City of Huntsville, Officer Darby want stay continued in wrongful death lawsuit

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Lawyers for Huntsville Police Department Officer William Darby asked a court Wednesday to continue to delay a wrongful death lawsuit filed against him and the City of Huntsville.

The city echoed that request Wednesday.

The federal lawsuit was filed by the family of Jeffery Parker — who Darby killed in an on-duty shooting in 2018.  Darby was convicted of murder a month ago for that shooting.

The Parker family lawsuit — filed in March 2020 — has been on hold since April 2020, at Darby’s request.

The stay was granted on 5th Amendment grounds: a defendant can’t be made to testify in a civil case while a criminal case is pending.

Lawyers for Parker’s family have asked the court to allow the lawsuit to go forward. They argue the criminal case is over and since Darby testified in his criminal trial, the continued stay makes no sense.       

The court had previously indicated the stay would be lifted upon final disposition. But at what point is that reached?

Attorneys for Darby and the City of Huntsville argue that the jury’s verdict — where he was found guilty after six hours of deliberation — is not the final disposition of the case.  They argue final disposition comes at sentencing, which is set for Aug. 20.

The defendants also argue there are practical time concerns for Darby.

“Officer Darby is participating in the ongoing presentence investigation and upcoming sentencing hearing,” the filing argues, “As such, Officer Darby’s private interests still weigh in favor of a stay due to the significant time commitment required for this process including critical preparation work with his criminal defense attorney prior to his sentencing hearing. Plaintiff totally overlooks this reality in seeking a premature lift of the stay.”

In its filing Wednesday opposing the stay, the City of Huntsville says the criminal case’s resolution is necessary for it to prepare its defense.

“The claims against the COH arise from the same set of operative facts as do the claims against Officer Darby, namely the shooting of plaintiff’s decedent on April 3, 2018,” the filing argues.

“Furthermore, the COH is in a unique position as a governmental defendant. As a governmental entity, the COH must rely on eyewitnesses and other individuals with knowledge of the facts and circumstances of the underlying incident to mount its defense, many of which are currently involved in the pending criminal proceedings. This includes Officer Darby himself, and members of law enforcement.”

A hearing on the stay is set for June 21.

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