MEMPHIS, Tenn. (News21USA) — A Tennessee judge on Monday set an August trial date for four former Memphis police officers charged in the fatal beating of Tire Nichols after a traffic stop in January.
During a brief hearing Monday, Shelby County Criminal Court Judge James Jones Jr. announced the Aug. 12 trial date in the cases of Emmitt Martin, Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley and Justin Smith. They each pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and other charges in state court.
A fifth officer charged in the case, Desmond Mills Jr., pleaded guilty last week to federal charges of excessive force and obstruction of justice. The plea is part of a broader agreement in which prosecutors said he had also agreed to later plead guilty to state charges.
Mills is the only officer to admit guilt in the criminal case. Prosecutors recommend a 15-year prison sentence for Mills, but the final sentencing hearing falls to a federal judge.
Defense attorneys told prosecutors and the judge privately that they believe the trial could last a month, prosecutor Paul Hagerman told reporters after the hearing.
“We are of the opinion that this does not need to be a month-long test,” Hagerman said. “The test is quite simple.”
Hagerman also said it’s possible Mills will testify at the state trial. Martin’s attorney, William Massey, said after the hearing that he is considering filing a motion for a change of venue, meaning a jury from outside Shelby County would hear the case. Nichols’ beating death has received widespread media coverage in Memphis.
Captured on police video, the beating of Nichols in January was one of a series of violent encounters between police and black people that sparked protests and renewed debate about police brutality and the need for police reform in the United States. The five former officers who were charged are also black.
Mills and four other former Memphis Police Department officers were charged in federal court with excessive force, failure to intervene, willful indifference and conspiracy to lie, as well as obstruction of justice after they were caught by police. camera punching, kicking and punching Nichols in January 7. He died three days later. The federal trial date for the other four officers is May 6.
Officers said they stopped Nichols for reckless driving, but Police Chief Cerelyn “CJ’ Davis has said no evidence was found to support that allegation. Nichols fled from the officers, who attempted to restrain him. He pleaded for his mother as he was beaten just steps from his house.
An autopsy report showed that Nichols died from blunt force trauma to the head and that the manner of death was homicide. The report described brain injuries, cuts and bruises to the head and other parts of the body.
After Nichols’ death, the five officers were fired from the department and the crime suppression team they were a part of was disbanded.