Murder trial for Huntsville police officer delayed again over COVID-19

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MADISON COUNTY, Ala. – COVID-19 continues to delay court proceedings in Madison County, including some of the area’s highest-profile cases.

Huntsville Police Officer William Darby was set to go on trial for murder on February 22. But the trial judge issued an order Thursday announcing the case will again be continued.

That order follows an announcement by presiding Madison County Circuit Judge Ruth Ann Hall last Friday that trials set for January and February would be delayed.

Darby was slated for a pretrial conference hearing Friday. The order by Madison County Circuit Judge Donna Pate states the hearing will be rescheduled once a new trial date is selected.

The officer’s trial was initially slated to begin in February 2020. But that changed when Judge Pate continued the trial, citing the unavailability of Darby’s defense attorneys.

Darby is charged in the April 2018 on-duty fatal shooting of Jeffery Parker at Parker’s home.

Parker had called 9-1-1 saying he was suicidal. Parker had a gun to his head, but body cam video of the shooting appeared to show it never moved, even as Darby warned him to put it down or he’d shoot. Darby, the third officer on the scene, shot parker after he ignored commands to put down the gun.

The officer was cleared by a police shooting review board, but a grand jury indicted him in August 2018 on a murder charge.

Huntsville Police Chief Mark McMurray defended Darby, saying he acted according to his training to protect another officer. Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle convinced the city council to spend up to $125,000 on Darby’s defense.

Madison County District Attorney Rob Broussard said the facts of the case show it didn’t appear to be a justified shooting.

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