HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Since the news broke about former Huntsville police officer William ‘Ben’ Darby’s murder conviction, and the announcement that he would be placed on paid administrative leave came, people have expressed mixed feelings about the entire situation.
But one topic continues to come up, the money the City of Huntsville fronted for Darby’s legal defense. News 19’s Dallas Parker spoke with one criminal attorney who explained an alternative Darby could’ve taken.
When any person is charged with a crime, there are steps that must be taken to ensure they have legal representation. Huntsville area criminal defense attorney Larry Marsili explains. “From the get-go as far as, you know, whether you’re going to hire an attorney whether you’re going to have one court-appointed for you? Those are usually things that happen very early on so that you know everybody’s on the same page with how the case will move forward,” he said.
But the murder case involving Darby, Marsili said included an unusual factor.
“This one obviously with the city getting involved ended up going quite a bit different than, you know, than any other typical criminal case would.”
When the City of Huntsville agreed to commit $125,000 to help pay for Darby’s legal defense in a murder case, Mayor Tommy battle said that decision was made because darby was essentially doing what the city told him to in his capacity as an officer.
But Marsili said another option was available, and it would not have cost taxpayers a dime.
“If officer Darby’s case had been court-appointed to an attorney, the maximum fee that that attorney could have received for that case is $4,000 from the state of Alabama,” he explained. “There’s no provision in the law that allows the judge to permit the attorney to go over that, that is the statutory cap for a murder charge in Alabama.”
Marsili said he understands the $125,000 wasn’t just for Darby’s attorney, but also included expert witness fees and other costs. However, he still doesn’t believe the city made the right move.
“It’s not a situation where I felt like that, that money had to be spent,” he said. “And certainly, to hear some of the council members that voted for it to find out that they did not have all of the information, and we’re just kind of blindly going on faith on what they were being told, to me that’s just reckless,” said Marsili. “It’s not appropriate to put that on the taxpayers based on the rationales that they gave.”
The exact amount that has been spent on Darby’s defense so far remains unclear. The City of Huntsville said it does not yet have that total calculated.
Darby is set to be sentenced in just a few weeks.