Federal judge denies City of Huntsville’s dismissal from Darby lawsuit

Federal judge denies City of Huntsville’s dismissal from Darby lawsuit
Published: Sep. 30, 2022 at 6:24 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - On Friday afternoon a federal judge denied the City of Huntsville’s request to be removed from the trial of former Huntsville Police Department officer William Darby.

Darby is charged with the 2018 murder of Jeffery Parker.

According to the opinion and order filed, Douglas Martinson, a representative of Parker’s family, alleges that the City of Huntsville had a ‘policy, custom and/or practice that caused Officer Darby’s unconstitutional conduct.’

Martinson also stated that Darby shooting and killing Parker was a violation of his 4th amendment right to be free from excessive force.

On the fourth page of the document it reads that City officials maintained that Darby’s “use of force was proper” and “he followed the City’s policies on the use of force.” This was a belief the City maintained even after Darby was convicted in May 2021.

The judge also stated that the City’s overarching argument is that Martinson’s allegations fail to plausibly establish that its policies caused Darby’s unconstitutional conduct.

Martinson alleges that in the years before and after Parker’s death, the City had a policy of encouraging HPD officers to commit acts of “aggression and escalation when dealing with mentally ill/suicidal person.”

In the order, Martinson says this was the driving force behind Darby’s use of unconstitutional force against Parker.

The following is how the Court addressed the issue:

The Court continued with three scenarios of Municipal “policies”:

  • where a legislative body enacts an official municipal policy;
  • where final policymakers acquiesce in a longstanding practice that constitutes “standard operating procedure”;
  • where final policymakers ratify a subordinate’s unconstitutional conduct.

Martinson further asserts that three HPD supervisors investigated the incident and reported that Darby “followed the City’s use of force policies” and his use of “use of deadly force was proper and just.”

The City, however, did not respond to this conclusion, instead, they argued that Martinson failed to establish a plausible municipal liability claim under the theories of “failure to train” and “ratification.”

In the conclusion of the order, the Court viewed Martinson’s allegations in light most favorable to him. Through that view Martinson’s allegations permit the two following inferences:

  1. Officer Darby violated Parker’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from excessive force; and
  2. the City had a “use of force” policy that caused Officer Darby’s unconstitutional conduct.