Special prosecutor argues Madison Police Chief Larry Muncey and police captain ‘willfully’ violated witness contact rules
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — The special prosecutor assigned to the potential contempt of court cases against Madison Police Chief Larry Muncey and Capt. Terrell Cook said this morning they “willfully” violated federal court rules regarding witness contact.
Special prosecutor Anthony Joseph argued the rule is not complicated and is based on common sense.
Muncey’s defense attorney Jerry Barclay disputed that contention in his opening statement before U.S. District Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala. Muncey was originally tabbed as an expert witness in the trial of officer Eric Parker – for the first time in his career, Barclay said – and was allowed in the courtroom for the much of the prosecution’s case.
He was later excused as an expert, after prosecutors declined to call him during Parker’s first trial in September 2015. But no one explained to Muncey, who was still on the witness list, what the rules were going forward, Barclay argued.
The case stems from contact Muncey and Cook had with a police witness during Parker’s trial about the officer’s testimony, an email Muncey sent out to some officers regarding their testimony and the assigning of a police sergeant to monitor the case after Muncey was excused.
Cook’s attorney Brian White argued that Cook had no supervisory role over Parker and worked in a separate division. The only contact Cook had with police witnesses was through direction by Muncey in the chain-of-command, White argued.
The prosecution called Robert Posey, the assistant U.S. Attorney who led the prosecution of Parker. Parker was tried twice last year on excessive force and civil rights charges stemming from the violent takedown of Sureshbhai Patel in Madison in February 2015.
Two juries deadlocked in the case, and in February Judge Haikala issued an order acquitting Parker of the charge. He still faces a misdemeanor assault charge in Limestone county.
During Parker’s first trial, the court was informed about Muncey’s contact with officers. The judge held a closed-door hearing where several Madison Police Department officers testified.
Out of that fact-gathering the judge issued an order in February that resulted in today’s “show cause” hearing regarding possible contempt of court charges.
Witnesses are not allowed to discuss their testimony with other witnesses or listen to testimony. Muncey was following the case on the WHNT News 19 blog of the first Parker trial, according to testimony today.
But Barclay argued during the testimony this morning that Muncey’s contact with other witnesses didn’t focus on the facts of the Parker case, but issues like training of officers and how the officers were presenting themselves in court.