Huntsville silent on costs of HPD officer’s murder defense and how long he’ll stay on paid leave

Alabama News

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Nearly two weeks after Huntsville Police Department officer Ben Darby was convicted of murder he remains on paid leave from the City of Huntsville.

News 19 has asked Huntsville officials multiple times when the city’s disciplinary process – necessary for terminating an employee – will take place. City officials said again Wednesday that no hearing date has been set.

Huntsville did not respond to questions about why the hearing hasn’t been set, if Police Chief Mark McMurray had requested Darby’s termination and whether the city was waiting until Darby’s sentencing hearing, or even the exhaustion of his appeals process, before removing him from the city payroll.

Darby, 28, was convicted May 7 of murder in the April 2018 on-duty shooting death of Jeffery Parker at Parker’s home on Deramus Avenue. Parker had called 911 and told the dispatcher he planned to shoot himself.

Darby, the third officer on the scene, was inside Parker’s home for 11 seconds — and asked Parker several times to drop the gun he was pointing at his own head — before fatally shooting Parker with a shotgun. The Huntsville Police Department cleared Darby in the shooting about a month after the incident, but he was indicted by a Madison County grand jury in August 2018.

Following that indictment in August 2018, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle urged the city council in to help pay for Darby’s defense. The council agreed to pay up to $75,000 and later, after the defense asked for an additional $25,000, voted to cap its support of Darby at $125,000.

In Alabama, a court-appointed lawyer defending a murder case can’t receive more than $4,000 total, with no exceptions. 

News 19 has asked the City of Huntsville multiple times how much it has spent on Darby’s defense. A city spokesperson said Wednesday they were still waiting for billing from Darby’s attorneys. It remains unclear if the city had already written a check for $75,000 early on in the case, after the initial council vote.

Darby’s murder trial lasted a week. Jurors deliberated about six hours over two days before convicting Darby. The defense had argued the armed Parker was a threat to Darby and other officers at the scene. The prosecution contended Parker was not aggressive and did not constitute an imminent threat to Darby.

Darby’s lawyers have vowed to appeal the verdict. Madison County Circuit Judge Donna Pate ordered a pre-sentencing investigation and allowed up to six weeks for that process to be completed. Judge Pate hasn’t set a sentencing date yet. Darby faces a sentence between 20 years to life in prison for the murder conviction.

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