Court issues warning on status of former HPD officer’s appeal of murder conviction

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Lawyers for former Huntsville Police Department officer William “Ben” Darby have made it clear they like their chances of overturning his murder conviction on appeal, but an unusual order from a state appeals court Thursday raised questions about the status of that appeal.

An order from the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals said defense attorney Robert Tuten needed to file previously requested appeal records – a docketing statement and request for trial transcripts – within 14 days, or the appeal would be dismissed and the matter would be referred to the Alabama State Bar for a disciplinary review.

Darby was convicted in May of murder for the 2018 on-duty shooting death of Jeffery Parker.  In August, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Tuten said today the issue has been addressed, the court now has the needed filings and it was a timing issue that was confused. He said it was tied to the notice of appeal and also the defense’s filing of a motion for a new trial. Normally, while the new trial motion is being considered, the clock for appeal filings is stayed, but it appears there was a mix-up in this case, an overlap in the court calendar.

The notice of appeal was given at Darby’s sentencing on August 20. A week later, the court of criminal appeals sent out a notice notifying the defense what notices still needed to be filed as the initial steps in the appeal process.

But, the defense filed a motion for a new trial Sept. 16.

Madison County Circuit Judge Donna Pate denied the motion for a new trial on Sept. 17.  Thursday, Sept. 30, the appeals court sent out its warning letter to Tuten.

Darby’s defense team has expressed confidence over his chances on appeal.

Following Darby’s conviction in May, Tuten said, “We’re looking forward to an appeal, and I’m certain that when this reviewed at the appellate level this decision today will not stand.”

Darby and the City of Huntsville are also defendants in a wrongful death lawsuit brought by Parker’s family.

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