do you know his UPMC Shadyside bill was $17,000?” Campbell would ask jurors. A waste of money because he was already at West Penn Hospital.”
“Aside from his being taken to West Penn by police, all his medical treatments over the years were unnecessary.” “This encounter didn’t wreck his life… it didn’t change his life at all,” Campbell coldly told jurors. Campbell would finish his arguments by once again explaining the Use of Force Continuum.
Officer Rick Ewing’s attorney Robert Leight would wrap things up for the defense before the lunch break. Leight, a former FBI agent of over 8 years, was also at one time a prosecuting attorney. Leight would begin by apologizing to the Jury. “I want to apologize if I have done anything to offend you. This trial is one of the most highly spirited trials I have ever been a part of. Us attorneys may be aggressive in the courtroom, but when it’s all said and done, we all have beers together.” Leight half-heartedly apologized for aggressively attacking Jordan Miles during the trial. He would go on to tell jurors that Jordan Miles is a fine young man with a very bright future. Following the compliments on the plaintiff, Leight began his attack on Miles and his case. “Jordan Miles made a mistake, during a momentary lapse in judgement, on January 12, 2010,” Leight would begin. Leight would become lighthearted once more telling jurors that his two elderly colleagues had already used all the good arguments. “Jordan Miles forced their hand, They had no choice in the matter,” Leight told jurors.
Leight then switched gears to tell us about an American hero, officer Rick Ewing. “He’s a two-time combat veteran with the Marines, and he’s very offended that his honor and integrity have been questioned over the years,” Leight told jurors. “The physical evidence does not support his (Jordan’s) position, and his testimony doesn’t have a ring of truth to it,” Leight would proclaim. “His version of events never happened. When he was arrested, he had to come up with a story to explain to his family… he was looking for sympathy, so he told Nana they beat him, arrested him, and took his coat,” Leight continued. “These are experienced police officers, if they wanted to fabricate a story, they would have, but they told the truth.” Leight would tell jurors in one of the most bizarre statements ever heard. “Mr. Miles can’t even keep his story straight in one day on the stand, let alone 4 years.” Leight would return to attacking Miles. “Don’t punish these officers for being big and tough and taking care of themselves. It’s a requirement of the job,” Leight went on. “How injured can you really be if your high school grade in physical education is a “B”?” Leight would ask jurors as he attacked Jordan’s injuries over the years. “Don’t base your judgement on sympathy”, Leight told jurors as he concluded.
“Are you confused by what the defense told you? I am,” Sansone told jurors.
“I’m disappointed in James Wymard for one mistake he made,” Sansone told jurors. “He has no idea what anyone told a grand jury four years ago because no-one does. As Judge Cercone told you, those records are sealed, and no one has access to them,” Sansone continued.
“Each one has mistaken the facts,” Sansone told jurors while pointing at the defense and their lawyers.
“They did do a jump-out on him, you know,” Sansone told the jury. “Then they exacted a little frontier justice on him because he ran.”
Sansone would switch to a brief history lesson and why the Fourth amendment is one of the most important amendments in our bill of rights.
“Let’s review the evidence of the wrongdoing of these men,” Sansone said again, motioning toward the three defendants.
“The most important witness in this trial is Jordan Miles.”
“Homewood is not a denizen of criminals… people live there, shop there, go to church there,” Sansone said.
“They (the officers) never really came up with a good reason as to what Jordan was doing wrong. If he (Jordan) saw them coming in the 99 car, how did they not see him until he was hiding in plain sight near a house as they suggest?”
Sansone would then do a impression of Jordan Miles hiding in plain sight, as the officers suggested, to an entire courtroom of laughter.
“Is it lawful to jump-out, not identify yourself and make an arrest?… No!” Sansone told jurors.
“Does anyone here not think that the police bend the rules?” Sansone said.
“These men kept their badges hidden to get the jump on my client and surprise him because, in their eyes, he looked like a drug dealer.”
“Tell me how these three big tough guy frontier justice men escaped this so called fight of their lives without a scratch on them while my client ended up in the hospital? Oh, I’m sorry Sisak—who I will get to in a minute—had a scratch on his knew from where he claims my client kicked him… could be that he got that scratch when he went down on some rocks in a yard, while punching my client in the head and hitting him with a flashlight,” Sansone went on.
“Was Ryan Allen’s testimony not the most awkward testimony you’ve ever seen?” Sansone would briefly change the subject.
“Who was more likely to be screaming for help that night, a kid being beaten by three strangers, or a big tough guy police officer?”
“I don’t think it was the bush. I think it was one of these frontier justice guys who ripped out his (Jordan’s) hair while repeatedly punching him,” Sansone told jurors.
“We never heard what my client actually did wrong, that warranted a stop but what we did hear was that this guy, Sisak, lost all kinds of stuff that night,” Sansone pointed out to the jury.
“How could he (Sisak) miss seeing a gun clip, as he put Monica Wooding’s trash can’s down on top of it? You heard her say, Sisak was picking up her garbage cans, and the next morning—underneath one he had touched—a gun clip matching his gun was found? What was he doing, planting evidence?” Sansone asked the jurors.
“Did you see the defense call any of their supervisors or Pittsburgh Police brass to support them or their actions? Think about that.” Sansone told the jury.
“You saw Mr. Ewing wrap himself in the flag and say, ‘I never said that, you’re putting words in my mouth.’ No, I didn’t. I showed him transcripts of his own testimony and two fellow officers have testified here to his own words. Ewing said they did a jump-out.’
Sansone would then attack officer Saldutte and officer Sisak’s stories.
“Now, Lets come to Rick Ewing, maybe one of the biggest disappointments of them all,” Sansone said, as he began to wrap up his argument.
“He hid behind the American flag and lied to us all repeatedly. He refused to man up and answer my questions,” Sansone told the jurors.
“This case is the result of police officers out of control. What message will you send to those officers who come after these three? It’s your job to defend our Constitution and to tell them we will not allow this. The message is yours to send.”
“For the love of God, do what’s right.”
Following a brief break after Joel’s arguments, all three officers and their lawyers stood together in silence staring down at the floor.
The jury will now deliberate.