The five former Memphis police officers charged in the beating death of Tyre Nichols in January pled not guilty Friday.
The not guilty pleas were presented to the court Friday by the lawyers for the defendants, Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmitt Martin III and Desmond Mills Jr., each of whom have been charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression, CNN reported.
The first hearing in the Tyre Nichols case has ended with all five ex-officers accused of killing him pleading not guilty. pic.twitter.com/XzaBenIqKe
— Priscilla Thompson (@PriscillaWT) February 17, 2023
“We understand that there may be some high emotions in this case, but we ask that you continue to be patient with us. 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,” Shelby County Criminal Court Judge James Jones said after the pleas were submitted, according to the outlet.
Nichols, 29, was brutally beaten on the night of Jan. 7 after a traffic stop in Memphis. The city’s police chief, Cerelyn “CJ” Davis, described the incident as “the same if not worse” than the Rodney King beating in 1991, the New York Post reported. Nichols succumbed to his extensive injuries three days later at a local hospital. (RELATED: ‘Red Flags: Memphis Recruiters Point To Inexperience, Lowered Standards In Tyre Nichols Beating)
In trying the five men, the prosecutors will have to prove the defendants intentionally killed Nichols, which under Tennessee state law is defined as “they acted in such a way that they were reasonably certain that their actions could cause death,” Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy told CNN.
If convicted on a charge of second-degree murder, the men face 15-60 years in prison, the outlet reported.