Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals reverses conviction of former Huntsville PD officer
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WAFF) - The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the conviction of a former Huntsville Police Department officer who was convicted of murder for the 2018 death of Jeffery Parker.
William Darby was found guilty in May 2021 and sentenced to 25 years in prison in August 2021. Darby was arrested after he shot Parker in the face when Parker refused to put down the gun he was holding to his own head.
Madison County District Attorney Robert Broussard told WAFF 48 that the reversed conviction was not a huge surprise to him.
“It’s part of the system. There’s always a possibility of a case getting reversed,” Broussard said.
Broussard called the ruling a “technicality” and that the evidence against Darby was not the problem. The judges ruled that jurors should have been told to consider the situation in the context of how a trained police officer should be trained.
“If I told you I was so shocked that would not be true. Maybe I was somewhat surprised. I felt that the proper instructions were probably given by the judge and if the court of criminal appeals says they weren’t then so be it,” Broussard said.
Will League is a Huntsville Attorney who has no connection to this trial. He said if there is a new trial, he expects the defense to push Darby’s police training in their argument.
“I do believe that part of the defense will be that he was trained to protect himself and others in that particular situation and that he was following his training,” League said. “If there is a change in the law, as a reasonable officer would do under these circumstances, maybe that will tweak how they approach the case more. We will have to wait and see. "
As for Broussard’s reaction to the ruling, he said he trusts the system.
“If according to the court of appeals, something was not done right, then we want it done right. So we’ll be ready as if this case had never been tried.” Broussard said.
The ruling overturning Darby’s conviction is a staggering 62 pages long but the key takeaway is the appeals court found the jury had not received proper instruction from the judge overseeing the case.
“The judge instructed the jury on the law of self-defense but as self-defense applies to the ordinary citizen, not a police officer,” said Darby’s defense attorney Robert Tuten. “This opinion is very clear that the police are under a totally different standard than the average person.”
Tuten says police are expected to go into dangerous situations with the proper knowledge and training to know how to handle them. Something the average person would not know.
Tuten argued without the jury being reminded of that right before deliberations, Darby could not get a fair verdict.
Keelin Darby, William’s wife, provided a statement following the ruling saying in part: “Today’s decision by the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals is welcome news for our family as well as all of the brave men and women who serve in uniform across the country.”
A spokesperson for the City of Huntsville released the following statement regarding the ruling:
“The City of Huntsville believed there were serious errors in the Darby trial. We are grateful for the opinion of the Court of Criminal Appeals which validates those concerns. We remain committed to the judicial process and confident in that process.”
The Alabama State Fraternal Order of Police released a statement after the ruling was announced:
“The Alabama State Fraternal Order of Police is pleased that William Ben Darby’s case has been heard and overturned by the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals. Officer Darby was accused of the crime of murder while performing his duties with the Huntsville Police Department. Huntsville Police Department cleared officer Darby of any wrongdoing, and further investigation showed that officer Darby acted for the protection of other officers on the scene. We are pleased that the Court of Criminal Appeals saw that officer Darby was not afforded a fair trial and has overturned his conviction.
This is a great day for all law enforcement officers and we look forward to welcoming Ben back to his family. The Alabama State Fraternal Order of Police will continue to fight for the officers of Alabama to make sure that justice is served.”
Madison County District Attorney, Robert Broussard, said he was somewhat surprised by the court’s decision to overturn Darby’s conviction.
The Attorney General will decide whether this case will be sent back to court for a new trial.
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