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HPD Officer William Darby found guilty of murder; defense team, family speak at press conferences

Updated: May. 7, 2021 at 10:36 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Following a week-long trial, William Darby was found guilty of murdering 49-year-old Jeffery Parker in 2018.

Now Huntsville Police Officer William Darby could spend the rest of his life behind bars for the murder of Jeffery Parker in 2018.

Darby shot and killed Parker in the face with a shotgun after he refused to put down the gun he was holding to his own head.

The attorney for William Darby says there is no question, they will be appealing the decision, but a longtime friend of Jeffery Parker tells us they won’t be successful.

““He is looking forward to an appeal and I’m certain that when this is reviewed at the appellate level that this decision today will not stand,” defense attorney Robert Tuten said.

“Facts are facts. You had everything in front of you. The camera footage was there. I don’t see how you could look at it any other way,” Bill Parks, long-time friend of Jeffery Parker said.

Two very strong opinions, after a guilty verdict Friday.

Attorney Robert Tuten says the jury was not only wrong, but this decision will set a precedent for future cases if not overturned.

“It will affect every law enforcement agency in the state and how they protect their citizens, how they respond to calls with people with guns. How they respond to suicide threats,” Tuten explained.

However, the attorney representing Jeffery Parker’s family and Parker’s brother say his death resulted from major problems within the city and the police department.

“I hope that Jeff’s death results in better mental health responses nationwide, not just in Madison County but we seem to have a significant issue with that here,” Jeffery’s brother, Bill Parker said.

Darby’s legal trouble doesn’t end there, a wrongful death lawsuit has already been filed. That suit is against the city of Huntsville, which includes HPD and Darby.

“The reason we’re continuing to fight Is there is a major issue in Huntsville, we’ve seen that time and time again. If officer Darby wouldn’t have responded, Jeffery Parker would have lived. other officers were doing the morally right thing,” attorney for Parker’s family, Martin Weinberg said.

He made a decision. It was split second and it was the wrong decision. He has to live up to that,” Parks said.

Following Friday’s verdict, family and friends of Parker held a press conference with their attorney. You can hear their remarks below:

Darby’s defense team also held a press conference following Parker’s verdict. You can hear what they had to say below:

Huntsville Police Chief Mark McMurray told us the department is in a state of shock and he does not believe Darby is a murderer.

McMurray sent WAFF the following statement:

“We are in the first stages of shock. While we thank the jury for their service in this difficult case, I do not believe Officer Darby is a murderer. Officers are forced to make split-second decisions every day, and Officer Darby believed his life and the lives of other officers were in danger. Any situation that involves a loss of life is tragic. Our hearts go out to everyone involved.”

Mayor Tommy Battle told us he disagrees with the verdict and said Darby followed the appropriate safety protocols.

Read Mayor Battle’s full statement below:

While I respect the jury’s opinion, I disagree with the verdict. We recognize this was a hard case with a lot of technical information to process. Officer Darby followed the appropriate safety protocols in his response on the scene. 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.

WAFF has requested interviews with the Chief and Mayor but we were told they are out of town today.

Sentencing is scheduled for July, and Darby faces a minimum of 20 years in prison. Darby has since been released on bond for $100,000.

UPDATE (11:20 a.m.): WAFF’s Kate Smith reports the Darby trial jury has reached a verdict.

William Darby was found guilty of murder at 11:30 a.m. on May 7.

WATCH WAFF 48 NEWS AT NOON LIVE HERE FOR MORE ON THE VERDICT.

Huntsville Police Chief Mark McMurray released the following statement following the verdict:

“We are in the first stages of shock. While we thank the jury for their service in this difficult case, I do not believe Officer Darby is a murderer. Officers are forced to make split-second decisions every day, and Officer Darby believed his life and the lives of other officers were in danger. Any situation that involves a loss of life is tragic. Our hearts go out to everyone involved.”

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle also released a statement on Friday:

“While I respect the jury’s opinion, I disagree with the verdict. We recognize this was a hard case with a lot of technical information to process. Officer Darby followed the appropriate safety protocols in his response on the scene. 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.”

Defense Attorney Robert Tuten released the following statement Friday afternoon:

“Everyone is shocked by the jury’s verdict. While we appreciate their hard work and will give their verdict the respect that it deserves, we still disagree with their decision. Officer Ben Darby will appeal this verdict. Once reviewed at the Appellate level, this verdict will not stand. Officer Darby’s case is extremely important to all Alabama Law Enforcement. This case will clarify Alabama law regarding on-duty police shootings and will impact the way law enforcement protects Alabamians and perform their duties. We look forward to the appeal of this case.”

UPDATE (9:20 a.m.): WAFF reporter Tiffany Thompson has learned one of the jurors in the William Darby trial has been replaced with an alternate due to a medical emergency.

ORIGINAL: On Friday, the jury will meet again to deliberate the fate of Huntsville Police Officer William Darby.

Darby is accused of murdering Jeffery Parker, a suicidal man with a gun pointed at his own head.

Jury deliberations started at 1 p.m. on Thursday and went into the early evening hours before breaking for the day. Prosecuting attorneys presented closing arguments first on Thursday.

Assistant District Attorney Tim Douthit argued a person can use deadly physical force only in self-defense or when defending someone else if that person reasonably believes another person is using or about to use unlawful deadly physical force. Douthit said neither of these happened during this situation. He also stated Darby was the initial aggressor.

Robert Tuten closed for the defense. He said Darby is not the initial aggressor and instead was protecting not only himself but his fellow officers. Tuten noted that if an officer hesitates that can mean death. Throughout the whole week, both sides called several witnesses to the stand.

One of the witnesses was Former Officer Genisha Pegues who testified that she never felt Parker was a threat to officers on the scene. An action-reaction expert for the defense said if a police officer has a weapon sighted on a suspect holding a firearm, the suspect could still fire first before the officer. An Assistant Chief of Police from another department also testified that officers are trained action is faster than reaction.

Earlier this week attorney Mark McDaniel who isn’t on this case said the jury will have to look at the facts.

As the jury reaches a verdict we will update you.

See previous reports from this trial:

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