Jury selection done, opening statements in murder trial for HPD officer set to begin

Huntsville

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The trial of a Huntsville Police officer charged with murder began Monday.

Officer William Darby is charged in the April, 2018 on-duty shooting death of Jeffery Parker. Parker called 911, saying he felt suicidal.

Officer Darby was the third officer to respond to Parker’s home. Parker was killed by Darby after refusing to drop a gun that Parker had been holding to his own head.

A jury for the trial was seated Monday.

During the questioning of the 60-person jury panel, both sides hit on issues that will frame this case. Prosecutor Tim Gann stressed that the Huntsville Police Department and police, in general, aren’t on trial.

Instead, it’s the trial of one officer, William Darby.

Gann also raised the idea that in every profession there are bad apples. He cited the clergy, medicine, and law enforcement.

The stakes are obviously very high, but the set-up for this trial will be different. The case will be heard in one courtroom, spectators will be in a separate room, and the media in a third room, watching it via Zoom.

Community members gathered outside of the courthouse Monday to voice their concerns about police brutality, lack of accountability, and how the city has so far handled the case.

Since the grand jury indictment, Officer Darby has remained employed by Huntsville Police in an administrative role and the city council approved paying his legal defense bills for up to about $125,000.

During jury selection, the defense signaled that it will bring up self-defense in the trial. Basically, that is was justifiable homicide, that Darby was dealing with a life-threatening situation.

There was also talk that police trainers and training experts could be called by the defense regarding Darby’s conduct.

Defense attorney Robert Tuten said that if Darby claims self-defense, the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt why that doesn’t apply in the killing of Jeffery Parker.

The trial is expected to open Tuesday morning. Judge Donna Pate will explain rules jurors must follow, what the burden of proof is for prosecutors and what the law says about the murder charge against Darby.

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