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Appeals Court Reverses Alabama Cop’s Murder Conviction For Shooting Suicidal Man

Huntsville, AL – The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals on Friday reversed the murder conviction of Huntsville Police Officer William Ben Darby and ordered a new trial for the incarcerated cop.

Officer Darby was found guilty of the murder of a suicidal man in May of 2021 and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

The Huntsville Police Department (HPD) had investigated the officer-involved shooting and determined it was justified, but that didn’t stop prosecutors from bringing charges against the officer.

The shooting occurred on the afternoon of April 3, 2018 after Jeffrey Parker called 911 and told the dispatcher he was suicidal and had a gun, AL.com reported.

Officers responded to Parker’s home and when they arrived, found him sitting on his sofa holding a gun to his own head.

Huntsville Police Officer Genisha Pegues went into the house ahead of Officer Darby and began trying to talk Parker down, WHNT reported.

Bodycam video showed that when Officer Darby arrived, he grabbed his shotgun from his patrol vehicle and sprinted into the house to assist.

Less than a minute after Officer Darby entered the home, he fatally shot Parker, the video showed.

The Huntsville Police Department’s shooting review board investigated and determined the shooting was justified in May of 2018, WHNT reported.

The review board found that “all officers involved performed within Huntsville Police policies, procedures and training.”

But despite those findings, the Madison County District Attorney’s Office took the case before a grand jury and got an indictment against Officer Darby on murder charges, WHNT reported.

The police department and the city of Huntsville have stood behind Officer Darby throughout his trial and appeal, AL.com reported.

“Officer Darby followed the appropriate safety protocols in his response on the scene,” Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said in a statement minutes after the 2021 verdict. “He was doing what he was trained to do in the line of duty. Fortunately, Officer Darby has the same appeal rights as any other citizen and is entitled to exercise those rights.”

The city paid Officer Darby’s legal defense bills and has kept him on the city payroll even after the jury found him guilty of murder.

On March 24, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals reversed Officer Darby’s conviction and said the officer should have a new trial, AL.com reported.

The court said in its ruling that it found Officer Darby had presented evidence to support a self-defense claim but the judge didn’t instruct the jury on how to consider it properly.

Madison County Circuit Judge Donna Pate should have given the jury instructions to decide the case from the perspective of a reasonable police officer, according to the opinion.

“Of course, the jury was not required to accept that testimony as conclusive, and it is possible that the jury simply did not find the testimony persuasive,” the appeals court wrote in its ruling. “However, it is equally possible that the jury did not base its verdict upon its careful consideration and weighing of the testimony and evidence but, rather, upon a faulty understanding of its duty to view that testimony and evidence from the proper perspective.”

The court said in its ruling that it couldn’t deal in “possibilities,” AL.com reported.

“If we cannot conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the jury evaluated Darby’s use of deadly force from the proper perspective, then we cannot conclude that the trial court committed harmless error by refusing to give (Darby’s) requested instruction…or some similarly worded instruction,” the ruling read.

Officer Darby will remain in prison while the Alabama Attorney General’s Office decides whether to ask for a rehearing, AL.com reported.

The state could also appeal the ruling to the Alabama Supreme Court.

Written by
Sandy Malone

Managing Editor - Twitter/@SandyMalone_ - Prior to joining The Police Tribune, Sandy wrote the Politics.Net column for the Wall Street Journal and was managing editor of Campaigns & Elections magazine. More recently, she was an internationally-syndicated columnist for Conde Nast (BRIDES), The Huffington Post, and Monsters and Critics. Sandy is married to a retired police captain and former SWAT commander.

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Written by Sandy Malone


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