Judge rules Huntsville has to turn over evidence for officer’s murder case

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - The city of Huntsville has to give Madison County prosecutors evidence from an internal investigation into an officer-involved shooting that left a man dead, a judge ruled Friday.

Madison County Circuit Court Judge Donna Pate ruled Friday morning that the city has to give evidence from an investigation into Huntsville Police Department Officer William Darby's actions.

The judge's ruling directs the city to turn over the review board findings, but she reserved ruling on whether Darby's statement in the internal review process must be provided to prosecutors. The judge indicated she would issue a separate written order on the statement.

Darby fatally shot Jeffery Parker at Parker’s home on Deramus Avenue in April. The Huntsville Police Department conducted a review of the shooting, which is standard. Darby was cleared in May. But the Madison County District Attorney's office took the case to a grand jury, which indicted Darby on a murder charge. The city has pledged to help pay some of Darby's legal expenses in the trial.

The DA's office has the criminal investigation file on the Darby shooting, which it called thorough and professional, but it went to court seeking the police department's internal investigation.

The city has been reluctant to turn over evidence from an internal investigation into the shooting, saying it could make officers wary of testifying in future reviews and have a chilling effect on the review process. But in court, assistant district attorney Tim Gann said Darby's case is the first time the city hasn't complied with a request for evidence in an internal investigation in his 12 years in the DA's office.

Huntsville City Attorney Trey Riley argued that the Madison County District Attorney's request for the materials was a fishing expedition. Gann disagreed and told the judge the city could not do an internal investigation and then decide whether to turn it over or not. Gann also said HPD was the only agency in possession of the materials. The city argued that Darby's statement from an internal investigation could be used against him in his trial, but Judge Pate said the matter could be handled in a motion to suppress the statement, which Darby's attorney, Robert Tuten, has already filed.

Tuten was also in court Friday morning. The defense attorney told the judge he was puzzled as to why the Madison County DA's office wanted the city's shooting review board investigative materials. Tuten argued that because Darby was required to cooperate with internal investigation,  using the statements in a prosecution would strip the officer of his fifth amendment rights.

Darby's trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 29.