HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — The Huntsville City Council voted Thursday night to provide as much as $50,000 more to cover legal costs for police officer William Darby, who has been charged with murder for an on-duty shooting in April.
The council had previously agreed to spend up to $75,000 for Darby’s defense with no spending cap.
Darby’s defense attorney, Robert Tuten, recently approached city officials and told them the defense needed another $25,000, on top of the $75,000 they’d already provided.
City Attorney Trey Riley told the council during Thursday’s regular meeting he’d reviewed Tuten’s request.
“Of course I’ve reviewed his reasons for that and determined them to be reasonable and necessary,” Riley told the council.
In Alabama, a court-appointed lawyer defending a murder case can’t receive more than $4,000 total, with no exceptions. Attorneys in capital murder cases don’t face fee caps. Darby was indicted for murder in August in the fatal shooting of Jeffrey Parker, who’d called 911 and said he was suicidal. Parker was killed inside his home on Deramus Avenue.
Darby had been cleared by a Huntsville Police Department shooting review board, which found he’d acted within policy. But, the Madison County District Attorney’s office brought the case before a grand jury, and the grand jury returned the murder indictment in early August.
Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle cited the police review board’s clearing of Darby when he urged the council in August to pay for Darby’s defense.
Thursday night Councilman Will Culver, a former police officer, said the city has taken the wrong approach and he called for a permanent police legal defense fund.
“Officers need that protection, but it is not something in my opinion that should be left up to elected officials to cherry pick,” Culver said.
Councilwoman Jennie Robinson supported the increase to Darby’s defense fund, arguing the council needs to support its officers and the training they receive.
“Making that commitment to Officer Darby, you need to follow through on that commitment to Officer Darby,” she said.
Council President Devyn Keith said the council needed to put a cap on its commitment to funding Darby’s defense.
“Now with them returning, I realize that at some point, the question then comes from my community and constituents outside of my community, ‘When will this stop?'” he said.
Keith’s amended measure granted Darby’s lawyer’s request for $25,000 more, and allows for one more request of $25,000.
“We believe this is a reasonable number to have an opportunity for our officer, who again, was passed by our own review board, to have a reasonable trial in front of his peers,” Keith said.
The measure passed and Battle expressed support for it.
Culver was the only council member to oppose the motion. He said he is a strong supporter of the police department, but favors a broad legal fund that will aid all HPD officers and take the decision out of the hands of elected officials.