Thursday, February 26, 2015

Is an Alabama cover-up under way to wrongly classify the Sureshbhai Patel assault as a misdemeanor?

Sureshbhai Patel
Who made the decision to charge Officer Eric Parker with a misdemeanor in the body-slamming assault on Sureshbhai Patel, a 57-year-old grandfather from India? We have yet to find anyone who wants to take "credit" for the decision--and maybe that's because the decision is wrong.

Under the facts and law of the case, Parker should be charged with a felony. That he isn't suggests someone in authority is trying to protect law enforcement in Madison, Alabama, from even more embarrassment than it's already received because of the Patel incident.

Who might be trying to cover up for Officer Parker? Well, news reports indicate Lt. Terrell Cook, of the Madison Police Department, had something to do with the charge of third-degree assault, a misdemeanor. We contacted Lt. Cook via e-mail to ask if he made the determination that the assault on Patel should be classified as a misdemeanor--and if he didn't, could he refer us to the individual who did? Lt. Cook has not responded to our query.

Meanwhile, seems to be indirectly participating in a cover-up, with assistance from a University of Alabama law professor. That comes in a February 20 article titled "Why wasn't Madison police officer charged more harshly in Indian grandfather assault case? A former judge explains," by Anna Claire Vollers.

There is a slight problem with the article. Vollers chose as her "expert" a former circuit judge and current UA law professor named Joseph Colquitt--and he doesn't know what he's talking about, or he's intentionally trying to mislead the public.

Colquitt proves an adage I've known for some time--if you want to know the actual law in a particular situation, the last person to ask is a judge or former judge.

To be sure, Colquitt does a good job of sounding authoritative, as Vollers writes:

"We aren't dealing with what we think the law should be or ought to be, but what the law is," says Judge Joseph Colquitt, who spent 20 years as an Alabama circuit court judge and is now a law professor at the University of Alabama School of Law where he teaches criminal law, capital litigation, criminal procedure and criminal sentencing.
"You have to analyze the facts you have, and see where those facts could fit amongst the charges."

At this point, Colquitt is on solid footing, and his statement supports what I did in preparing my post (see link in first paragraph) that shows the misdemeanor charge is wrong--under the law, as it is.

Where does the article go wrong? Well, the article is written in a peculiar manner, but it seems to go off track in two ways:

(1) The issue of "serious physical injury"-- Under Alabama law, misdemeanor assault (third degree) applies only in cases involving "physical injury," which can be as minor as a cut, bruise, or abrasion. Patel sustained a spinal injury that required surgery and caused partial paralysis. Based on the most recent reports, his condition is improving, but it's still not clear he will regain full use of all his limbs. Under Alabama law, that easily fits the definition of "serious physical injury"--and that means a third-degree, misdemeanor charge does not fit.

(2) The issue of "intent"-- Colquitt correctly states that a felony assault (second or first degree) requires a showing of intent--and, per Vollers, he states:

"The difference (between second- and third-degree assault) is in the nature of the injuries," said Colquitt. "Assault in the second degree is not only that a person suffered serious physical injury, but it has to be proved that the (perpetrator) intended serious physical injury. That's a little more difficult to prove."

Actually, it's not that difficult to prove in this case, or any other case, under Alabama law. And even if it were, that's not grounds for classifying the Patel case as a misdemeanor. In fact, a third-degree charge automatically is excluded because we are dealing here with a "serious physical injury." Colquitt seems to be violating his earlier statement about dealing with what the law is. At this point, he seems to say we should go with the charge that's easiest to prove, regardless of what the law says.

As for what the law says about intent, it is spelled out in a case styled Wells v. State, 768 So. 2d 412 (Ala. Crim. App., 1999). From the Wells decision:

Intent may be presumed from the use of a deadly weapon, the character of the assault, and other attendant circumstances surrounding the assault . . .

"Further, `"[i]ntent, we know, being a state or condition of the mind, is rarely, if ever, susceptible of direct or positive proof, and must usually be inferred from the facts testified to by witnesses and the circumstances as developed by the evidence."'

