New filing: Federal prosecutors urge judge not to acquit Eric Parker

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Eric Parker, left, leaves the federal courthouse during his first trial in September 2015. (WHNT News 19 file)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — Federal prosecutors are urging the judge in the Eric Parker case not to grant a defense motion to acquit Parker on an excessive force charge.

In a filing this morning prosecutors argue that Parker’s use of force in the takedown of Sureshbhai Patel on a Madison sidewalk last February was not proportional to the resistance he encountered.

The encounter left Patel with spinal injuries and Parker,  a Madison Police Department officer, facing up to 10 years in prison on a charge of violating Patel’s civil rights.

There have been two trials in federal court in Huntsville on the matter, and juries deadlocked both times. The defense has asked to the court to acquit Parker based on a lack of evidence, but U.S. District Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala has not ruled on that motion.

Court transcripts from the end of Parker’s second trial were released last week. The transcripts of closed-door meetings  show the judge criticizing the government’s approach to the case, accusing prosecutors of injecting race into the trial and suggesting she would consider an acquittal order based on the case that was presented.

Federal prosecutors have said they will try Parker again if the court doesn’t grant the motion to acquit. In today’s filing the government summed the elements of the case they’ve argued twice to a jury:

“The video evidence shows that the victim was initially compliant and voluntarily walked over to the Defendant (Parker) and Officer Slaughter;

“The video evidence shows that the victim told the Defendant five times that he didn’t speak English prior to the Defendant’s use of force.

“The evidence shows that the victim tried to communicate with the defendant by pointing toward his house.

“The video evidence shows little to no resistance by the victim, even when the Defendant is yelling at him to stop jerking away just a few seconds before the use of force.

“The video evidence shows the victim’s hands restrained behind his back, and it doesn’t appear they came loose because his hands are still behind his back at the point his face impacts the ground.

“At moment of takedown, the victim’s legs appear to be relaxed as they were when you could see no active resistance in his upper body.

“The victim testified that he didn’t jerk away from the Defendant.”

Prosecutors also point to testimony from a Madison Police Department corporal who claimed Parker had admitted he’d performed a leg sweep in his takedown of Patel. The filing argues Parker told other officers Patel didn’t speak English, “which shows he knew that he was using force on an individual who couldn’t comply with his orders.”

The government also pointed out that Parker called a dispatcher after the incident to get her to check if there were other incident in the area where the incident occurred to “stack” his probable cause.

Parker testified he chose to take Patel to the ground after he jerked away and failed to respond to his commands. Parker said he intended the takedown, but he slipped and accidentally took Patel’s legs out from under him, causing the 57-year-old to land headfirst on a frozen lawn.

The defense has argued Parker was just doing his job and Patel was only injured after failing to comply with instructions from Parker. They point out that the 911 call Parker received described a man looking at people garages and that the caller, a resident on the street, said he’d never seen Patel before.

Patel, a permanent U.S. resident had recently moved from India to live with his son and his son’s family at their home on the same street.

Madison Police Department training officers testified at both trials that in their view Parker did not violate department policy in his takedown of Patel.

Prosecutors filed a motion Tuesday to bar that testimony from “lay witnesses” who were not on the scene, if the event there is a third trial.

Madison Police Chief Larry Muncey disciplined Parker after the incident and directed that he charged with misdemeanor assault.

That charge in Limestone County and a civil lawsuit brought on behalf of Patel are effectively in limbo pending the outcome of the federal case.