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Alabama officer still getting paid after murder conviction

July 8, 2021 GMT

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama police officer is still getting paid two months after he was convicted of murder.

Huntsville officer William Ben Darby was stripped of his law enforcement certification after a jury May 7 found him guilty of murdering Jeff Parker, a man who told police he was suicidal. Darby is free on bond while awaiting sentencing Aug. 20 in Madison County Circuit Court.

Documents obtained through an open records request show that Darby remains employed by the police department and has been paid about $2,100 before taxes every two weeks since his conviction, AL.com reported Thursday.

The records show Darby, since his conviction, has been on paid sick leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, the federal law that requires employers to give workers extended time off for medical or family reasons.

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An email sent to Huntsville police officers from the address of Police Chief Mark McMurray on May 20 asked officers to donate unused leave time to an unnamed employee. City officials declined to say whether the request was made for Darby. McMurray denied sending the email, saying his secretary may have sent it on behalf of the city’s human resources department.

“I would never send out any email asking for donations from my office,” McMurray said.

Huntsville’s police department and city council have supported Darby ever since the fatal shooting. An internal police review board cleared the officer of wrongdoing. And the city council voted to pay for Darby’s criminal defense with public money.

Following Darby’s conviction, McMurray and Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle released statements disputing the jury’s verdict.

In 2018, officers were dispatched to Parker’s home after he called 911 saying he was suicidal and had a gun. Two officers found Parker, who was white, sitting on a couch and holding a gun to his own head when they arrived, according to evidence presented at Darby’s trial.

One officer told jurors she was talking to Parker, 49, when Darby entered the house, ordered Parker to drop his weapon and shot him with a shotgun within seconds.

Prosecutors argued that Darby had no justifiable reason to open fire. Darby testified that he shot Parker in defense of himself and other officers because he feared Parker might shoot them. The gun Parker had was later revealed to be a flare gun.

Darby faces a prison sentence of 20 years to life, prosecutors have said.