HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — The judge in the federal civil rights case against Eric Parker told government prosecutors she found troubling things in the way the government conducted its case, according to newly released transcripts from Parker’s second trial.
U.S. District Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala criticized the prosecution for using the phrase “all lives matter” during closing arguments. She also said prosecutors used all of their jury strikes on white men and their own expert contradicted the government’s position that Parker, a Madison Police Department officer, didn’t have probable cause to approach Patel.
The judge said the “all lives matter” comment injected race into then case, when there was no evidence introduced that showed racial bias.
“The court remains consistent in its view that there are troubling things about the way the government has approached the case,” Haikala told the attorneys, according to the transcript.
The transcript shows the judge said she was continuing to look at a Rule 29, which deals with motions for acquittal of the defendant, but she was waiting for the jury to make its decision.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Posey disputed the judge’s suggestion that he was bringing race into the case. He said the “all lives matter” comment was in response to the defense implying that how Parker felt about his own safety was the most important thing.
The encounter took place in the judge’s chambers during jury deliberations.
Two juries have deadlocked on whether Parker used excessive force in his February takedown of Sureshbhai Patel on the Madison street where Patel’s son lived. Patel, a native of India, has permanent U.S. resident status. He was injured after being taken head-first to the frozen ground by Parker.
Parker testified he slipped and didn’t sweep Patel’s legs out from under him while his hands were behind his back.
The defense has argued Parker was engaged in normal police work. The defense says it was Patel – who the prosecution points out told Parker he didn’t speak English – refusing to follow Parker’s commands that led to the takedown and subsequent injuries.
The judge also said it was difficult to maintain a fair trial given the widespread publicity around the case. The patrol video of the takedown drew international attention.
The judge said members of the Madison Police Department, concerned about a civil lawsuit, also took actions they shouldn’t have, which further complicated the case.
The court record doesn’t spell out what actions by the police troubled the judge and hearing transcripts related to the issue remain sealed.
There is still a defense motion for acquittal before Haikala. If she grants it, the federal case against Parker is over.
The prosecution has said it wants to try Parker a third time.