HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — Former Huntsville Police Department officer William Darby has filed an appeal of his murder conviction, with the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals.
The appeal brief was originally due December 14, 2021, but Darby’s attorneys were granted extensions to file their appeal arguments.
Darby’s attorneys cited two main issues that they would like to present to the court in oral argument.
One deals with the fact that most spectators, including the media, watched the trial through a live video feed, rather than in person, due to court-ordered COVID-19 protocols. There were several short instances when the court camera and audio were cut off, or not immediately on, leaving spectators uncertain as to what took place.
The defense is also asking the court to consider its objections to Circuit Judge Donna Pate’s rejection of certain jury instructions. The instructions, as the brief describes it, focused on “how the jury should consider Mr. Darby’s actions through the lens of a reasonable police officer based on his training.”
The defense is asking the court to consider the issue of a matter of “first impression,” essentially the first time the issue has been raised at the appellate court level.
Regarding the closure of the courtroom due to COVID-19, the defense says Judge Pate should not have denied its motion for a new trial.
“The circuit court erred in denying Mr. Darby’s motion for a new trial on account of the unconstitutional courtroom closure that infected his proceedings,” the defense wrote. “The circuit court violated Mr. Darby’s Sixth Amendment right to a public trial when it failed to properly broadcast his trial in the manner it said it would at the outset of proceedings. The circuit court had before it unequivocal evidence that improper closures occurred and that the proper guidelines weren’t followed to close the courtroom, creating a structural error.”
The defense also contends the court abused its discretion concerning the rejection of certain jury instructions.
“These instructions were critical to important issues the jury must consider regarding the interaction of a police officer with a subject who presented a danger to the officer and wouldn’t comply with lawful commands. The circuit court again abused its discretion in refusing to give the instruction,” the defense argues.
And, it argues, the heart of the case is that Darby acted properly in the shooting death of Parker.
“Finally, Mr. Darby’s conviction must be vacated because the great weight of the evidence supported a finding that Mr. Darby properly acted in self-defense during the events in question,” the defense argues. ”Mr. Darby’s training coupled with the dynamics of his encounter with Jeffrey Parker led to one, and only one, conclusion: that Mr. Darby was reasonable in his determination that the use of deadly physical force was necessary in his encounter with Jeffrey Parker.”
In April 2018, Darby shot and killed 49-year-old Jeffery Parker as he sat in his home on Deramus Avenue with a gun to his head, talking to another Huntsville police officer who arrived at the scene before Darby. Parker had called 911 and told a dispatcher he planned to shoot himself.
Darby maintained the shooting was justified, but prosecutors said Darby’s actions that day were so far outside of his training and the law that he needed to be held accountable. He was found guilty of murder in May and sentenced to 25 years in prison in August.
In September Darby’s attorney requested a new trial, but Madison County Circuit Court Judge Donna Pate denied that motion.
Online prison records show he is currently in the Kilby Correctional Facility in Montgomery.