Lawyer for ex-Memphis cop: Policing needs to change
The lawyer for Desmond Mills Jr., a former Connecticut resident who is among five ex-Memphis police officers charged in the beating death of Tyre Nichols, on Friday asked for the public to be patient and cautious in judging his client.
Mills, who graduated from Bloomfield High School in 2008, pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and other charges alongside the four other men during his first court appearance on Friday. The next hearing in the case has been scheduled for May 1.
Following the hearing, Blake Ballin, Mill’s attorney, 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.
His remarks echoed those of Judge James Jones Jr., who asked for
“continued patience” and ”continued civility,” during the brief court proceeding.
“Justice for Mr. Nichols will not be achieved at the expense of justice for Mr. Mills,” Ballin said.
Ballin also said the nation’s grief over Nichols’ death “absolutely should be channeled into demanding change in the way that we police our communities.”
“It’s also vital that we extend these demands to the way that we treat minorities and people of lower incomes in our criminal justice system,” Ballin said. “Let’s not forget that my client is a
Black man in a courtroom in America.”
Video of Nichols’ beating by police immediately drew comparisons to the police assault of Rodney King three decades ago, and renewed protests against police brutality and for increased police accountability. In Connecticut, protesters gathered in Hartford and Manchester the day after Memphis officials released video of the incident.
In addition to Mills, authorities also charged Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III and Justin Smith in Nichols’ killing. They have been charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression.
Like Nichols, all of the former officers are Black men, a point that’s caused a rift in discussions about race and policing in America.
“I know there’s been a lot of commentary on the race of the officers, similar to Freddie Gray,” said Ivelisse Correa, vice president of Black Lives Matter 860, one of the organizations involved in the Hartford demonstration. But, “it is a racist system of policing,” she added.
Gray, a 25-year-old Black man, died in Baltimore police custody in 2015 after he was placed in the back of a police van unsecured. Six officers were charged in Gray’s death, but the charges were later dropped.
Some Black law enforcement officers in Connecticut have pushed back against that depiction of policing in America.
“Instead of just saying we have a minority of officers who are bad officers, to villainize every single police officer is absolutely atrocious,” said Bernie Hallums, a former Manchester police officer. “Good cops do not stand with bad cops.”
Some of Mills’ former football teammates in Bloomfield said they were shocked when they heard he was involved in the Nichols assault.
“He wanted to make a change for our community, our Black community, a positive change,” said Jaizz Nealy, who has known Mills since elementary school.