5 Memphis Cops Enter Their Pleas in Tyre Nichols' Death

All 5 plead not guilty; due back in court on May 1
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 17, 2023 10:17 AM CST
5 Memphis Cops Plead Not Guilty in Death of Tyre Nichols
The screen at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans honors Tyre Nichols before an NBA game, Jan. 28, 2023. Five former Memphis, Tenn., police officers pleaded not guilty on Friday, Feb. 17, 2023, in the violent arrest and death of Nichols.   (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton, File)

Five former Memphis police officers pleaded not guilty Friday to second-degree murder and other charges in the violent arrest and death of Tyre Nichols, with the judge urging patience in a case that could "take some time." Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills Jr., Emmitt Martin III, and Justin Smith made their first court appearances with their lawyers before a judge in Shelby County Criminal Court, reports the AP. The officers were fired after an internal police investigation into the Jan. 7 arrest of Nichols, who died in a hospital three days later. The officers pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct, and official oppression. They are all out on bond, and their next hearing is May 1.

Addressing the courtroom, Judge James Jones Jr. asked for everyone's "continued patience" and "continued civility," stressing that "this case can take some time." "We understand that there may be some high emotions in this case, but we ask that you continue to be patient with us,” Jones said. “Everyone involved wants this case to be concluded as quickly as possible. But it’s important for you all to understand that the state of Tennessee, as well as each one of these defendants, have an absolute right to a fair trial." Blake Ballin, the attorney for Mills, said the process must be “based on the facts and the law, and not the raw emotions that our country is experiencing." "Justice for Mr. Nichols will not be achieved at the expense of justice for Mr. Mills," Ballin said.

Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, and stepfather, Rodney Wells, were in court along with their lawyer, civil rights attorney Ben Crump. The police killing of Nichols is the latest to prompt nationwide protests and renew an intense public discussion about police brutality. Nichols, 29, was Black. All five officers charged in his death also are Black. One other white officer who was involved in the initial traffic stop has been fired. An additional officer who has not been identified has been suspended. Three Memphis Fire Department employees who were present at the site of the arrest have been fired. Two Shelby County sheriff’s deputies who also were there have been suspended without pay.

(Read more Tyre Nichols stories.)

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