Darby murder appeal brief now due Jan. 18, after court grants extension

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Lawyers for former Huntsville Police Department officer William “Ben” Darby were granted a 7-day and a 28-day extension Tuesday to file their appeal arguments, according to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals.

Darby was convicted of murder in May for an on-duty shooting in April 2018. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison.  

Darby’s attorneys have argued the shooting of Jeffery Parker was justified, that Darby acted to protect himself and other officers. They said the law is clear, officers don’t need to have a gun pointed at them to use deadly force.

The defense’s appeal brief will be due by January 18, according to the clerk’s office in Montgomery.

Darby shot Jeffery Parker in Parker’s home on Deramus Avenue after Parker had called 911 telling a dispatcher he was suicidal. Darby was the third officer on the scene and – according to police body camera footage – shot Parker 11 seconds after he entered Parker’s house.

Darby was cleared in the shooting by a Huntsville Police Department shooting review board. The board found he acted within department policy.

But, the Madison County District Attorney’s office took the case to a grand jury and the grand jury indicted Darby in August 2018. Prosecutors argued throughout the case that Parker – who was holding a gun to his own head – posed no imminent threat to Darby when Darby shot him with a shotgun.

Darby testified at his trial that he acted to protect himself and another officer at the scene, Genisha Peguesm who he said was not under sufficient cover and could have been shot by Parker.

Darby testified, and the body camera footage confirms, that before firing Darby ordered Parker multiple times to put the gun down, but the gun never moved from Parker’s own head.

Darby testified Parker looked him in the eye, which he took as a threatening sign. And, Darby testified, as Parker shrugged the gun moved slightly and Darby fired. The shotgun blast struck Parker in the face, killing him.

Pegues testified Parker was calm and talking to her when Darby appeared and began shouting commands at Parker. She testified Darby’s actions actually forced her into a less covered position because she had to move to avoid the shotgun Darby was carrying.

The City of Huntsville had agreed shortly after Darby was indicted to pay up to $125,000 for his defense. Huntsville Police Chief Mark McMurray and Mayor Tommy Battle also publicly defended Darby, saying he acted within policy and McMurray said Darby’s action saved lives.

Darby remained on the city’s payroll even after his murder conviction. He resigned from the department in July.

Parker’s family has filed a lawsuit against Darby and the City of Huntsville.

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