HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — A Huntsville police officer charged with murder is expected to be in court for an immunity hearing Wednesday morning.
Officer William Darby is asking a judge to rule that he acted in self-defense when he shot and killed 49-year-old Jeffery Parker in April 2018. Police say Parker called 911 saying he was suicidal.
Unlike most criminal court proceedings, the defense has the burden of proof in Wednesday’s hearing. But the defense also isn’t required to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Darby’s attorney’s need to convince a judge — there is no jury — that there is a greater than a 50 percent chance he acted in self-defense.
Darby’s lawyers argue he was acting lawfully at the time of the on-duty shooting. They contend he was defending himself and other officers.
And they argue in order to file a murder charge against him, Darby’s on-duty conduct would have to be so bizarre as to defy rational explanation.
Huntsville Police Chief Mark McMurray previously said Darby only fired after Parker refused multiple commands to drop his weapon. A Huntsville shooting review board cleared Darby of wrongdoing in May 2018.
But the Madison County District Attorney’s Office and grand jury saw something different.
District Attorney Rob Broussard said last year this is his first prosecution of a police officer for murder in 30 years as a prosecutor in Madison County.
“Usually what you’re looking at is whether an officer reasonably feared for his life, before he was forced, to take, to use deadly physical force,” Broussard said in August, after announcing Darby’s indictment. “And on these particular facts of the case, we had concern.”
Wednesday’s hearing is likely to give the public a clearer picture of the evidence prosecutors and the defense have in the murder case. Three FBI agents, and the officers who were on scene with Darby that day, are expected to testify.
Madison County Circuit Judge Donna Pate will ultimately decide if Darby proved that he acted in self-defense, or that the case needs to move forward to a jury trial.
The hearing is set to begin at 9 a.m. Wednesday morning. You can count on WHNT News 19 to keep you up to date with the very latest on this case on air, WHNT.com, and the WHNT News app throughout the day.