Man sentenced to death in 2019 killing of Ala. officer on drug task force
Officer Billy Clardy III was 48 years old when he was shot and killed in December 2019 during an undercover drug operation
By Paul Gattis
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — A Madison County jury on Friday sentenced to death a man who admitted to shooting and killing an on-duty Huntsville police officer. Billy Clardy III was 48 years old when LaJeromeny Brown shot him three times on Dec. 6, 2019, during an undercover drug operation in north Huntsville.
“I know, in so many words, he’s telling the family and friends to rest” said Sgt. Joe Kennington, the head of the drug task force of which Clardy was a member. “‘Hey, we won. We got this.’”
Clardy’s father, Billy Clardy Jr., died while on duty as a Huntsville police officer in a car accident in 1978.
Brown, a Chattanooga man in Huntsville that December day four years ago to sell 100 pounds of marijuana, killed Clardy during an undercover drug operation. The jury on Tuesday found him guilty of capital murder. On Friday, the jury completed its task by determining the sentence following three full days of deliberation.
After Brown received his death sentence and was being escorted from the courtroom by sheriff’s deputies, his mother repeatedly asked, “Can I hug my son?” Brown raised his right hand toward his mother and nodded as he left as if to say he was OK.
The jury voted 10-2 for death — the minimum number of votes required to impose the death penalty. That’s a lower threshold than a capital murder conviction, which mandates a unanimous verdict.
“I told others, in other states and in even the federal jurisdiction, it requires a unanimous vote put somebody to death,” Brown defense attorney Bruce Gardner said. “This statute, it just, you know, Alabama, let’s just face it, it wants to make it easy to put people to death, and they’ve sure succeeded.”
Chief Deputy District Attorney Tim Gann, who prosecuted the case along with Chief Trial Attorney Tim Douthit, said the jury reached the proper verdict and sentence.
“We’re very happy with the work that (the jury) did in this case,” Gann said. “We’re very happy with the result. It’s a fitting result for what this case was and what this case was about. We believe that justice was served.”
For the jury, reaching the sentence did not come easy. The jury sent a note to Circuit Judge Chris Comer on Friday morning saying they were deadlocked and asked for guidance. The judge called the jury back into the courtroom and gave what’s known as the “dynamite charge” or “Allen charge,” strongly encouraging the jury to work to reach a decision. The judge told the jury that the conviction would be dismissed if they are unable to reach a sentence and that no future jury would have more evidence or information to make a decision that they do.
About 5½ hours later, the jury announced it had reached a sentencing verdict.
“All we wanted was justice for Billy,” said Clardy’s widow, Ashley Clardy Boyd. “And we feel like we’ve gotten that. And we just want to thank the community. Of course, you know, we’ll never be able to thank the DAs office for everything they did. But we truly feel like we got justice for Billy.”
Moments later, Clardy’s widow joined with other family members and Clardy’s colleagues on the drug task force unit as they stood behind Huntsville Police Chief Kirk Giles when he addressed the media.
“This chapter may be closed but the book is still open,” Giles said. “Our department, our communities and our families have got to move forward at this point and we are. Billy’s life was not in vain. Billy chose to serve this community — not only as a police officer but also as the veteran serving in Iraq.
“Billy basically filled the legacy that his father started when he was a police officer and killed in the line of duty in 1978. So we would all strive as police officers and people to be a person like Billy and a police officer like Billy because he was a cop’s cop.”
A 2017 Alabama law gave full authority to juries to determine the sentences in capital murder conviction cases, ending a practice where the jury would make a recommendation to the judge – who would then have the final say.
The drug task force set up the operation at an abandoned north Huntsville house on Levert Street. Brown shot and killed Clardy – who moved in to take Brown into custody from a hidden position in the house. Brown immediately fled the scene and other task force officers captured him after a brief foot chase about a block from the house.
Brown contended during testimony that he did not realize Clardy was a police officer. A capital murder charge is automatic for anyone charged with killing a police officer under Alabama law. And with the conviction of capital murder, it became an automatic aggravating circumstance for the jury in considering the death penalty. Prosecutors presented three other non-automatic aggravating circumstances but the jury foreman told the judge that the jury did not vote to agree on the non-automatic circumstances.