Earlier today (Feb. 17), five former Memphis police officers involved in the brutal beating and death of Tyre Nichols pleaded not guilty at their arraignment on criminal charges from the January assault, CNN reported.
Ex-cops Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmitt Martin III, and Desmond Mills Jr. all face one count of second-degree murder and additional counts of aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct, and official oppression.
Released bodycam footage showed Nichols, 29, was repeatedly kicked and punched by the former members of law enforcement after a traffic stop and a short foot pursuit on January 7. Afterward, he was taken to a hospital, where he died from his injuries three days later. His family sat and watched in the rear area of the courtroom with their attorney Ben Crump.
After Shelby County Criminal Court Judge James Jones heard the pleas, he insisted that both sides be patient because the 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. And I will not allow any behavior that could jeopardize that right.”
After the arraignment, Bean’s lawyer John Keith Perry stated that his client was “doing his job” at the time the attack took place and that he had yet to see any information that shows a murder occurred.
Perry says that Bean told Nichols to “sit up” so that he could receive air. And if there is one thing his client may regret, Perry said “I think at this point, being a Memphis police officer on that night, because he wouldn’t have been called to the job.”
Speaking with the news channel, Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy mentioned that one hurdle the prosecutors may face in what could be a lengthy trial is proving the five defendants intentionally killed Nichols, meaning “they acted in such a way that they were reasonably certain that their actions could cause death.”
“We’re going to do what we can as quickly as I can — but thoroughly — and we’ll be making decisions about charges regarding all of those people and in the time ahead,” Mulroy said.
Mulroy also noted that his office is still investigating those who appeared after the Nichols brutal beating and were “involved directly or indirectly in the death.”
The ex-officers are due back in court on May 1. If convicted of second-degree murder, which in Tennessee is considered a Class A felony, they would face 15 to 60 years in prison.