MADISON, Ala. (WHNT) — Madison Police Department officer Eric Parker has survived two federal criminal trials and a state misdemeanor assault charge and his attorney, Robert Tuten, said today Parker is “grateful and thankful.”
But the cases have taken their toll.
Tuten said Parker is, “devastated, kind of beaten down, relieved, and hopeful that he can somehow pull the pieces of his life together and move on.”
Parker won’t have to fight a misdemeanor charge in Limestone County stemming from the February 2015 takedown of Sureshbhai Patel on a quiet Madison street.
The encounter left Patel seriously injured.
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange announced Thursday that his office was seeking to dismiss the charge, after deciding there wasn’t sufficient evidence to secure a conviction.
Hank Sherrod, the Florence-based attorney representing Patel in a civil lawsuit against Madison and Parker, was sharply critical today of Strange’s decision.
“If the State will not even try to get a conviction when an act of police brutality is caught on video, what chance is there for other victims? This decision illustrates how difficult it is to hold law enforcement officers accountable under the criminal laws for brutal acts that would send an ordinary citizen to jail,” Sherrod said.
Tuten, who defended Parker during two federal civil rights trials last year – both of which resulted in mistrials – said the public needs to better understand the challenges officers face.
“Well, first of all, the police have virtually an impossible job,” Tuten said. “They have to make split-second decisions, on less than perfect information. And all the police really want is some respect.
“Let them do their job, if they’re not doing it right, go to internal affairs and file a complaint. That’s why internal affairs is there.”
Tuten had argued during the federal trials that Parker was doing his job, responding to a call of a suspicious man walking down a Madison residential block. He said Patel – who testified that he didn’t speak English – didn’t follow Parker’s instructions.
Parker was acquitted after his second trial by U.S. District Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala who ruled there wasn’t sufficient evidence to convict Parker.
Parker still faces a federal civil lawsuit brought on behalf of Patel.
“Like most victims of police misconduct, Mr. Patel’s only chance at some measure of justice will be in the civil case, and Mr. Patel looks forward to seeking justice there,” said Sherrod, Patel’s attorney.
The City of Madison is still expected to conduct a termination hearing for Parker, who has been on paid leave since last year.
Tuten said Parker does not want to be fired, but he’s also not sure if he’d want to go back to work for the Madison Police Department.
“He doesn’t want to have that black mark on his record,” he said. “But, to be honest, I don’t know why he would want to go back to work for Madison, after what the police department there has put him through.”