Friday, July 29, 2016

U.S. Judge Madeline Haikala threw out charges against officer in Sureshbhai Patel matter, based on a case that does not come close to supporting her finding

U.S. Judge Madeline Haikala
(Third in a series)

For more than two years, the news has been littered with cases of police brutality. When gunmen in Dallas and Baton Rouge recently opened fire on cops, it added a new element to the equation -- citizens fighting back against a law-enforcement apparatus they see as out of control.

Still, when it comes to cops vs. citizens, the playing field hardly is even. A recent study showed that 97 percent of officers in violence cases never face criminal charges. An Alabama case from earlier this year shows that, in the rare case where a cop winds up in criminal court, he is likely to benefit from judges' dubious rulings.

Consider U.S. Judge Madeline Haikala, in the Northern District of Alabama. She cited a case that is more than 30 years old to throw out criminal charges against Alabama officer Eric Parker in the body slamming of Sureshbhai Patel, a grandfather from India. Unfortunately for Haikala--and citizens who trust her to apply the law appropriately--the case does not remotely support her decision to grant the defense's Motion for a Judgment of Acquittal.

In fact, the case law in question--United States v. Bell, 678 F. 2d 547 (5th Cir., 1982)--does not even address the issues raised in Patel. We've shown that Haikala repeatedly failed to view the facts in favor of the non-moving party (the prosecution) -- and the government's hands are tied because the Double Jeopardy Clause prevents an appeal. Now, we have a second glaring reason Haikala should be overturned on appeal -- if one were allowed.

How severely did Haikala butcher the law in the Patel case? Her 92-page opinion is a hatchet job from start to finish, and let's consider the implications. It allows a thuggish police officer to go free on a criminal charge for which the evidence strongly suggests he is guilty. Worse than that, Haikala unilaterally tried to ensure that Parker will not even have to face a third jury--one that might be capable of reaching a verdict after two previous juries deadlocked.

That seemingly leaves Patel, and the public, with zero chance for justice at the federal criminal level -- even though Parker still faces a civil complaint. (A state misdemeanor criminal charge has been dropped.)

How does Haikala attempt to justify unlawfully throwing out the criminal charges against Officer Parker? The answer is found, for the most part, on pages 51-52 of her ruling. (See full opinion at the end of this post.)

The standard for considering a motion for entry of a judgment of acquittal requires the Court to draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the Government. When evidence is subject to multiple interpretations, some of which favor the Government and some of which favor the defense, the Court has construed the evidence in the light most favorable to the Government. However, when evidence is unfavorable to the Government, but is not ambiguous, the Court is not required to ignore it. When critical gaps appear in the Government’s case, the Court is not required to turn a blind eye to them. On the contrary, the law requires the Court to consider the objective reasonableness of Officer Parker’s use of force within the totality of the circumstances. The Court has viewed the full expanse of evidence concerning the use of force and is left with the firm conviction that the evidence concerning use of force in this case is not adequate to support a unanimous verdict of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. When, as here, “a hypothesis of innocence is sufficiently reasonable and sufficiently strong, then a reasonable trier of fact must necessarily entertain a reasonable doubt about guilt.” United States v. Bell, 678 F.2d 547, 550 (5th Cir. 1982) (Anderson, J., concurring) aff'd, 462 U.S. 356 (1983). Viewing the relevant evidence in the light most favorable to the Government, the Court has determined that that evidence could not be accepted by twelve jurors as adequate and sufficient to support the conclusion of Officer Parker’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

The Bell case had nothing to do with a Motion to Acquit. It was about sufficiency of the evidence upon which a jury found Bell guilty of violating the federal bank-robbery statute. It also was about the findings of a jury, not the unilateral ruling of a judge. Here is the key section from Bell:

Bell also argues that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction unless it excludes every reasonable hypothesis of innocence, on the theory that if there is such a reasonable hypothesis the jury must necessarily have had reasonable doubt of his guilt. . . .

We hold that the appellant has incorrectly stated the standard of review for sufficiency of the evidence. It is not necessary that the evidence exclude every reasonable hypothesis of innocence or be wholly inconsistent with every conclusion except that of guilt, provided a reasonable trier of fact could find that the evidence establishes guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. A jury is free to choose among reasonable constructions of the evidence. Viewing the evidence presented in this case and the inferences that may be drawn from it in the light most favorable to the government . . . we conclude that it was sufficient to allow a reasonable jury to find that Bell altered the endorsement on the check, deposited it to his account, and thereby was enabled to take and did take $10,000 with intent to steal from the care, custody, control, management or possession of Dade Federal.

