The five police officers charged with murder following the fatal caning of African American Tire Nichols in January, a case that had sparked fears of social conflagration and in which the White House was heavily implicated, pleaded not guilty on Friday.
The officers, who are black themselves and were subsequently fired, appeared before a judge in Memphis, Tennessee on Friday, accompanied by their attorneys, who said they pleaded not guilty.
They are Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmitt Martin III and Desmond Mills Jr. They have been charged with murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, misconduct and abuse by an authority figure. Tire Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, was also present in the courtroom, as was his attorney Ben Crump, who has been very active in police violence cases. The next hearing is scheduled for May 1st.
“Patience” versus “quick” action
Judge James Jones Jr. called on the defendants and the audience to “be patient” and urged the ex-cops to “work” and “cooperate” with their attorneys. “We understand that there may be strong emotions in this matter, but we ask that you continue to be patient with us. Everyone involved wants the file to be closed as soon as possible,” he then told the room.
“But it’s important that you all understand that the State of Tennessee, as well as each of these defendants, has the absolute right to a fair trial, and I will not allow conduct that would jeopardize that right,” he warned.
At a press conference after the hearing, Ben Crump appeared to respond to the judge by asking for “quick action.” “We don’t want it to last forever. We have videos,” he said. Pictures of the arrest were indeed released and broadcast on the country’s major networks at the end of January, showing the extent of the young man’s ordeal.
” In the eyes “
His mother said she will attend all hearings “until we get justice for my son.” “And I want every one of those cops to be able to look me in the eye. They haven’t done it yet (…), they haven’t even had the courage to look me in the eye after what they did to my son,” she added.
Tire Nichols, 29, was arrested on January 7 by special forces agents in Memphis, southern United States, for a traffic violation, according to police. However, he was beaten mercilessly to the point that his family said he was unrecognizable and died in hospital three days later.
Ben Crump on Friday insisted he firmly denied “salacious” rumors that reported a “personal” reason (a connection between the victim and one of the police officers) that caused the arrest. “These rumors circulating are fake and false,” he pounded.
“This minor matter has nothing to do with why this happened with Tire Nichols,” he added. The unit to which the officers belonged “had a systematic pattern of doing this to black people in Memphis. That’s all. There is no need to go any further,” he insisted.
President Joe Biden had called Tire Nichols’ parents and his Vice President Kamala Harris had attended his funeral. The young man’s parents were also invited to President Biden’s big State of the Union address in Washington. His death was reminiscent of that of African American George Floyd, who was killed by a white police officer in May 2020. Demonstrations against racism and police violence then swept the country, united around the slogan “Black Lives Matter” (Les vies count quarter notes).