HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Lawyers suing Huntsville Police Department Officer William Darby and the City of Huntsville over the 2018 killing of Jeffery Parker want the court to allow the lawsuit to go forward now that Darby has been convicted of murder.
The wrongful death lawsuit filed on behalf of Parker’s family was stayed in April 2020 at Darby’s request, according to a Tuesday court filing.
Darby was convicted of murder May 7 after a jury deliberated for about six hours.
Civil lawsuits are generally stayed when there is a related criminal proceeding to ensure that a defendant facing criminal charges isn’t forced to give up their 5th Amendment rights against self-incrimination by being made to testify in the civil case.
Attorneys for Parker’s family argue in the new court filing that the stay should be lifted since Darby testified in open court in the criminal trial.
A hearing is set for June 21 on the matter. The defendants were given until June 9 to file a response to the motion to lift the stay.
Darby killed Parker in an on-duty shooting in April 2018. Parker had called 911 telling a dispatcher he planned to kill himself.
Darby was the third officer on the scene. Prosecutors argued his claims of self-defense were invalid because he was the aggressor at the scene, shooting Parker 11 seconds after he entered Parker’s home. The defense argued Darby was acting to protect himself and another officer, who they contend was exposed to the armed Parker.
Parker’s gun never moved from his head, according to testimony. Darby issued multiple commands for Parker to drop the gun before shooting him with a shotgun.
The defense said it plans to appeal and the City of Huntsville has said Darby remains on the city’s payroll, while he is paid his accrued leave time. A Huntsville Police Department shooting review board cleared Darby in the shooting, but he was indicted by a Madison County grand jury in August 2018.
In Wednesday’s court filing the plaintiffs contend the court ordered Darby to notify the court within seven days of a judgment in his criminal case. The plaintiffs say Darby still hasn’t informed the court of the guilty verdict.
The plaintiffs contend it is time for the lawsuit to be allowed to move forward.
“Regardless, there is no longer any reason for this case to be stayed. The purpose of the stay was to protect Darby’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. However, because Darby voluntarily testified at his trial, he has waived and lost his privilege,” the filing argues.
The plaintiffs say attorneys for Darby and the City of Huntsville oppose lifting the stay.
“Both Darby and the City oppose a lifting of the stay,” the filing contends. “They would like the stay to continue until after the sentencing hearing, which will take place on August 20, 2021.
“With respect, the defendants’ request to extend the stay another three months is untethered to the reasons the stay was put in effect in the first place. The stay was ordered to protect Darby’s Fifth Amendment rights.
“Darby, however, did not seek the protections of the Fifth Amendment at his criminal trial. Much work could have been done in this civil case if Darby had disclosed earlier that he did not intend to rely on the privilege. And again, the City has no privilege and no basis to continue the stay at all.”
We’ve reached out to Darby’s attorney and the City of Huntsville for comment. We’ll update this story with any responses they provide.