Huntsville city attorneys attempt to stop release of police review hearing recordings

Prosecutors are hoping the court will force the City of Huntsville to turn over the audio and video recording made during the Incident Review Board hearing for Officer William Darby.

Posted: Sep. 25, 2018 3:21 AM
Updated: Sep. 26, 2018 5:02 PM

The City of Huntsville shouldn’t have to turn over the audio and video from a closed-door hearing. That’s the argument city attorneys made in their latest court filing in the case of an officer charged with murder.

On Monday, defense attorneys filed a Motion to Quash, which argues that they shouldn’t have to comply with a request for that piece of evidence made by prosecutors.

Officer William Darby was indicted by a grand jury in August and charged with murder in connection to the April 3 shooting death of Jeffrey Parker. Darby and two other officers responded that day to a report that Parker was potentially suicidal.

The motion was filed on Monday by City Attorney Trey Riley and Assistant City Attorney Edward E. Blair. In it, they argue that turning over audio and/or video of the Incident Review Board (IRB) hearing would equate to a violation of Officer William Darby’s Fifth Amendment rights.

Attorneys cite a statement signed by Darby on April 18, 2018, which states in part that “Refusal to answer questions that relate to performance of official duties for office (sic) will make you subject to departmental charges, which could result in dismissal from the Public Safety Department.”

They argue that because Darby was compelled to answer questions presented to him or face possible termination, use of that testimony in a criminal proceeding would be comparable to having to testify against himself and therefore violate his rights.

The document signed by Darby in April goes on to state that “If a statement is given, neither the statement nor any information or evidence gained by reason of such statement can be used against you in any subsequent criminal proceedings, except for perjury or obstruction of justice.”

Defense attorneys also submitted a letter to the court sent from Riley to Madison County District Attorney Rob Broussard as part of Monday’s filing. In it, Riley states that the request for materials related to Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) training received by officers including Darby was fulfilled on Friday, May 4.

However, in response to the request for the IRB hearing materials, Riley states that being forced to turn those over would constitute a “chilling effect on the Department’s ability to conduct administrative investigations in the future.”

In their Motion to Compel filed on September 10, prosecutors argued that they made requested the IRB recordings back on May 2 and were denied by the city attorney’s office in the previously referenced letter sent on May 8.

The district attorney’s office later issued a subpoena for the IRB recordings on August 15, but received a letter dated August 24 denying the request. Prosecutors argue in part that the city should be compelled to turn over the recordings because when the denial was made back in August, the city hadn’t submitted a motion to quash or any official objection in court.

In Monday’s filing, city attorneys offer an alternative to publicly releasing the IRB recordings. They suggest providing a sealed copy of the records to the court and another sealed copy to the defense.

“Such a resolution would protect the City’s interest in the integrity of its Incident Review Board process while also protecting the State’s now-stated concern for providing to the Defendant any exculpatory evidence available,” the motion states.

As of Tuesday morning, Judge Donna Pate has not weighed either motion. A hearing on the Motion to Compel is set for Friday, September 28, 2018.

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