Tag Archives: police use of force expert witness

Use of Force Experts to Dual in Federal Civil Rights Trial of Alabama Police Officer

An Alabama police officer accused of using excessive force to subdue an unarmed elderly man will call a police training expert witness to defend himself in a federal civil rights trial.  According to court documents submitted this week, the police officer’s defense team will counter prosecution experts with a certified police trainer who will offer expert testimony supporting the officer’s actions given the circumstances.

Alabama Officer Charged with Excessive Use of Force

In February of this year, 57-year-old Sureshbhai Patel was taking a walk around the neighborhood where his son lived when he was approached by officers responding to a call about a potentially suspicious person.  Patel, who is an Indian national visiting his son’s family, does not speak or understand English and had a miscommunication with the officers who approached him.  Although accounts differ about the interaction, footage from the police cruiser dashboard camera shows Madison Police Officer Eric Parker slamming Mr. Patel to the ground and violently subduing him before placing him in custody.

According to the Patel family, Mr. Patel tried to explain to the officers that he did not speak English, and provide them with his son’s address so they would be able to identify him.  When Officer Parker attempted to frisk Mr. Patel, he was unsure of what was happening and attempted to walk away.  Officer Parker then forcibly placed Mr. Patel on the ground, and the resulting injuries left the 57-year-old partially paralyzed and confined to a hospital bed.

Officer Parker was dismissed from the Madison PD, and Alabama Governor Robert Bentley issued an apology to the Patels and the government of India for injuries suffered as a result of the police encounter.  Following the incident, the United States Department of Justice filed federal civil rights charges against Parker for his aggressive takedown of Mr. Patel, and prosecutors announced plans to call a police expert witness to explain that Parker’s actions were excessive and unwarranted.

Prosecution of Former Alabama Police Officer will Feature Use of Force Expert Witness

Documents filed by prosecutors have identified Parker’s former boss, Madison PD Police Chief Larry Muncey, as an expert witness in police training and use of force in the upcoming federal civil rights trial. According to the prosecution, Muncey will review the video recordings of the incident involving Parker and Mr. Patel and explain that the officer exhibited use of excessive and unnecessary force in subduing the elderly man.  Prosecutors also informed the court that, Muncey “will also opine, based on his training and expertise, that (Parker’s) actions were inconsistent with department policy and that (his) use of force in this instance did not adhere to prevailing police standards and training.”

Muncey’s expert testimony on police training and use of force will help jurors understand the standards of the Madison PD in order to determine whether or not Parker deviated from his duty and violated Mr. Patel’s civil rights.  Parker has pleaded not guilty to the civil rights charges, and announced his intention to call a contradictory expert witness who is a certified trainer in police use of force tactics to help explain the officer’s actions.

Former Cop Charged with Excessive Force to Call Defense Expert Witness

In response to the allegations that he was not justified in using force against the 57-year-old Mr. Patel, former officer Eric Parker has submitted his own use of force expert witness.  Court documents submitted during pre-trial preparation indicate that Parker’s defense team will call Johnny Lee Smith of Triad Martial Arts Inc. to testify that Parker did not show intent to injure and was engaged in a standard police tactic given the circumstances of his interaction with Mr. Patel.  Triad Martial Arts institute is a Certified Specialized Instructor by the Alabama Peace Officers’ Standards and Training Commission, and Smith himself has conducted training courses on police use of force.

According to documents submitted by Parker’s defense team, “Mr. Smith’s testimony is expected to opine that Officer Parker’s stop of Mr. Patel was justified; that reasonable suspicion existed for Officer Parker to conduct a ‘Terry Frisk’ of Mr. Patel; that Officer Parker was justified in using force against Mr. Patel; the amount of force used by Officer Parker was justified under the totality of the circumstances and complied with current law and department policy; and that it does not appear that Officer Parker intentionally tried to hurt Mr. Patel.”

Attorneys for Mr. Patel have denounced the use of Smith as an expert, saying they expect his testimony to be dismissed by the federal judge before trial.  Parker has appealed his dismissal from the Madison PD, and will defend his actions during his federal civil rights trial that is scheduled to begin in September of this year.

