Court reverses Alabama officer’s 2021 murder conviction
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) — The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals on Friday overturned the murder conviction of a police officer convicted of killing a man who was holding a gun to his own head.
The appellate court ordered a new trial for former Huntsville officer William “Ben” Darby. The court, in tossing the murder conviction, agreed with Darby’s attorney that the trial judge should have given jurors different instructions on evaluating the reasonableness of Darby’s use of deadly force in that situation.
Darby’s defense attorneys have maintained that the shooting was justified because he feared the man would harm officers.
Darby was sentenced in 2021 to 25 years in prison for the on-duty shooting of Jeffrey Parker in 2018. Darby shot Parker while responding to a call after the man phoned 911 saying he was armed and planned to kill himself.
Trial testimony indicated Darby shot Parker, who was sitting on a sofa holding a gun to his head, within seconds of entering the home. Another officer had been speaking with Parker trying to convince him not to kill himself, according to trial testimony. It would later be determined that Parker was actually holding a flare gun that had been painted black but there is no evidence indicating that any of the officers were aware of that fact, the appellate court wrote.
Video from Darby’s body camera showed that the officer entered the home and told Darby to put the gun down before shooting.
Madison County District Attorney Rob Broussard told news outlets that they will prosecute the case again.
“We have the evidence and certainly we’ll put it before a jury again,” Broussard told al.com.
Defense attorney Robert Tuten told WHNT that Darby has maintained he acted correctly.
“I’ve been very impressed with Ben’s confidence. He knew he was right. He knew he followed the law as he had been trained to do,” Tuten said.