An Alabama judge has rejected a former police officer’s claim for immunity under self-defense laws from a retrial on murder charges after being released from prison in April.
William “Ben” Darby, a former Huntsville police officer, was convicted of murder in 2021 for shooting and killing Jeffrey Parker, who was holding a gun to his own head at the time.
After serving over a year in prison, Darby’s conviction was overturned in March by the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals.
He sought immunity from a retrial under the state’s “stand your ground” law but was denied.
Madison County District Attorney Rob Broussard said they will try to prosecute Darby again. “Probably the easiest way to picture it, is it’s as if he’s been charged, but there’s never been a trial. It’s almost like you’re back at the starting point, and obviously, we’ll pursue it again,” he said.
Madison County Circuit Judge Alan Mann made the decision to deny Darby’s request for immunity but did not elaborate on the decision.
Darby’s lawyers argued that Darby should be granted immunity from a retrial based on the appeals court’s decision that found that the judge from the original trial erred in not providing jurors different instructions on evaluating the reasonableness of Darby’s use of deadly force, as well as not explaining standard police officer training in such situations.
“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 a court motion filed on April 13.
During the original trial, it was revealed that Darby shot Parker seconds after entering the home where Parker had called 9-1-1 to say he was armed and planned to kill himself.
Another officer was speaking with Parker when Darby arrived, persuading him not to kill himself.
While both officers testified that they did not perceive Parker to be an imminent threat, Darby’s defense attorneys have maintained that the shooting was justified because Darby feared that Parker would harm the officers.
Alabama’s self-defense law states that the use of deadly physical force is justified when officers believe it is necessary to defend themselves or others from what they reasonably believe to be the use or imminent use of deadly physical force.
Video from Darby’s body camera showed him entering the home and telling Parker to put the gun down before shooting. It was later determined that Parker was holding a flare gun painted black, but there was no evidence to suggest that any of the officers knew this at the time.
Darby’s lawyers said he is confident he acted appropriately.
“I’ve been very impressed with Ben’s confidence, he knew he was right, he knew he followed the law as he had been trained to do, and this opinion shows that he in fact did, and we knew that going into that trial,” they said. “I told the news that that conviction could not and would not stand.”
In the original trial, the defense argued that Darby shot Parker due to his being armed and obeying the officer’s instructions to drop his weapon.
Darby was released from prison on April 13, and is scheduled to be retried on December 11.