HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) — The attorney for an Alabama police officer accused of using excessive force on an Indian man asked a federal judge to acquit him after a second trial ended in a hung jury.
Jurors hearing the civil rights retrial of Madison police officer Eric Parker announced a deadlock in their fourth day of deliberations Wednesday and U.S. District Judge Madeline Haikala declared a second mistrial. Parker didn't show any visible reaction in court. The first jury deadlocked in September.
Parker is accused of violating the rights of Sureshbhai Patel (suh-REHSH'-by pah-TEL'), 58, in February, when Parker knocked Patel to the ground while investigating a suspicious person complaint. He testified the man aroused suspicion by trying to pull away from him.
Patel has said through an interpreter that he doesn't understand English and didn't understand the officer's orders.
Parker, 27, declined to speak with reporters Wednesday as he and his family left the courthouse.
"He's disappointed that there wasn't an outright acquittal, of course," said Parker's attorney, Robert Tuten. Tuten added that the length of time jurors took to deliberate demonstrates the complexity of the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Posey said he will consult with the U.S. Attorney's office and the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division to determine whether to pursue a third trial if Parker isn't acquitted. Posey said Tuten's request for an acquittal was a standard, procedural motion that he made during both trials and before the case was presented to the jury.
Attorneys on both sides said they're ready to pursue the case again, if necessary — but Tuten said he hopes prosecutors decide not to.
"These cases are extremely expensive in money and time," he said. "The basic evidence of the case is the same; it will always be the same. There's no other evidence. There's no other defense."
Posey noted that such civil rights cases "are difficult because we have to prove not only that the defendant used excessive force, not only that he violated the Fourth Amendment, but also that when he violated the Fourth Amendment, he knew he was committing a crime, he knew he was doing something the law forbids." Posey said most other criminal cases don't require as high of a burden of proof.
Parker testified during the retrial that the actions and appearance of Patel were "in sequence" with those of a burglar. He told jurors it made "my alerts go up" when Patel walked away and wouldn't answer questions.
Parker said he grew concerned when Patel reached for his pockets and when he pulled his hand free during a pat-down.
Patel wasn't armed and suffered a spinal injury when he was thrown down face-first on a lawn. Parker said he lost his balance and fell on top of the man.
Jurors watched police video that shows Patel's legs being swept from under him and the man falling face-first to the ground. Patel said his arms and legs went numb after the impact, and he could not stand on his own afterward.
Patel, who came to the United States to live with his son in suburban Huntsville, had been in the country only a few days at the time of the confrontation.
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley has apologized to the Indian government for Patel's treatment, calling it a case of excessive force.
Patel has filed a civil lawsuit against Parker, and the city of Madison is attempting to fire him. Parker also faces an assault charge in state court.