You may not remember Sureshbhai Patel's name immediately. Nor Eric Parker's. To remember how these names entered our collective conscience you need to re-watch this horrific video:
This video, that was recorded just about a year ago, was cause for much outrage in India as Parker slammed Patel to the ground resulting in the Indian citizen being restricted to a hospital bed for months and leaving him unable to walk. And now Parker has been acquitted of all charges.
On Friday, a federal judge acquitted Parker and said the Alabama police officer wasn't guilty of using unreasonable force when he slammed the grandfather onto the concrete in the suburb of Madison.
The case had two mistrials earlier with two juries divided on Parker's guilt.
"The gaps in the evidence and the conflicting nature of the trial testimony proved insurmountable to the government’s ability to obtain 12 guilty votes in two trials...The government has had two full and fair chances to obtain a conviction; it will not have another," US District Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala said in her opinion.
Parker faced up to 10 years in prison for the incident. Now that's he acquitted he may even have the chance to return to work given he has challenged the police department's decision to terminate his services.
Now let's just recap what happened. Patel, who had just moved from India to Alabama to help his son's family take care of their child, was on a morning walk. He was stopped by police officials who were responding to a call of a suspicious person wandering in the area.
The offficials stopped him and asked him about where he was headed and for some identification documents. Patel, who doesn't speak English, kept saying that he didn't speak English and turning away. The police officials get agitated about him turning away.
"Do not turn away from me again...if you turn away again I will put you to the ground...Do not jerk away from me again," Parker is heard warning Patel in the video.
When Patel turns away again, Parker grabs Patel and knocks him violently to the ground. He then tells him to 'chill out'. Patel was unable to get up and police officials had to call an ambulance.
Patel was left partially paralysed by the incident. He is now unable to walk properly or grip things.
Parker has testified that the injuries were accidental. But as this Salon piece points out, his lawyer has been playing the racial card as well, alleging that it was as much Patel's fault that he got slammed to the ground.
Here's among the choicest quotes by Parker's lawyer Robert Tuten reported in the piece:
“When you come to the U.S. we expect you to follow our laws and speak our language”
“Mr. Patel bears as much responsibility for this as anyone."
“The government wants you to give Mr. Patel a free pass because he doesn’t speak English."
The US attorney's office has said they wanted to retry the case but now can't. There has been no reaction from the Indian government on the matter yet.
Now imagine this same incident had happened with a US citizen in India. Imagine an aged US citizen is stopped by police officials in a neighbourhood he's staying in, choke slammed to the ground and is left paralysed and unable to walk. And the court acquits the police official of all wrongdoing. Would the US take the judgement calmly or accept the fact that the Indian government wasn't going to pursue the matter any further?
Finally this case is not one about race, but purely about justice being delivered. Sureshbhai was knowingly assaulted by Parker with insufficient evidence to warrant it. It is not only a violation of policing rules but one of one's basic human rights.
The Indian government's silence on the matter can be attributed to the fact that it has had little time to learn the modalities of the case. But it cannot allow the US police official to be let off as easily as he has been. Make no mistake, this is a complete miscarriage of justice. There are other cases still pending against Parker. The Indian government should track them to ensure Patel is given justice and reassure him that it won't rest till then.