Protests continue over the police shootings of Alton Sterling
and Philando Castille
For the moment, many citizens are outraged about the kind of violence that can happen on the front end of an encounter with police. But what about the back end, when (in some cases) the "justice system" seeks to "punish" the offending officer?
A new report from Think Progress shows that, in 2015, 97 percent of officers in violence cases faced no criminal charges. That might be just as well because we've seen evidence in Alabama that, even when a cop does face criminal charges, a judge is likely to twist the facts and law into a pretzel in order to get him off.
A Legal Schnauzer analysis shows a federal judge repeatedly butchered the law earlier this year when she threw out criminal charges against an Alabama police officer who body slammed and partially paralyzed a 57-year-old grandfather from India.
The case of Sureshbhai Patel--who underwent cervical spinal-fusion surgery and is unable to walk or grip his hands, is disturbing on numerous levels. Two federal juries in Alabama could not reach a verdict, even though video showed no sign that Patel had engaged in criminal activity and was merely walking down the sidewalk in his son's Madison neighborhood, when Officer Eric Parker stopped him and slammed him headfirst to the ground. Reports about the two hung juries indicate racism and sexism are alive and well in federal courthouses--certainly in Alabama and probably elsewhere.
Perhaps most disturbing, from a legal standpoint, U.S. District Judge Madeline Haikala, made one error after another in her 92-page ruling (released on January 13, 2016) that granted the defense's Motion for Acquittal and ensured that the criminal case against Parker would not go to a jury for a third time. (See Haikala's ruling at the end of this post.)
Haikala, a former lawyer with the Birmingham firm Lightfoot Franklin and White, was nominated to the federal bench by President Barack Obama in May 2013. That a Democratic appointee could perform such a hatchet job on a criminal civil-rights case that drew international attention is enough to make one wonder if there really is any difference between the two major political parties.
Our review of the Patel case indicates the following:
* Haikala misapplied the standard for reviewing a Motion for Judgment of Acquittal;
* The federal case that Haikala cites to justify throwing out the charges against Parker does not support her ruling;
* The federal case that Haikala cites is not even about a Motion for Judgment of Acquittal; it involves appellate issues after a jury verdict;
* Haikala ignored evidence in the record that Parker lied about at least three key issues in the case;
* Haikala short-circuited a process where a jury, if properly instructed on the law, clearly could have found that Parker willfully violated Patel's civil rights--the central issue in the case;
* Haikala ultimately ruled that because two juries had deadlocked in the case, a third jury likely would produce the same result--and therefore the criminal charges should be thrown out. “The government has had two full and fair chances to obtain a conviction,” the judge wrote. “It will not have another.” Haikala cites not a single piece of case law to support that finding.
|Madeline Haikala takes oath of office|
Madeline Haikala, with her butchery on the Sureshbhai Patel case, proves that the federal judiciary always can sink a little lower in Alabama.
Here is the primary question of the moment: Will the officers who gunned down Alton Sterling and Philando Castille ever be held accountable in a criminal court of law? Madeline Haikala's botch job on the Sureshbhai Patel case suggests the answer is no.
(To be continued)