Five former Memphis police officers pleaded not guilty Friday to second-degree murder and other charges stemming from Tyre Nichols’s violent arrest and death, with the judge urging patience in a case that could “take some time.” According to the Associated Press, Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills Jr., Emmitt Martin III, and Justin Smith made their first court appearances with their counsel before a judge in Shelby County Criminal Court.
The cops were sacked following an internal police probe into Nichols’ arrest on January 7, who died three days later in a hospital. The police pled not guilty to second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct, and official oppression charges. They are all free on bond, with their next hearing scheduled for May 1.
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Judge James Jones Jr. addressed the courtroom, requesting “continued patience” and “continued civility,” emphasizing that “this matter can take some time.” “We appreciate that there may be some strong emotions involved in this case, but we ask that you be patient with us,” Jones added.
“Everyone involved is eager for this case to be resolved as soon as possible. But it’s critical that you all recognize that both the state of Tennessee and each of these individuals have an absolute right to a fair trial.” Mills’ attorney, Blake Ballin, stated that the process must be “focused on the facts and the law, rather than the intense emotions that our country is feeling.” “Justice for Mr. Nichols will not come at the expense of justice for Mr. Mills,” Ballin stated.
RowVaughn Wells, Nichols’ mother, and stepfather, Rodney Wells, were in court with their lawyer, civil rights attorney Ben Crump. The police shooting of Nichols is the latest to spark nationwide protests and reignite a heated public debate about police brutality. Nichols, 29, was a Black man. All five cops charged in his death are likewise African-American. Another white cop engaged in the first traffic stop was discharged.
An additional officer, whose identity has not been revealed, has been suspended. Three Memphis Fire Department employees who were on the scene of the arrest were dismissed. Two Shelby County sheriff’s deputies who were also present were suspended without pay.
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