Madison police officer Eric Parker has escaped the hands of justice for a third time.
This time, U.S.District Judge Madeline Haikala granted an acquittal motion by the Alabama cop’s attorneys. Hence, ending the federal civil trial for Parker permanently.
However, Parker, who has been on paid suspension since last year, challenging the department’s decision to fire him, is still facing a misdemeanor assault charge for the incident as well as a civil suit from the victim’s family.
The prosecution filed a counter motion to not acquit Parker, but the judge dismissed the prosecutions’ motion, instead siding with the defense, saying the victim, Sureshbhai Patel, a 57-year-old grandfather visiting his son from India, committed a misdemeanor by leaving the house without identification.
Prior to Wednesday’s acquittal, Parker’s trial had ended in two mistrials. The ruling of the acquittal can be read here.
On February 6, 2015, Parker responded to a suspicious person call in a upper class neighborhood.
Once Parker arrived on scene, he saw Patel, a small lightweight man who spoke no English, taking a stroll through the neighborhood.
Parker approached Patel with questions and a pat-down. Suddenly without provocation, Parker slammed Patel to the ground.
Patel was left partially paralyzed.
Parker testified he body slammed him for “officer safety.”
The violent encounter was caught on police dash-cam video. Parker claimed Patel was resisting. The video contradicts this.
Upon the acquittal U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance said:
“My office was fully committed to retrying this case and seeking justice for Mr. Sureshbhai Patel. We believe that the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the government, as it must be at this stage in the case, was sufficient to let a jury decide whether a crime was committed. Instead, the judge has ruled the case is over and there will not be a retrial. The law protects non-citizens and citizens alike from the use of excessive force by police officers. Where you were born shouldn’t change how you are treated by the police. Everyone in this country must be able to trust law enforcement. We remain committed to prosecuting those few officers who cross the line and use unreasonable force.”
Judge Madeline Haikala had this to say in her 92 page opinion:
“The result in this case is by no means satisfying. However, [Patel’s] injury, standing alone, does not provide the basis for a criminal judgment against Mr. Parker under 18 U.S.C. § 242. The law presumes Mr. Parker’s innocence, and the evidence in the record from two trials does not eliminate reasonable doubt as to Mr. Parker’s guilt. Two juries have communicated as much after lengthy deliberations that produced thoughtful questions and, ultimately, deadlock. The Court has no reason to expect a different result in a subsequent trial given the totality of the evidence that the parties have provided. The Government has had two full and fair chances to obtain a conviction; it will not have another.
Questionable enough, the judge also down played the dash cam video as substantial evidence, saying:
“For all of the Government’s diligent efforts to enhance the dash-cam video, the enhanced video fails to capture critical pieces of evidence. The video does not show whether Mr. Patel placed his hands in his pockets as he walked away from Officers Parker and Slaughter.”
Even more disparaging, the judge went on to mention her findings on Patel being stopped by Officer Parker initially:
“Although Mr. Patel was just walking down the sidewalk when Officers Spence, Parker, and Slaughter saw him, the officers did not know whether Mr. Patel was casing homes for a future burglary or whether he may have committed a crime before the officers arrived.”
According to the judge, Parker’s testimony was strong;
“Officer Parker answered each piece of evidence that the Government offered concerning willfulness and established a hypothesis of innocence that is sufficiently reasonable and sufficiently strong”
The incident motivated another Indian man who resides in Madison, Hanu Karlapalem, to announce his candidacy for city mayor.
Now that the federal case against Parker is over, the misdemeanor assault case and family’s civil suit can proceed.