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Indian Legal Expert Says Lawsuit in Sureshbhai Patel Beating is "anaemic" and Unlikely to Achieve Justice

Posted on the 18 February 2015 by Rogershuler @RogerShuler

Sureshbhai Patel

The lawsuit filed in an Alabama police officer's beating of a grandfather from India is weak and might not result in significant restitution for the victim, an Indian legal expert says.
Ravi Batra, a lawyer based in New York, used the term "anaemic" to describe the civil complaint.
Sureshbhai Patel, 57, remains in a Huntsville, Alabama, following spinal fusion surgery to treat his injuries. At the moment, it appears Patel will not achieve justice on the criminal front either. That's because Officer Eric Parker has been charged with third-degree assault, a misdemeanor, even though the law shows the charge should have been a felony (either second- or first-degree assault). Parker already has pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor count.
Batra's critical take on the Patel lawsuit came in an interview with Narayan Lakshman, of The Hindu newspaper. From the article:
Speaking to The Hindu Ravi Batra, the New York-based lawyer who defended Congress leader Sonia Gandhi and her party in a U.S. court, argued that the case filed in Madison by attorney Hank Sherrod mentions the City of Madison as a defendant but excludes it from individual counts brought by the lawsuit, instead targeting the individual officers who assaulted Mr. Patel.
Compounding the apparent weakness of the lawsuit is the fact that a jury trial for Mr. Patel’s case, which his complaint calls for, risks being racially tilted given that U.S. Census data indicates that within the population of Madison County there are more than 27 white residents for every Asian.

The Madison Police Department also could be getting off easy in the civil case, Batra says:
While it was unclear whether Mr. Sherrod was taking a soft approach toward suing the City of Madison, it appeared that the Madison Police Department was also neatly manoeuvring towards a position where it may not be possible for a court to require the Department to pay Mr. Patel to the full $100,000 legal limit for such tort claims.
This was apparent after Police Chief Larry Muncey took action last week to arrest and recommend firing Eric Parker, the officer who threw Mr. Patel to the ground without warning and left him with severe spinal column injuries.
With Parker unlikely to remain in the police force, Mr. Batra noted, Chief Muncey may have effectively “immunised” the Police Department from lawsuits, as supervisory liability apparently does not exist for civil rights violation cases such as these unless there was evidence of a conspiracy.

Could the lawsuit be made stronger? The answer appears to be yes, but the road to justice for Mr. Patel still presents obstacles. One can only imagine how tough the case would be if the assault had not been videotaped:
The Patel family may still have an option to strengthen the lawsuit by proving that it was the “policy and practice” of the Madison Police Department that led to the attack on Mr. Patel, a fact that could be corroborated by the fact that the two other officers at the scene did not appear to stop or criticize the actions of Parker.
Meanwhile, The Hindu has also analysed U.S. Census data for Madison County which suggest that 69.6 per cent of county residents were “white alone,” that is, not of mixed race, and only 2.5 per cent of residents were “Asian alone.”
Given that juries across the country are usually selected across socioeconomic groups broadly to represent the distribution of the population of the county or district in question, the Patel lawsuit may face a preponderantly white jury who may not be keen to convict a white police officer of an attack on an Asian and foreign national.

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