Madison County DA has to give records to defense in HPD officer murder case, Huntsville refusing to provide them

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- The Madison County District Attorney’s office and the City of Huntsville are on opposite sides of a dispute involving the release of police records in a murder case that a local attorney says are a required part of the case file.

And, attorney Mark McDaniel contends that if the DA’s office doesn’t obtain the records and turn them over to the defense, it could result in the murder case against officer William Darby being overturned – were he to be convicted.

The DA’s office asked a Madison County judge Monday to order the city to comply with a subpoena that seeks the city’s records of a police internal investigation into the fatal April 3 shooting involving Darby and a suicidal Huntsville man.

The City of Huntsville responded to the DA’s office August subpoena with a letter, arguing the records were not public records and they were also covered by various privileges barring release. The DA's office contends it doesn't matter whether a record is considered "public" or not, in the face of a subpoena.

The DA’s office subpoena also seeks records from the Huntsville Police Department’s shooting review board which found Darby actions were within policy in the fatal shooting of Jeffery Louis Parker.

McDaniel said the law regards the police department, the city and the DA’s office as essentially one entity – the state – regarding law enforcement materials that could assist Darby’s defense and expects that material to be provided to the defense.

“If there’s something in the possession of the city that could tend to exculpate or clear the defendant,” McDaniel said. “The state must give it to the defendant. And in this case, the defendant has already filed a motion for discovery.”

Failure to provide material that is favorable to Darby’s defense or potentially exonerate him of the murder charge would be a violation of the law, McDaniel said.

“I had a case one time, where it was a capital murder case, where the law enforcement had DNA information they didn’t give to the prosecutor until later on during trial and I got the whole case reversed because they should have given it to him earlier,” he recalled.

In this case, McDaniel said, the nature of the shooting review board’s findings are clearly something the defense would want.

“Information used, let’s say in a shooting review board, and that information was used to say, ‘There was no fault found,’ that’s automatically exculpatory by its very nature,” McDaniel said.

If it’s not provided to the defense, McDaniel said, the outcome won’t be in doubt.

“And if they don’t do it, there’s no use in even trying the case, because if there was a conviction, it would be set aside, 100 percent,” McDaniel said.

McDaniel also said the city’s response to a subpoena by letter is not normal court procedure.

A judge has set a hearing on the DA’s request for Sept. 28.