Under Alabama law, various body parts, such as hands and fists, can be classified as deadly weapons. (See Hollis v. State, 417 So. 2d 617 (Ala. Crim. App., 1982.) That would seem to be especially true in this case, where Officer Parker apparently was trained in self defense and martial arts.

Intent can be proved in two ways:

(1) Use of a deadly weapon--Parker's hands qualify under the law, and those are what he used to inflict "serious physical injury" upon Patel.

(2) The character of the assault--The video makes it clear that Parker said he was going to "put you on the ground" if any jerking action continued. The video does not show Patel jerking away, but Parker body slammed him head-first to the ground anyway. It can be inferred from those facts that Parker planned in advance to use a violent technique on Patel--and it resulted in "serious physical injury."

Back to our original question--who made the decision to classify the Patel assault as a misdemeanor? A February 17 article at points toward Lt. Terrell Cook:

In the criminal complaint against Parker, Lt. Terrell Cook of the Madison Police Department states there is probable cause for believing that Parker "recklessly caused physical injury" to Patel by slamming him to the ground.

Based on that article, I sent the following e-mail to Lt. Cook

Lt. Cook:

I am a journalist with the Alabama-based blog Legal Schnauzer. yesterday (2/17/15) quoted you as stating there is "probable cause for believing Parker recklessly caused physical injury" to Mr. Sureshbhai Patel, from India.

Did you make the determination that Officer Parker should be charged with a misdemeanor, as opposed to a felony? If not, do you know who made that determination?

Thank you,

Roger Shuler

If Cook had responded and said he made the decision to charge a misdemeanor, I was going to ask if he was aware of the difference under Alabama law between "physical injury" and "serious physical injury." I also was going to ask if he seriously thought Patel's spinal injury was equivalent to a cut or bruise. Alas, I have not heard back from Lt. Cook.

As for the Anna Claire Vollers article, it's . . . well, it's strange. Prof. Colquitt never actually says the misdemeanor charge is correct; he performs a peculiar dance around the subject and more or less says, "Well, it would be easier to prove the misdemeanor, so that's the way to go."

But that's not what Alabama law says. It says that a misdemeanor charge is proper only in a case resulting in "physical injury." A case involving "serious physical injury," as both Vollers and Colquitt seem to admit is present in the Patel case, must be charged as a felony, either second- or first-degree assault.

On top of that, actual Alabama law makes it clear that intent is not particularly difficult to prove.

The Vollers/Colquitt article mainly serves to muddy the waters on an issue that is not all that complicated--Eric Parker cannot lawfully be charged with a misdemeanor; he left a man with "serious physical injuries," so the charge has to be a felony.


Anonymous said...

This smells. Thanks for your reporting on this story. I'm sure the Huntsville law enforcement crowd hopes the public will forget all about it.

Anonymous said...

Prof. Colquitt is going to love reading this. He thinks he's God, and you are questioning God.

Anonymous said...

I love when the Schnauzer goes all "Mike Wallace" on somebody.

Anonymous said...

Public officials in India need to be made aware of this.

Anonymous said...

Imagine how bad it would be without the video. The cop would totally get away with it.

Anonymous said...



Police, from its very beginning, has been an instrument of suppression – a ruthless force in the service of the ruling elites. It was created to use violence to intimidate and subjugate the working people, make them obey the Law of the ruling elites, and to make them work longer and harder to produce more wealth for the wealthy class. From its very inception it has been a force essential to implement the Parasitic Economic Order that was envisioned by the Ruling Elites back in the nineteenth century.

Anonymous said...

Or, you know, you could just be misinterpreting the law again.

Anonymous said...

"Serious physical injury" is a subset of "physical injury." So a case that involved serious physical injury can absolutely be a misdemeanor, but a case that doesn't involve serious physical injury could not be a felony (at least under the particular subsections that require serious physical injury as the result).

legalschnauzer said...

