Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Here's flip side of police brutality cases like the recent ones in Louisiana and Minnesota: A judge is likely to protect cops by butchering the law, as Madeline Haikala did in Alabama case of Sureshbhai Patel

Protests continue over the police shootings of Alton Sterling
and Philando Castille
The police shooting deaths of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castille in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, have sparked a storm of protests around the country -- including one in Dallas that led to the payback assassinations of five officers.

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
With the forced resignation of U.S. Judge Mark Fuller (of Don-Siegelman case fame) in the wake of a wife-beating incident--and with well-documented cases here of unlawful rulings by Birmingham-based federal judges William M. Acker Jr. and Abdul Kallon--one might have thought U.S. judges in the "Heart of Dixie" could not look much worse.

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)

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Anonymous said...

Speaking of Abdul Kallon, we have a recess appointment coming up.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Alabama judges, what's the status with Abdul Kallon? Is he being advanced or is his nomination not going anywhere because of the election? You have not said anything about him in a while.

legalschnauzer said...

Good question, @11:29. I've been overrun by the Bentley and Hubbard stories. But I plan to return soon to the Kallon story. I assume his nomination still is out there, but this is one instance where I would support GOP stalling tactics, etc. Kallon has no business sitting on any bench. He's awful, a lackey for corporate and institutional interests. Doesn't even try to administer justice.

e.a.f. said...

some things in law are just so black and white. if you're white you're not guilty, if you're black, you're guilty.

Not only is justice driven by class and money in the U.S.A. but by race. This will not come to a good end. When you have more to fear from the local police than the local mugger, there is a problem. the continual killings of people of colour and police getting away with it will not end well for the U.S.A. Open carry makes it even worse.

It will be interesting to see what happens at the Republican convention, which is in an open carry state. all those opposing opinions and guns,

Anonymous said...

The Baton Rouge officers should never see the inside of any courtroom. They did nothing wrong. An armed, convicted and dangerous felon is fighting them and trying to get to a gun in his pocket. They did what any reasonable officer would do. And you Roger Shuler, the legal guru that you are should know all about the use of force standard in the USA which is 'OBJECTIVE REASONABLENESS". So do some research before you spout off on what you do not know about. By the way, I read The Governor of Goat Hill and Siegelman got off easy. They didn't even charge him with what they should have. The guy was a crook. So is Hubbard and Riley and I hope they all go down as well.