Civil rights retrial under way for Alabama officer who threw Indian man to ground

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 28, 2015 12:37 PM

By Letitia Stein

(Reuters) - An Alabama police officer returned to federal court on Wednesday as a jury weighed for a second time whether he violated an Indian man's rights by throwing him to the ground and causing serious injuries in an incident recorded on video.

Eric Parker is being retried on accusations that he used unreasonable force while working as a Madison, Alabama, police officer during the February incident.

A jury in Huntsville, Alabama, deadlocked last month on whether to convict or acquit Parker, 27, of a single charge of depriving the Indian grandfather of his civil rights, prompting the judge to declare a mistrial.

The case centers on the officer's treatment of Sureshbhai Patel, then 57, who had recently come to the United States and spoke no English when he was stopped outside his son's home during a morning walk by police responding to a suspicious person call.

During the encounter, Parker abruptly flipped Patel onto the ground. Patel suffered extensive injuries from which he is not expected to fully recover, his lawyer has said.

The case drew international attention at a time of increased scrutiny on the use of force by U.S. police officers, particularly against minorities.

Patel, who testified during the first trial, took the stand on Wednesday, according to local media reports.

Parker also testified during the initial trial. He told jurors he was following his training and called Patel's injuries accidental, according to local media reports. His attorney could not be reached for comment at the start of the retrial.

Madison police released video of the encounter, which had been recorded from inside a patrol vehicle, and apologized for Parker's actions. The department recommended terminating the officer, which Parker challenged.

(Reporting by Letitia Stein in Tampa, Fla.; Editing by Peter Cooney)