What did the court decide in Bell?

(1) A JURY is free to choose among reasonable constructions of the evidence;

(2) The JURY's decision to convict Bell was reasonable and supported by sufficient evidence.

What did the Bell court say about a judge's ruling on a Motion to Acquit? Not one thing. So how does that case support Haikala's ruling, as she claims? It doesn't.

Are you scratching your head? You should be. And by the way, welcome to the legal world of Alabama.

(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


Anonymous said...

Imagine cases where cops brutalize people and it isn't caught on tape. No chance of a conviction in those.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Haikala even wrote this opinion?

legalschnauzer said...

I doubt it, @12:14. It's been widely reported that many federal judges do not write their own opinions. A clerk often does it and also does the research that produces dubious citations like the one to Bell case here:

Anonymous said...

I broke down and actually read the full Haikala ruling on this, and I found it disturbing. At one point, it seems she doesn't believe Patel could not understand English. At several points, she seems to be blaming the whole thing on Patel.

In my view, her ruling sounds more than a little bit racist. She must be a truly disgusting human being.

legalschnauzer said...

I thought there was a strong whiff of racism in the ruling, too, @12:28. That's especially true when she's supposed to find any close calls in favor of the non-moving party, which would have been Patel's side. There was plenty of evidence, just from watching the video, that Patel did not understand most of what was being said to him. By law, she is supposed to find in his favor on that point in a Motion to Acquit. I don't know what kind of human being Haikala is, but based on this ruling, she is a sorry judge -- and Obama appointed her. Disgusting.

Anonymous said...

The Patel case should be more widely reported. I've been hearing so much from the noisemakers who are trying to distract us from the real problems such as these.

Anonymous said...

According to Cop Block, there was lots of tension behind the scenes in Patel case. I'm guessing powerful forces instructed Haikala that there was not to be a third trial, that she was to make sure the cop got off:

Anonymous said...

Mr. Shuler, you understand English so what is your excuse for not complying with the Shelby County deputies irders and avoiding all the unpleasantness that followed?

legalschnauzer said...

3:50 -- complying with what orders from Shelby County deputies?

Robby Scott Hill said...

Silly Roger, you're not learned in the law & you're not even a journalist. This is why only the smartest people get into law school & only the smartest ones of those pass the bar & only the smartest ones of those become US Senators & we pick only the smartest Senators like Jeff Sessions to sit on the Judiciary Committee & make sure only the smartest lawyers become federal judges. It doesn't have shit to do with family connections, wealth, tribalism & protecting the people in the club. You know lawyers are above all those petty influences & their chief concerns are doing justice & what is right for the people. I'm shocked that you would slander the legal profession like this. What the fuck is wrong with you?

Robby Scott Hill said...

This is so wrong to verbally kick a federal judge's ass & talk shit about her. John Caylor just did that to Ginny Grenade. Look at what happened to him & what happened to you when you talked shit about Bill Pryor. You can't kick people's ass & talk shit about them without consequences. Anytime somebody asks you to apologize & you start to address the situation, instead of defusing the situation, you wind up reinforcing the shit you said about them and that's why your fans love your Lilly White ass!

Robby Scott Hill said...

When I was in law school in Montgomery, I befriended some of the old school attorneys who had clerked for judges & who have now passed on to the big courtroom in the sky. According to them, the clerks absolutely do research the cases & even write many of the opinions. Some judges exercise close supervision of the clerks' work & some don't. In the old days, the bar had a law library down in the Canal Zone in Panama so clerks & attorneys could write their briefs & opinions while they were partying in Central America. They called the girls at the parties "little brown fucking machines" & along with drinking rum & all kinds of alcohol, you could smoke "Super Kools" which was the code word marijuana for laced with cocaine. Panama was also a place where clients could get an easy "quickie" divorce because the full faith & credit clause said Alabama had to recognize marriages & divorces from other jurisdictions unless they were mixed race or gay or lesbian marriages, where the good Christian People of Alabama's First Amendment rights were superior to the rights of Blacks, Jews & Catholic Mexicans who like the Mormons were just members of a cult & not Christians. This is the kind of atmosphere where Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Jeff Sessions' buddy Senator John McCain was born, but John McCain, unlike Barack Obama was qualified to be President because he wasn't born in one of the 50 states with a state-issued birth certificate, but John McCain wasn't an N-word line Barack Obama.

Robby Scott Hill said...

Sometimes you just want to give up when you know how these motherfuckers waste money & deny justice to people & we can't have an updated law library in the fucking county courthouse to defend ourselves. It's like the 60s never happened & we're going back to the 1950s with these assholes.