MARSHALL COUNTY, Ala. — Wednesday marked a sad anniversary in Guntersville.
On January 1, 2010, Guntersville Police Department Officer Tommy Bishop died. Bishop was been shot while on duty in 1993 and a bullet was lodged in his spine.
It was an unusual case, and the fate of the man who pleaded guilty to shooting Bishop remains an open question.
Cecil Eugene Looney was charged with attempted murder and assault. Looney had shot his wife in a domestic disturbance as well. Looney pleaded guilty in May 1994 to those charges and was sentenced to 80 years in prison.
But his story doesn’t end there.
After Bishop’s death in 2010, there was discussion about charging the shooter with murder, but the shooting had been 16 years earlier.
There is an old legal concept that still appears to apply based on court rulings — the year and a day rule. It basically says to charge someone with murder, you have to show the act that caused the death took place within a year of the death.
Because Looney had pleaded guilty to attempted murder, there was also the problem of double jeopardy.
“Double jeopardy, you cannot be prosecuted for the same crime twice,” said Huntsville attorney Mark McDaniel. “In other words, you know our founding fathers — the British could come in and try you and if they didn’t like the verdict they could try you again, in a military court. So, our founding fathers said ‘You can’t do that, you get one bite of the apple.'”
Looney was up for parole in 2004 and then-Attorney General Troy King spoke out against it. Currently, Looney is listed as having a parole hearing on January 1. 2020, but a parole board spokesman says that’s a mistake.
Looney is listed as being part of a pre-therapeutic community program at a medium-security facility with a program of drug rehab, education and an opportunity for a vocational degree in different trades.
WHNT News 19 asked both the parole board and attorney general’s office Thursday if it meant a parole opportunity was looming. The attorney general’s office said Looney will be afforded a parole hearing this year since his last hearing was held in 2015. They said the offices of both the Marshall County district attorney and attorney general protested at that previous parole hearing.
Attorney General Steve Marshall remains opposed to his release, a spokesman said.
A parole board spokesperson replied saying the new parole board is not granting many paroles.
“It’s important to note, though, that because someone has a parole hearing does not at all mean they are close to being paroled,” the spokesman told WHNT News 19. “Since parole hearings were resumed in November, the board has granted parole to only 8 percent of those eligible.”