Daily Local News (West Chester, PA)
5 Memphis officers plead not guilty to charges
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. 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. Their next hearing has been scheduled for May 1.
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.
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.”
Bean’s attorney, John Keith Perry, spoke with reporters afterward, saying Bean was doing his job at that time and “never touched” Nichols. That assertion is contradicted by video footage.
Protester Casio Montez talked over Perry, saying Nichols’ death was murder, adding, “You represent a murderer, bro.”
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.”
The public should be patient and cautious in judging his client, he said.