Immunity rejected for officer after overturned conviction

Apr 30, 2023, 11:52 AM

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama judge has rejected a former police officer’s claim that he should be immune under self-defense laws from a new trial on murder charges.

William “Ben” Darby, whose 2021 murder conviction was overturned in March by the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, had asked for a hearing to determine whether Alabama’s “stand your ground” law should shield the former Huntsville officer from a second trial.

Madison County Circuit Judge Alan Mann ruled against the motion Tuesday without elaborating.

Darby was on duty in 2018 when he shot and killed Jeffrey Parker, who was holding a gun to his own head. Parker had phoned 911 saying he was armed and planned to kill himself.

Darby was sentenced to 25 years in prison after a jury convicted him.

A different judge ruled Darby was not immune under self-defense rules before the original trial. But his lawyers said that ruling needs to be reconsidered after the appeals court ruled the trial judge should have given jurors different instructions on evaluating the reasonableness of Darby’s use of deadly force in that situation.

“If the trial court applied the wrong self-defense standard at trial, then the trial court presumably applied the wrong standard at the immunity hearing, too,” lawyers Robert Tuten and Nick Lough argued in their April 13 motion.

Darby’s defense attorneys have maintained the shooting was justified because he feared Parker would harm officers. Alabama’s self-defense law says officers are justified in using deadly physical force when they believe it necessary to defend themselves or others from what they reasonably believe “to be the use or imminent use of deadly physical force.”

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. She and a third officer on the scene testified at trial that they did not perceive Parker to be an imminent threat, although he was holding a gun.

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 knew that, the appellate court wrote.

Video from Darby’s body camera showed the officer entered the home and told Parker to put the gun down before shooting.

Darby was released from prison April 13 and is scheduled to be retried Dec. 11.

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Immunity rejected for officer after overturned conviction