Police Tactics Expert Witnesses Testifies During Cop Criminal Trial

A police tactics expert witness testified at the trial of an officer accused of excessive and unnecessary use of force in the death a 95-year-old man during a nursing home incident.  The incident taking place in a Chicago suburb gained national attention in 2013, and the resulting criminal trial featured expert police testimony this week that supported the prosecution’s case that the officer in question went too far in exercising his authority to use force.

Officer in Beanbag Shooting Death Faces Trial

Officer Craig Taylor came to trial for shooting John Wrana with 5 beanbag bullets during a confrontation in 2013.  The unfortunate incident between the World War II veteran and the Park Forest, Illinois officer started when Taylor was one of several officers to respond to a 911 call from staff at the Victory Center Retirement home.  According to Victory Center staff, Wrana resisted a risky surgical procedure due to fear of ending up on life support, becoming agitated, combative, and threatening before striking an EMT on the scene.  The first officers arriving on the scene confronted Wrana in his nursing home apartment in an effort to calm him down, but retreated after the 95-year old threatened them with what appeared to be a knife.

As the confrontation escalated, the responding officers called for backup, and Officer Taylor joined the scene along with Commander Michael Baugh, who brought a riot shield and a 12-gauge beanbag shotgun.  After Wrana’s continued refusal to resolve the situation, the officers entered the apartment using Baugh’s riot shield and attempted to neutralize Mr. Wrana by use of a Taser.  When the Taser charge failed, Officer Taylor directly ordered Wrana to drop the weapon before firing five beanbag rounds at him from a distance of 6 – 8 feet.  After refusing surgery, Wrana died from his wounds at a local hospital.

Officer Taylor testified that he was afraid for his life and the life of his fellow officers, and believed that it was reasonable to discharge his less-lethal weapon at a suspect who was threatening violence and refusing to comply with police orders.  Prosecutors disagreed during trial, and presented evidence in the form of expert witness testimony that argued that the confrontation was escalated by Officer Taylor unnecessarily.

Police Expert Witness Testifies Officer Used Excessive Force

To bolster its case that Officer Taylor used excessive and unnecessary force, the prosecution called to the stand Frank Murphy, a former New Jersey cop who now works as a police tactics expert witness.  After reviewing the facts of the Wrana shooting, Murphy testified, “There was no threat until Officer Craig Taylor and the others confronted him.”  Finding that Officer Taylor and his colleagues went too far, Murphy’s expert testimony criticized the police for not choosing to rely on their riot shield, which could block a knife attack, to approach Wrana and subdue him without use of beanbag bullet shotgun.

Defense attorneys for Officer Taylor offered a vigorous cross examination of the prosecution’s police tactics expert witness, using the opportunity to point out that Taylor believed he had been following procedure and that there were risks of injury to Wrana by Murphy’s proposed use of the riot shield.  Murphy maintained that, in his opinion, the situation was only elevated to the level of violence due to Taylor’s unnecessary use of the beanbag shotgun that led to Wrana’s death.  The use of a beanbag weapon was, according to Murphy’s expert testimony, an excessive and unnecessary use of force.

Defense Argues Victim Declined Life Saving Procedure

An interesting side note to the trial that may minimize the impact of Murphy’s police tactics expert testimony is the defense’s argument that ultimately Wrana’s refusal of surgery after the shooting was what caused his death.  During testimony from one of the doctors on scene at the Victory Center home, it was revealed that Wrana repeatedly denied life-saving measures to remedy the injuries sustained during his confrontation with police.  Defense attorneys for Officer Taylor will likely present a medical expert witness to establish Wrana could have survived, meaning the actions of the police were not the ultimate cause of the 95-year-old’s death.

If a jury accepts Murphy’s expert testimony that Officer Taylor acted with excessive and unnecessary force, and also accepts that Wrana would have lived if he had accepted medical attention, then the officer on trial would likely face lesser consequences.  While he still may have acted excessively, which is a matter of debate considering Wrana’s role in the incident, Officer Taylor may not have been ultimately at fault for causing death.  As with all police-use-of-force trials, the prosecution’s case rests heavily on its police tactic expert witness, but in this particular case a medical expert will also impact the outcome.