Five former officers involved in Tyre Nichols’ death plead not guilty
Five former Memphis police officers that were accused of Tyre Nichols’ death have pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and other charges.
Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr., and Justin Smith appeared in court on Friday with their attorneys, who entered the not-guilty pleas on their behalf.
On Jan. 20, the officers were fired and charged with second-degree murder, two counts each of official misconduct, two counts each of aggravated kidnapping and one count each of official oppression and aggravated assault. RowVaughn Wells (Nichols’ mother) and Rodney Wells (stepfather ) were both present at court along with Ben Crump, their attorney.
At a news conference after the hearing, Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, said that the officers didn’t have the courage to look her in the eye during the hearing, but that “they’re going to see me at every court date everyone until we get justice for my son.”
“I feel very numb right now,” Wells said. “And I’m waiting for this nightmare basically that I’m going through right now, I’m waiting for somebody to wake me up. I know that’s not going to happen.”
During the appearance, Judge James Jones Jr. asked for patience as “this case may take some time” and “there may be some high emotions.”
“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, and I will not allow any behavior that could jeopardize that right,” he said.
Addressing reporters outside the courtroom, Blake Ballin, an attorney for Desmond Mills Jr., said that “justice for Mr. Nichols will not be achieved at the expense of justice for Mr. Mills.”
“I want to remind everyone that the resolution of this indictment, to which Mr. Mills has pleaded not guilty, must be carried out without sympathy or prejudice, that it must be based on the facts and the law, and not the raw emotions that our country is currently experiencing,” he said.
The officers’ next court date is set for May 1.
Last month, Memphis Police Chief C.J. Davis said the officers were “directly responsible” for Nichols’ “physical abuse.”
An administrative investigation by the Memphis police found that the officers allegedly violated multiple policies, including the use of excessive force, the duty to intervene, and the duty to render aid in the Jan. 7 traffic stop of Nichols, Davis said.
Nichols was pulled over by the officers and aggressively yanked out of his car, officers shouting a confusing barrage of commands at him, a video released by the city shows.
Nichols managed to run to his mother’s neighborhood and was about 80 yards from her house when video captured multiple officers assaulting him as he repeatedly shouted “Mom!”
Police had said that Nichols was supposedly stopped for reckless driving but, according to Davis, an investigation and review of available camera footage had found “no proof” of that.
Nichols, 29, father of a 4-year-old son, who was an amateur photographer and skateboarder, was hospitalized in critical condition and died three days after the traffic stop.