Saturday, March 6, 2010

Miracles On Tioga Street: Disappearing Evidence And Credibility, Reappearing Criminal Charges?

The Pittsburgh police case against honor student Jordan Miles -- for beating three officers' tree branch with his mouth, assaulting city pavement with his face, and abrading officers' hands with his hair as they pulled it from his scalp -- has been dismissed by a magisterial district judge.

Judge Oscar Pettite apparently declined to rely on key elements of police evidence, at least in part because they didn't exist. The Mountain Dew bottle police identified in affidavits and testimony as the object they mistook for a gun in Miles' pocket, for example, either has disappeared or never existed. A statement in a police affidavit, in which a homeowner (described by the district attorney's officer as the ostensible victim of a prowling charge) described Miles as a stranger, was contradicted in court -- by the testimony of that homeowner, who told the court that Miles is a friend of her children.

City police union official Charles Hanlon expressed outrage concerning the obvious injustice: "We firmly believe there was enough evidence to hold those charges . . . We plan to lobby the district attorney pretty hard to refline those charges."

Hanlon exhibited discretion by refraining from pointing with specificity to the evidence that makes it obvious that a crime occurred along Tioga Street in Homewood in the dark hours of January 11: That sidewalk didn't bleed on itself. That tree branch didn't imbed itself in Miles' gum. That dreadlock didn't pull itself out of Miles' head. Hanlon is likely to get his wish -- additional charges in this case -- but statements from an FBI official suggest those new charges might not come from the source he envisions, nor travel in the direction he prefers. Hanlon probably knows this, which would explain why the men who beat Miles have lawyered up.

A few questions:

(1) Did the district attorney interview the "victim" of the alleged prowling, Monica Gooding, before her courtroom testimony eviscerated the police affidavit on which the prosecution relied?

(2) Has the district attorney investigated the circumstances concerning the so-far illusory bottle of Mountain Dew?

(3) Did the district attorney consult a use-of-force expert concerning the nature of Jordan Miles' injuries?

(4) Would city taxpayers get a bargain if the city preemptively offered Miles a free college education (including grad school, Jordan); a modest home in the city; donations in his name to the NAACP and the ACLU; and a front-row seat at the disciplinary hearings for the officers who beat the hell out of him? (Doug Shields also seems to think this might be a pertinent question.)


Anonymous said...

It's kind of bizarre that there is a dispute about the Mountain Dew bottle's existence, as if it matters. Would this have been OK if there had been a bottle of soda involved? Do we have a little-known city statute directing police officers to brutally assault anyone who appears to be carrying "a heavy object"?

Anonymous said...


Infinonymous said...

The Tribune-Review's "Homewood Violence" slide show wouldn't work for me(even after installing the Adobe add-on), so let me know: Does the Homewood violence depicted by the Trib include three 200-pound men savagely beating an honor student far past submission on a sidewalk in his neighborhood, then coming up with a story about how it occurred that conflicts with the evidence?

If these officers, and their dopey union, keep pressing this line about the homeowner's statement and the soda bottle and "perfectly reasonable" force, the officers may find themselves charged with perjury and worse.

A reasonable lawyer might advise them to resign now, take the Fifth and hope that's the end of it (except for the check the city will write).

Anonymous said...

You need to upgrade your PC/software/OS etc.

Infinonymous said...

That could be true, but with Vista premium (32-bit) on a one-year-old machine, and very few access issues, I'm not going to worry about it yet.

I saw a few of the Trib's photographs by manipulating the timing bar, but nothing that would change any reasonable mind concerning the beating. (I didn't see the entire presentation, however.) What type of photograph(s) would provide context adequate to justify the beating Jordan Miles received?

Maria said...

"What type of photograph(s) would provide context adequate to justify the beating Jordan Miles received?"

You must have missed the ones showing that Blacks live there. [/snark]