The civil rights trial against Madison, Alabama police officer Eric Parker has ended in a mistrial after a third attempt by a US circuit judge to end a jury deadlock. In February, Officer Parker was caught on bystander cellphone video slamming an elderly Indian American grandfather to the pavement during a pedestrian stop.
58-year-old Sureshbhai Patel had recently received permanent residency status to live in the United States and care for his infant grandson when he decided to go for a morning stroll around his family’s home. A neighbor spotted him on his walk and called police on a “suspicious”, “thin Black man”.
Officer Parker approached Patel in what Patel’s lawyers contended was an “unlawful” stop. In that stop, cellphone video shows Patel standing with his hands behind his back moments before Patel throws him to the ground. Patel was hospitalized as a result of the incident, and remains partially paralyzed.
Parker originally claimed that he body-slammed Patel because the elderly man was uncooperative and resistant. On the stand, however, he testified that he grabbed Patel and “fell”. However, Patel said through a translator after the incident that because he doesn’t speak proficient English — his primary language is Gujarati — he didn’t understand the police officer’s orders and was trying to demonstrate by his demeanor that he was non-threatening.
Earlier this year, Parker was arrested, indicted, and charged in a federal court with unreasonable force and violating Patel’s civil rights. However, after days of arguments, a jury was — inexplicably — unable to come to a consensus on whether or not Parker had committed any wrongdoing.
The U.S. Circuit Court judge in the trial had sent jury back to deliberate three times, urging them to come to a consensus by appealing to the cost of the trial, the high stakes of the outcome, and the fact that it was no guarantee that a retrial would result in a more concrete outcome. However, when the jury continued to be deadlocked, the judge declared a mistrial.
This outcome is frustrating and I hope the community will be spurred to demand that Parker be retried for assaulting and paralyzing Mr. Patel.