Judge declares mistrial in retrial of Alabama police officer

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Posted: Nov 04, 2015 6:23 PM
Judge declares mistrial in retrial of Alabama police officer

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) — A second jury deadlocked and a judge declared another mistrial Wednesday in the case of an Alabama police officer charged with using excessive force against an Indian man.

U.S. District Judge Madeline Haikala ended the retrial of Madison police officer Eric Parker after jurors said they couldn't reach a unanimous verdict on the civil rights charge. They deliberated more than 15 hours over four days.

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.

It wasn't immediately clear whether prosecutors would seek a third trial. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Posey said the judge was considering a defense request to acquit Parker on her own.

Parker, 27, declined to speak with reporters Wednesday, but defense attorney Robert Tuten said his client was "disappointed there wasn't an outright acquittal."

The officer 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.

"It concerned me that he was going for that weapon I presumed he had," Parker said.

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 an officer knocking Patel's legs out from under him and pushing him face-first to the ground. Patel said his arms and legs went numb after the impact, and he could not stand on his own.

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.

Patrol officer Charles Spence, who also responded to a dispatcher's call about a suspicious person in a neighborhood, said he never saw Patel as a threat and testified that Parker's use of force on the man was unnecessary.

But during cross-examination, Spence said he could not tell if Patel was pulling away from Parker, as the defense suggested.

One of Parker's supervisors, Sgt. Mark Bray, testified that a police video doesn't show Parker doing anything outside of department policy and karate teacher Johnny Lee Smith testified that Patel's actions could have seemed like resistance to Parker.

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.