The verdict in the murder trial of Huntsville Police Officer William Darby for the wrongful death of Jeffrey Parker came in just minutes ago and I am still in shock. It’s not that I thought Darby to be innocent, I didn’t, it’s that a jury actually convicted a Huntsville Police Officer. This morning, I was keeping an eye on local tweets and was surprised when reporters indicated a verdict had been reached. It didn’t take long and I figured that meant yet another open and shut slap on the back for a bad cop about to walk free. Not so.
In the Derek Chauvin trial, I wasn’t surprised at the guilty verdict. A bit chagrined because it’s still difficult to prosecute a cop. But, the video was obvious. He was guilty and it didn’t seem likely any jury, however biased in favor of law-enforcement, would be able to ignore the evidence.
Following Darby’s case in mainstream media I had in fact come to the conclusion that he was guilty. Even still, doubts lingered because the body-cam video hadn’t been released to the public. Refusal to release video usually means the cops don’t want you to see what really did happen. And like in the Derek Chauvin trial it appears that the video made the difference.
And it makes me wonder. How different woulda coulda been William Darby’s trial if not for the delays due to Covid? Even seeing the video I wonder if the jury would have been as quickly convinced if they hadn’t lived through a year of George Floyd, Derek Chauvin and the BLM protests including all the civil unrest, the vandalism, the occupation of Portland and the burning of Wendy’s in Atlanta, etc. Frankly, I think Darby would still have gotten off, even with the video.
There are two takeaways in Darby’s guilty verdict. First, the video. Cops started using body-cam sometime ago, and people everywhere are using cell phones to record cops in action. While the body-cams have been making a difference in less publicized cases for years, we now finally see where they have become the last straw in bringing bad cops to justice. The video is a game changer. The second change is that 2020’s Summer of Discontent seems to have made a real difference in public tolerance toward law-enforcement corruption – even in Huntsville.
Officer Darby had been cleared of wronging by the department and the rubber stamp “Independent” Citizens Advisory Council. But the jury decided. Finally, cops aren’t above the law, and they are not above reproach. And, “departmental policy” isn’t necessarily the law. Law-enforcement cannot make their own rules.
Already reports and statements are coming in by Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, Police Chief McMurray and others saying they disagree and that the case will be overturned with appeal. Hopefully not. The public as represented by the jury has come around the bend and this should be a turning point, especially for Mayor Tommy Battle, to finally get the message and listen to what he is being told. Law-enforcement in Huntsville is out of control. They must be accountable and must be demilitarized.
Madison County District Attorney Rob Broussard is to be commended for seeing the wrongful death of Jeffrey Parker and for holding William Darby accountable. But Broussard is now saying that it’s about Darby, not the department. I strongly disagree. There are a lot of good cops doing a good job day in and day out and they deserve credit. But there are also a lot of bad cops, in Huntsville, whose arrogance and false sense of authoritarianism is wrong and must be eradicated. There is no doubt, there is a problem in the hiring process, the training process and the infiltration of affinity cultism and their protocols into the department.
Separation of Church and State is constitutional law and may be the most important tenet upon which this country was founded. Authoritarian, combatant, police officers with cult agendas are an existential threat to our democracy and can no longer be tolerated. And by the way, I am conservative and by no means a parrot for democratic socialists. But the denials of these obviously real problems have gone on for far too long and only serve to fuel the backlash by extremists both left and right.
©2021 – Jim Casey