Gag order in place for case of Huntsville police officer indicted for murder
HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - A gag order is now in place in the case of William Darby, the Huntsville police officer indicted for murder.
The defense and prosecutors met with a judge on Monday and Circuit Judge Donna Pate issued an order prohibiting those involved in the investigations from making any statements.
Veteran Huntsville attorney Mark McDaniel knows the case is one many are following.
"It's something that will be looked at by a lot of people, mental health people and law enforcement," he said.
Darby is charged with murder following an April shooting on Deramus Avenue. Jeffery Parker, 49, a suicidal caller, lost his life.
"In Alabama, you don't have those requirements of premeditation or malice aforethought. All you have to prove in Alabama to convict a person of murder is did they intend to kill this other person. Then you look to whatever, if any, defenses they had," McDaniel explained.
Huntsville police were called at 4:30 p.m. on April 3 to the 6400 block of Deramus Avenue regarding a possible suicidal person.
Parker, who was also the caller, stated he had a gun. During a brief verbal exchange, and after several commands for Parker to drop the weapon, one shot was fired by one of the officers, striking Parker, and he died as a result, Huntsville police said in a press release after the incident.
There were three officers on the scene and all of them have been placed on administrative leave per departmental policy.
An incident review board was convened after the officer-involved shooting and the city revealed that the panel found that "all officers involved performed within Huntsville Police Policies, Procedures and Training."
Also in attendance were representatives from the Madison County district attorney's office, Huntsville City Legal, Huntsville Police Department training staff and members from the Huntsville Citizen Advisory Council.
A review of the case included all video footage, physical evidence and officer testimony.
"Officer Darby performed his duties in accordance with his training and he has our support at this time," said Huntsville Police Chief Mark McMurray.
The case was then presented to a Madison County grand jury who moved to indict Darby last week.
" Usually what you are looking at whether an officer reasonably feared for his life before he was forced to take deadly physical force and on these particular facts of the case we had concern that this was not a justified shooting and because of that we put it to a grand jury," said Madison County District Attorney Robert Broussard.
McDaniel says the district attorney's office wouldn't be doing their job if they didn't present it to a grand jury.
"A shooting review board is not the grand jury. There's nothing in the Constitution about a shooting review board. There is something in the Constitution about a grand jury. Any DA in this state would have presented this case to the grand jury because that's what you do in instances like this and then the grand jury decides what to do with it," McDaniel added.
Robert Tuten, a former police officer, is representing Darby. He was not able to respond to requests for an interview on Monday due to the gag order.
Body cam footage hasn't been released to the media. There's video from all three officers who were on the scene.
"You've got a body cam, you have cameras there that the jury is going to be able to look at and they're going to be able to decide the issue," McDaniel said.
Huntsville police declined to comment further on the case on Monday.
"At this time, we're not going to give comment on the incident review board procedures as they are closely tied to this case," Lt. Michael Johnson, their spokesman, stated.
But the Huntsville Police Department and the city released information about the incident review board to explain who is on the board and how it works.
McMurray sets up the panels, and they are made up of captains.
The board is always set up at the discretion of the chief of police per policy and he believes the captains are best suited to determine findings and ruling because they are charged with policy decisions every day. They also develop new proposals for the department related to changes.
According to the city, the board members change every time a panel meets to review an incident.
Darby has been employed by the Huntsville Police Department for two years. His gun and badge and police credentials were taken, but he is still an officer.
Darby was placed on administrative duties after the shooting. He's being paid with admin leave per city policy.
Pate's gag order reads:
All attorneys in this matter, including the Madison County District Attorney's Office, their staff, employees and members of law enforcement, as well as the defendant, attorneys for the Defendant, their staff and employees, are prohibited from making any statements, oral or in written form, which they have reasons to believe will be disseminated to the public through written or electronic media or any kind, as to any aspect of this case with the exception of the scheduling and nature of hearings, trial, or other matters before this Court.
A status update is scheduled for next month. On Oct. 5, the state and defense will announce whether or not they are ready for trial. If they are ready, that should take place on Oct. 29.
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