Appeals court denies Huntsville Police officer’s request to have murder charge thrown out

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals has denied a Huntsville police officer’s request to overturn a lower court ruling that found he did not act in self-defense when he killed a Huntsville man in April 2018, court records show.

The ruling, which would have ended the case if the court had sided with the defense, may clear the way for the scheduling of a murder trial for officer William Darby. The defense also seems to have the option of appealing to the Alabama Supreme Court.

Darby’s attorneys had petitioned the appeals court arguing that Madison County Circuit Judge Donna Pate was wrong in ruling that Darby didn’t have immunity based on his self-defense claim for the on-duty shooting of Jeffrey Parker at Parker’s home on Deramus Avenue.

A hearing was held on Darby’s self-defense claim on April 3. Darby testified, as did two fellow officers who were at the scene. The defense also called experts in police use of force. Body camera footage from the officers was also played in the courtroom.

Pate ruled the next day that Darby did not act in self-defense. His lawyers appealed that ruling April 15.

But their petition was denied Friday.

The court appeared to fault the defense, pointing out that a petition arguing for a judge to be overruled normally includes a record of the proceeding – in this case an April 4 hearing – that led to the ruling.

The appeals court said a mandamus petition normally includes, “parts of the record that would be essential to understanding of the matters set forth in the petition.” It went on, “It is not this Court’s responsibility to request additional materials to determine whether a petitioner is entitled to mandamus relief.”

In its ruling, the court said, “Based on the materials before us, Darby has not demonstrated that he has a clear legal right to the requested relief.”

Darby’s attorney, Robert Tuten, had argued that Darby acted in self-defense and to protect his fellow officers from an armed Parker. Parker had called 911 saying he planned to shoot himself in the head.

The prosecution had argued Parker was not aggressive or hostile when talking to the first two officers who appeared on the scene. Darby was the third officer to respond. Prosecutors said Darby escalated the situation, approaching Parker with a shotgun, demanding that he drop the weapon. After a third warning – in which Parker didn’t seem to move the gun from his own head – Darby fired, killing Parker.

In the filing, Tuten argued one of Darby’s fellow officers didn’t follow police procedure and was in a vulnerable position when Darby arrived. The defense petition argued, “officers are not required to wait until the armed subject points his gun at officers to use deadly force.” The defense also argued Darby had specialized training.

“One should realize that these events occurred in a matter of seconds,” the filing argued. “The Petitioner’s mental state and reasonableness should be judged not as an average, ordinary person, but as a highly trained police officer with specialized threat assessment and officer survival training, skills and experience.”

The Huntsville Police Department cleared Darby of wrongdoing in May of 2018, but he was indicted by a Madison County grand jury in August 2018.

The City of Huntsville is paying up to $125,000 for Darby’s defense, after finding he followed police department policy.

Updated at 3:56 p.m. to include appeal options.

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