Two Mistrials in Two Months for Cop Who Violently Arrested Sureshbhai Patel

By Sameer Rao Nov 05, 2015

After another jury deadlock, U.S. District Judge Madeline Haikala declared a mistrial in the second round of proceedings for Madison, Alabama, police officer Eric Parker. Parker was on trial for excessive force in the case of Sureshbhai Patel, the Indian national he knocked to the ground during an arrest for alleged suspicious behavior in February. The violence of the arrest left Patel, a 58-year-old grandfather, with severe injuries that required spinal surgery and resulted in partial paralysis. 

Jurors asked to rewatch dash-cam footage of Patel’s arrest during deliberations on Monday. Much of the trial focused on whether or not Patel knowingly resisted Parker’s orders to stop walking away from him, as well as if Patel’s hands in his pocket intimated that he had a weapon. Parker said as much in his own testimony, as reported by the AP

The officer testified during the retrial that the actions and appearance of Patel were "in sequence" with those of a burglar. He told jurors it made "my alerts go up" when Patel walked away and wouldn’t answer questions.

Parker said he grew concerned when Patel reached for his pockets and when he pulled his hand free during a pat-down.

"It concerned me that he was going for that weapon I presumed he had," Parker said.

Testifying through an interpreter, the Gujarati-speaking Patel insisted again in this trial that he is not proficient in English and did not understand Parker’s commands. Patel was visiting his son and grandchild in Madison, a suburb of Huntsville, at the time of the arrest. He was taking a walk when police confronted him after receiving a call about a suspicious person. 

Another responding officer told the jury that he didn’t think Patel’s actions constituted a threat, nor did he think that he seemed to be reaching for a weapon. 

As we reported on Friday, Parker’s attorney used his opening remarks to blame Patel for the violent arrest, saying, "follow our laws and speak our language." 

In a statement to NBC News, Laskhmi Sridaran, director of national policy and advocacy for civil rights organization South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), criticized the second mistrial: 

"We were hoping that the jury would be more representative of the community of Madison, where one in 10 residents speaks a language other than English at home," Sridaran said. 

Parker initially faced trial in early September, but the jury deadlocked then as well. There are no announced plans for a third retrial, although prosecuting Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Posey reportedly told the AP that the judge was considering a defense request to aquit. 

Parker is also facing a civil suit from Patel, as well as municipal attempts to fire him and a state assault charge. 

(H/t NBCNews, AP)