HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – COVID-19 dominated headlines in 2020. But one of the biggest non-COVID headlines was protests and riots across the country.
Many took to the streets demanding changes to law enforcement practices and accountability when those who are supposed to uphold the law, break it. In the coming months, two North Alabama law enforcement officers, including Alabama’s longest-serving sheriff are set to go on trial.
Huntsville Police Officer William Darby is charged with the 2018 murder of Jeffery Parker.
Parker had called 9-1-1 saying he was suicidal. Parker had a gun to his head, but body cam video of the shooting appeared to show it never moved, even as Darby warned him to put it down or he’d shoot. Darby, the third officer on the scene, shot parker after he ignored commands to put down the gun.
The officer was cleared by a police shooting review board, but a grand jury later indicted him on a murder charge.
Huntsville Police Chief Mark McMurray defended the officer, saying darby acted according to his training to protect another officer. And Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle convinced the city council to spend $125,00 on Darby’s defense. But Madison County District Attorney Rob Broussard said the facts of the case show it didn’t appear to be a justified shooting.
After several appeals claiming self-defense, Darby’s trial was slated to begin in February of 2020.
That changed when Madison County Judge Donna Pate continued the trial, citing the unavailability of Darby’s defense attorneys. One of which is Robert Tuten.
Tuten is also on Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely’s defense team.
Blakely was indicted on theft and ethics charges in August 2019 and was initially set to go on trial in March of 2020.
The sheriff who has continued to serve in his position while awaiting trial is accused of stealing money from his office and campaign accounts As well as soliciting money from employees.
Given Blakely’s well-established position in the community, his jury pool was set to include nearly 500 would-be-jurors.
Blakely’s new trial date is March 29.
Darby’s is slated for February 22.