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Friday, August 5, 2016

Records indicate Alabama police officer Eric Parker lied about three critical issues in Sureshbhai Patel case, but federal judge still threw out criminal charges

Officer Eric Parker
(From npr.org)
(Fourth post in a series)

The Alabama police officer who body slammed a grandfather from India and left him partially paralyzed lied about three key issues in the case, court documents indicate. Still, a federal judge threw out criminal charges against Officer Eric Parker after two juries had deadlocked.

How could that be? How could Parker get away with such apparent lies, under oath, when his brutal actions against Sureshbhai Patel were caught on tape and seen around the world?

We will address those questions in a moment, but first, let's look at Parker's apparent falsehoods:

* Parker said he did not believe Patel when the latter stated he could not understand English. Later in the same document, Parker makes a statement that indicates he did believe Patel could not speak or understand English.

* Parker denied that he used a "leg sweep" to take Patel to the ground, causing him to land on his head. Later in the same document, Parker apparently admits to using a "leg sweep," a technique that an expert witness said is not consistent with prevailing police policy.

* Parker claimed that he lost his balance and fell, causing Patel to hit the ground. Later in the same document, Parker's apparent admission that he used a leg sweep means he did not lose his balance and fall.

A video of the body slam clearly shows Parker taking his left leg and swiping Patel's feet out from under him. How could anyone see that video (which can be viewed below) and buy Parker's story that he lost his balance and fell? It's hard to imagine anyone believing it.

What about the specifics of Parker's apparent false statements under oath? Here is a brief summary of each one:

(1) Parker claims he did not believe it when Patel said he could not understand English

On page 20 of her opinion, Judge Haikala writes:

Officer Parker testified that although the subject—Mr. Patel—stated that he did not understand English, Officer Parker did not believe him. . . . Officer Parker reasoned that when the subject did not answer questions, the subject was refusing to cooperate with the investigation and was being evasive.

On page 38, near the beginning of her analysis of the evidence, Haikala writes:

The evidence supported the Government’s argument that when Officer Slaughter called out to Mr. Patel so that Officer Slaughter could ask some questions, Mr. Patel did not run from the police or ignore them. Instead, Mr. Patel’s behavior was friendly; he turned, waved, and walked toward the officers. . . . Mr. Patel did not understand the questions that Officer Slaughter asked, but he did his best to communicate to the police that he was from India and that he lived at 148 Hardiman Place Lane. Officer Slaughter ignored the fact that Mr. Patel repeatedly said, “No English” and continued to press Mr. Patel for answers to his questions. . . . Officer Parker understood that Mr. Patel did not speak English because he said to Officer Slaughter, “He’s saying ‘No English.’ He doesn’t understand what you’re saying”; but Officer Parker made no attempt to address the language barrier.

The judge clearly states that evidence supported the government's argument that Patel did not understand English and did his best to communicate with the officers. Perhaps more importantly, the judge quotes Parker, speaking to his partner, Slaughter: "He's saying 'No English.' He doesn't understand what you're saying."

That contradicts Parker's earlier statement that he did not believe Patel could not understand English--and it strongly suggests that Parker lied under oath. As noted in an earlier post, Haikala was required by law to review the evidence in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, which was the prosecution. She did not do it.

(2) Parker denies using a leg sweep to take Patel to the ground

On page 35 of her opinion, Haikala writes:

At trial, Officer Parker denied that he performed a leg sweep when he took Mr. Patel to the ground or that he intentionally kicked Mr. Patel. . . . Officer Parker has no training in or experience with martial arts.

On page 39, while summarizing the prosecution's case, Haikala writes:

The Government argued that perhaps out of frustration or perhaps to act tough for Officer Slaughter, Officer Parker took Mr. Patel to the ground. . . . Without further warning and without enlisting Officer Slaughter’s assistance, Officer Parker kicked Mr. Patel’s legs out from under him, causing Mr. Patel to fall to the frozen ground. The Government added that because Officer Parker held Mr. Patel’s hands during the takedown maneuver—a maneuver which Officer Parker eventually acknowledged constituted a leg sweep—Mr. Patel was unable to use his hands and arms to break his fall, and his face and neck absorbed the impact of the collision with the hard ground. . . . Mr. Patel suffered a bloody nose, and the neck trauma caused Mr. Patel to experience paralysis. (Doc. 107, p. 147). The Government argued that Officer Parker had to have known that Mr. Patel would suffer an injury if he restrained Mr. Patel’s hands while throwing him violently to the ground.

The law on review of a Motion to Acquit requires a judge to view the evidence in a light most favorable to the government. By that standard, Parker admitted to using a leg sweep, contradicting his earlier sworn statement -- and this alone should have forced Haikala to deny the Motion to Acquit.

(3) Parker claims that he lost his balance and fell when taking Patel to the ground

On page 33 of her ruling, Haikala writes:

Officer Parker stated that as he pulled Mr. Patel toward the grass, he (Officer Parker) placed his weight on his right leg, and he lost his balance and fell with Mr. Patel.

Does that story hold up under closer scrutiny? Not very well, not even in the same document, as noted on page 78 of the ruling:

When he returned to the precinct, while Officer Parker was working on his report, Lieutenant Harrell watched the dashcam video of the takedown. After he reviewed the video, Lieutenant Harrell questioned Officer Parker about the technique that he used in the takedown. Lieutenant Harrell asked Officer Parker if he used a leg sweep. Officer Parker replied that he did not recall using a leg sweep. . . . Lieutenant Harrell testified that later, he and Officer Parker watched the dashcam video together, and at some point, Officer Parker acknowledged that he used a leg sweep. . . . Officer Parker denies that he told Lieutenant Harrell that he used a leg sweep to take Mr. Patel to the ground. . . . In his written report about the incident, Officer Parker did not provide a description of his takedown technique, and he did not write that he lost his balance and fell with Mr. Patel.