@ 2:48--Can you cite the actual law that says "Serious physical injury" is a subset of "physical injury"?

legalschnauzer said...

You say I'm misinterpreting the law again, @1:36. Can you cite an example of me misinterpreting the law the first time? While you're at it, why don't you and @2:48 identify yourselves so we all can determine whether or not you know what you're talking about. It helps to know the source on situations like this.

Anonymous said...

It's basic logic. How many serious physical injuries are not also physical injuries? I don't understand why you're asking that I identify myself and I have no idea who @1:36 is. Do you need to know my identity to understand subsets?

Anonymous said...

As an addendum, I'm not defending the officer's conduct here. It was unquestionably bad and sanctionable conduct.

legalschnauzer said...

I should note that not even the law professor from UA says "serious physical injury" is a subset of "physical injury." In fact, he says the dividing line between third- and second-degree assault is in the nature of the injuries--in other words the definition of the injuries is different. So you seem to be on a different track from both me and the professor.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Colquitt does say that it's a subset: "Assault in the second degree is not only that a person suffered serious physical injury, but it has to be proved that the (perpetrator) intended serious physical injury."

So not just a physical injury, but a serious physical injury. Again, he's saying that it can only be second-degree assault if there's a serious physical injury, not that it can't be a third-degree assault if there's a serious physical injury.

legalschnauzer said...

Colquitt doesn't say it's a "subset"; he's saying that one requires intent and one does not. He's talking about injury in one instance and intent in another--two totally different things.

Also, the law doesn't say a thing about one form of injury being a "subset" of another. It has nothing to do with logic--the forms of injury are two distinct things, and the law gives them two distinct meanings, and distinct potential punishments. One is a misdemeanor and one is a felony, no subset involved.

I asked you to cite law regarding subsets, and you haven't done it. I asked you to identify yourself so readers could make a determination as to whether you know what you're talking about it.

You haven't done either one, which gives you pretty low credibility at this point--particularly when anyone can read the code and case law and see what they say.

Anonymous said...

Schnauzer, looks like you've got another legal type trying to tell you that you can't read.

e.a.f. said...

well they dropped the seriousness of the charges because they want to midigait the award given out in a law suite. The police department's lawyers will argue a large settlement isn't appropriate because it was only a "3rd degree assault". Its all about the money.

Of course the next time a "citizen" does this much damage to a cop, they'll be charged with attempted murder if they haven't been shot to death already.

legalschnauzer said...

You're probably on target, e.a.f. Also, a misdemeanor means it likely will be a bench trial, and that's much easier for the court system to deal with. Even the UA professor says that in the article. Parker could wind up pleading guilty and paying a relatively small fine--so everyone gets off easy. Except, of course, Mr. Patel, who has to deal with possible paralysis.

Anonymous said...

Looks like "Mr. Subset" gave up on trying to BS you and your readers.

legalschnauzer said...

I think he saw he wasn't getting anywhere with that. Those kinds of exchanges can be educational, though, because lawyers pull that kind of garbage in real court cases.

When the Shelby County DA brought criminal trespassing charges against our difficult/criminal neighbor, the guy's lawyer (Bill Swatek) tried to argue that our yard (private property) was "open to the public."

There are a lot of lazy, stupid lawyers who will try tricks like that--and plenty of corrupt judges who will let them get away with it.

Doesn't work well on this blog, but it can work in real life, unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

wheat from the shaft

why the schnauzer's blog is a vital key element in the survival of the south, history proves this is already written true

Anonymous said...

Roger you sent an Email thinking the digital age is for the experience of communication.

The technology is like the U.S. Constitution, for those that own the Contract of ownership.

Should you file paperwork and then there is no response, well then you best not leave home again without leaving for a long way from the south.

The FCC just took over the www, and this summer, all the internet people are going to know exactly how awful the place is, from sea to hell fire burning ghettos.

That is, are we to make summer - May is when the chosen date has been set, Russia and World War Four, that's the rumor.

