A jury heard opening statements Tuesday in a lawsuit filed by a 76-year-old man who says San Francisco police broke his arm after his wife called 911 from their Potrero Hill home as he watched a pornographic movie.
The unusual case began when Raymond J. Miller, a retired city employee who served as a Municipal Railway superintendent and worked at the port, was sitting in an easy chair in the living room of his home on Texas Street, drinking and watching the movie the night of Jan. 7, 2006, according to witness testimony.
His wife of 35 years, Jean Miller, called police but the line soon went dead. It's unclear whether she hung up on her own or her husband forced her to get off the phone, but in any case, the cutoff automatically prompted a police response.
Four officers soon arrived at the Millers' home. Raymond Miller, wearing only shorts, continued to watch the movie and ignored the officers as they walked past him and spoke to his wife, who said she feared he would kill her at any time, authorities said.
When police tried to arrest Raymond Miller for allegedly threatening his wife, he ordered officers to get out, Deputy City Attorney Daniel Zaheer said in his opening statement in San Francisco Superior Court.
Miller testified that his wife's accusations mystified him. He said he had simply invited her to watch a "sexually explicit" movie, but that "she decided she didn't like it."
"All of a sudden, she decided to call 911," he told the jury. "She had no reason to call police - I told her, 'If you don't want to watch it, it's up to you.' "
Miller said he felt his world was coming apart when the officers moved to arrest him.
"I felt that all of a sudden the world had turned around, there was a revolution," Miller said. "There was a police state."
He wants the jury to award him $50,000, claiming the officers used excessive force.
The 270-pound Miller claims the officers pushed him to the ground to handcuff him, then lifted him up by the cuffs, breaking his left arm and cutting his wrists.
"He was upset," his attorney, Norman Newhouse, said outside court. "But however he acted, that doesn't give them the right to pull him up by the handcuffs."
Zaheer, however, told the jury that any injuries Miller suffered were his own fault because he had resisted a lawful arrest. Zaheer said the officers had tried to "subtly glide" Miller's hands back to be handcuffed, but that Miller had pushed them away.
Two of the officers, Kevin Rightmire and Stephen Coleman, then "did what they were trained to do," Zaheer said. "They grabbed him by the wrist and applied pressure," in an officially sanctioned method, to bring a resisting suspect to the ground.
Zaheer downplayed the injuries, saying Miller had suffered only "a minor chip fracture" on the elbow and "a little cut on his wrist and a tiny cut on the side of his lip."
Doctors concluded the injuries were treatable with painkillers and ice, Zaheer said, adding that Miller had not bothered to return for a follow-up medical visit.
Coleman testified that he had taken Miller to the floor because Miller was drunk, angry and moving toward him in a threatening way.
He told the jury that even though he knew Miller was in his 70s, he saw him as a potential risk.
"He was a large, 275-pound man, who was upset and wanted us out of the house," Coleman said. "He was screaming and cussing. I thought he might try to attack me, try to hurt me."
The officer said he did not know how Miller suffered his injuries and did not remember how he and the other officers had gotten Miller off the floor.