Parker's own supervisor, Lieutenant Harrell, stated under oath that Parker admitted using a leg sweep to him. In Parker's written description of the incident, he made no mention of losing his balance and falling.

That all raises serious questions about Parker's credibility. The video, which clearly shows Parker sweeping Patel's legs out from under him, also raises questions about the officer's truthfulness.

We invite you to watch the video below. We encourage viewers to watch Parker's left leg closely. He clearly moves it to swipe Patel's legs out from under him. This is a leg sweep, and there is no question that Parker used it, it caused Patel's severe injuries, and expert witnesses testified that the technique is not endorsed under general law-enforcement policy.

Parker told the court that he lost his balance and fell with Patel? Yeah . . . right.

(To be continued)

Previously in the series:

(1) Here's the flip side of police-brutality cases -- July 13, 2016

(2) Federal judge in Alabama shows how cops tend to get favorable treatment in court -- July 18, 2016

(3) Judge threw out charges based on case that does not support her findings -- July 29, 2016


Anonymous said...

LS: Thank you for posting this travesty. Where does the police department find these ignorant racist idiots--at the Saturday night Triple-K meetings? And the judge should be relieved of her post for this decision.

Anonymous said...

Sounds to me like this case was fixed, once you had two hung juries.

Anonymous said...

What if Officer Parker had some dirt on law enforcement types in north Alabama? What if he threatened to expose the dirt if he was convicted and sent to federal prison? Could that explain Judge Haikala's ruling?

Anonymous said...

This is where this blog really shines, LS. We don't get this kind of reporting anywhere else. We get a story that judge dismissed charges against cop, but there is no analysis about whether the ruling is in line with the law. Important stuff here.

Anonymous said...

I think the two juries must have been filled with racist imbeciles. I mean, my God, this was caught on tape. Between that and the trial testimony you've mentioned, 12 baboons should have been able to reach the proper verdict of guilty.

Anonymous said...

Imagine if it wasn't caught on tape. You would have no chance of getting a conviction.

Robby Scott Hill said...

Saturday night KKK meeting: Now, we got him the job & he went & performed the initiation task just like you asked. Now, the boy gets a hung jury & gets off or we start naming names. All y'all have done stuff, you know. Let's see. The Klonowski murder, the Pusser murders, the State Line moonshine murders. The Madison County KKK is God fearing Christians who kill Ni$$ers, Ni$$er lovers, hippies & commie pinko fags. You let him off or we name names.

Anonymous said...

As a follow-up, LS, did you write about why the two prior trials resulted in a hung jury?

legalschnauzer said...

@3:46 -- I've written multiple times that the first two trials resulted in hung juries, but I've never written about why they ended in that result because I don't know why. As I'm sure you know, jury deliberations are not public, and I'm not aware of any jurors speaking publicly about how they arrived at these decisions. Do you know of any jurors who talked about the case? If so, please feel free to send a link here to such a story. I would like to know what they said -- and I'd like for our readers to know.

Anonymous said...

This judge is a disgrace. It's not like Mr. Patel suffered a few bruises and scrapes. He had his neck broken for God's sake. It's not like he was any kind of legitimate threat to anyone. He was walking down the frickin' sidewalk.

I'm guessing the jury hung because whites refused to convict a white police officer. A black officer doing that would have been convicted so fast that it would make your head swim. Better yet, imagine a black officer doing that to a white man. Or even Parker doing that to a white man.

e.a.f. said...

If Judges had to accept that police officers lie in court they would have a real problem with the trials they have to "supervise". For much of our criminal trial history the word of a cop was good and the trials proceeded. Now, cops lie, we have the film at 11 p.m. to prove it, but if Judges have to start determining if they lie, its a problem the judges don't want to have to deal with. Its easier to dismiss the case.
As Mother always said there is one law for the rich and one for the poor. She forgot to say there is one law for the white and one law for the non white.

Judges also rely on cops. They frequently see themselves as being on the same team. not good but especially in the U.S.A. its all part of the "justice" system.

Cops lie, doesn't matter what the colour of the cops. Now it maybe in the U.S.A. white cops are believed more frequently than cops of colour but in Canada, NOT SO much, regardless of colour they lie and they are equally believed.

legalschnauzer said...

Excellent points, e.a.f. I think the outrage in U.S. toward cops is not just because of acts of abuse and violence. I think it's also because alert citizens know cops lie, cover up, etc. Seems to happen over and over in Chicago -- from coast to coast, really.

Robby Scott Hill said...

"Respectable" people in Madison County like to look down their nose at folks in Marshall County like we are so fucking racist & the Klan still controls our county, but the only difference between the two counties is that folks in Madison have the money & the means to dress up their racism & spray some perfume on it. You can put lipstick on a pig, but at the end of the day, it's still a goddamned pig & the Shelby County folks who run the show in Montgomery look after the interests of the Klan in both counties. The Madison County Klan is clean cut & well educated & can afford the best lawyers, but it's still the Ku Klux Klan & they don't call it the Invisible Empire for nothing.

Anonymous said...

The Biggest Liars in any court proceeding are Lawyers - most trials today are Lying contests, it didn't just get that way, it was actually worse in the past...BTW the guy in the Black Robe (L-A-w-Y-E-R)