Perhaps becoming ready for a very dangerous cycle in time, the Ukraine roosts in us we trust?

Anonymous said...

You write like the law is an understanding, between human beings that can read and write and also can do science and arithmetic - the Maths.

The law is made-up, an exclusive language in reality. A code of how to make the slave population keep in the lower positions of life forms in earth.

Law is for those 'humans', that decide they are owners of humans that aren't educated in any of the necessities of higher understanding, to discuss law.

Plato talked about the "Cave". Shakespeare said the "Stage".

Here we are talking about law and our civilization has digressed far behind the Stage and Cave.

A new imagery needs to be a classic story presented.

Maybe we can see what the law in the centuries more modern than the Cave and Stage looks like, in not the artificial elitism.

Anonymous said...

Math is a collective noun,so no need for the I right?

Schnitzel_Republic said...

Just an odd question, which really isn't part of this story, but you brought it up in some form.....who exactly pays and supports AL.Com? Over the past year, I've read various articles written in a hype people up one way or another. I'm not suggesting republicans or democrats....but who exactly pays the bills?

Anonymous said...

Legal Schnauzer Quorum, last time checking into America the US was privatized, called Globalization.

That sums up the legal system because the Wall Street Mafia is paid for paying the dues to the global mafia.

This isn't going to end well, for the people in the USA, getting further and further into the dark underbelly of slavery.

Invite lots of immigrants to be here for real easy prey.

How do we fare in the near future?

The Prime Minister from the State of Israel is going to decide on March 3, 2015.

People of the earth have experienced US and this A to Z totalitarian transnational agenda.

Americans are said to be by design set-up for killing millions.

Numbers of immigrants are how to know the cleansing process is reality. Labor force is always being designed by those that own the people who want to control and / or kill, and the stocks of humans for growing and culling? Stay tuned for the outcome once Israel's PM has lectured Congress USA, and his election just after March 3, too.

legalschnauzer said...

I think you are right, @7:32. Are you referring to the usage in the comment at @4:58? I wasn't sure about the origins of that quote, so I let it run as is. Plus, I don't think I can edit comments--if I can I'm not aware of it--so decided to let it go.

legalschnauzer said...

You ask good questions, R. Hammond. I'm not sure of the answers, so welcome input from others. My understanding is that the officer in Huntsville area was with Madison city department, so I think it's the city that could be on the hook there. As for, I think it's still part of Newhouse/Advance Media chain, and I assume it makes most of its money via advertising. In the digital age, though, I'm sure the form of advertising has changed. Craigslist, for example, has pretty much wiped out newspaper classifieds.

Anonymous said...

Media Reform Information Center

In 1983, 50 corporations controlled the vast majority of all news media in the U.S. At the time, Ben Bagdikian was called "alarmist" for pointing this out in his book, The Media Monopoly. In his 4th edition, published in 1992, he wrote "in the U.S., fewer than two dozen of these extraordinary creatures own and operate 90% of the mass media" -- controlling almost all of America's newspapers, magazines, TV and radio stations, books, records, movies, videos, wire services and photo agencies. He predicted then that eventually this number would fall to about half a dozen companies. This was greeted with skepticism at the time. When the 6th edition of The Media Monopoly was published in 2000, the number had fallen to six. Since then, there have been more mergers and the scope has expanded to include new media like the Internet market.

In 2004, Bagdikian's revised and expanded book, The New Media Monopoly, shows that only 5 huge corporations -- Time Warner, Disney, Murdoch's News Corporation, Bertelsmann of Germany, and Viacom (formerly CBS) -- now control most of the media industry in the U.S. General Electric's NBC is a close sixth.

Globalization, in a word.

the Maths in European schooling means the abacus beginning to all the sciences and arithmetic too.

learning varieties of how teaching is a tool used differently all over the planet, isn't always an easy task to communicate - most especially in the US with one language exception of course is the law vocabulary which the owners of the USA control -- the credit debt is also slavery and against the US Constitution.