HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Seasoned Defense Attorney Bruce Gardner blasted the city for using the community’s tax dollars to fund Huntsville Police Officer William Benjamin Darby’s defense. Darby, 25, was charged with murder, and indicted by a Madison County grand jury, in the killing of 49-year-old Jeffery Louis Parker at Parker’s home.
At Battle’s urging at Thursday’s meeting, the city council agreed to give Darby up to $75,000 for his defense. Battle said he is willing to spend as much taxpayer money as it takes to defend Darby.
“We don’t need to put a dollar tag on him, we need to back him,” Battle said. “That’s the case in this case. We have had an IA investigation, and we’ve looked at it and it was in policy, and it’s shown to be in policy.”
The action refers to April 3, when Parker had called 911 saying he was suicidal.
Mayor Battle released a statement last Friday supporting the officer when he was charged with murder, and indicted. Battle doubled down at the meeting.
“He acted within policy of the city of Huntsville, resulted in him having a criminal trial, we need to back him,” Battle said.
Garder said defense for murder costs at least $25,000. Along with footing the bill for the defense, taxpayers are paying for the courts and prosecutor.
Taxpayers are now paying for Darby to retain attorney Robert Tuten. If Darby could not afford him, he could have a court-appointed attorney. Instead, Darby has the city’s checkbook.
The mayor said he has watched the body cam video of the April 3 fatal shooting. Battle sided with the police department’s internal review board.
“I really feel like there must have been something compelling in the video for these prosecutors to indict this officer at great risk, I think, to their relationship to the police department, who ultimately, they all work together,” Gardner said.
WHNT News 19 requested the body cam video before the court put a gag-order in place.
“Obviously at some point the mayor and the city council have made some sort of value-judgement that, regardless, they’re going to be on this guy’s side, regardless, and expect us to pay for it,” Gardner said.
The city said they have put down money for city employee’s civil cases in the past, but City Attorney Trey Riley believes this case is a first.
“This is an unusual circumstance, I think we can all agree,” Riley said at Thursday’s meeting.
“I have to tell you, I think it’s unprecedented,” Gardner said. “I’m absolutely shocked that the mayor and the city council, would jump in and fund, at taxpayers’ expense, the officer’s defense. I don’t get it, and I don’t understand it, and I think it’s wrong.”