MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The five former Memphis Police officers charged with second-degree murder in the killing of Tyre Nichols were arraigned in court Friday morning.
It was a packed courtroom when all five former officers were there as well as Tyre Nichols’ family who sat feet away. The judge asked everyone to pack their patience, saying emotions will run high throughout this case.
Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr., and Justin Smith were all terminated by the Memphis Police Department on January 21. They are charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, and aggravated kidnapping. The unit those officers belonged to, known as the SCORPION Unit, was disbanded shortly after Nichols’ death.
All entered pleas of not guilty. They didn’t answer WREG’s questions, and none of them spoke in court. The next court date is set for May 1, and the judge said the case may take some time.
This was the first time for Tyre’s mother to get a look at the men accused of killing her son. The family of Tyre Nichols and their attorney Ben Crump arrived at the criminal justice center early for a court appearance that took only minutes.
“This is the beginning of the process,” said Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, after the hearing. “I want each and every one of those police officers to look me in the face. They did not do that today.”
Everyone involved wants this case to be concluded as quickly as possible and that includes Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy.
“We are trying to expedite as much as possible. we will be ready to try the case within a reasonable about of time. I don’t think the DA’s office will be the cause for any delays,” District Attorney Steve Mulroy said.
Nichols’ family, along with attorney Ben Crump, addressed the media in a press conference after the hearing.
“It’s important that we move swiftly toward justice, so we don’t want there to be any unnecessary delays in prosecuting this case,” Crump said.
At a news conference outside the courthouse, Tyre Nichols’ mom described the feeling of finally seeing them face to face.
“I don’t know. It’s funny cause I feel very numb right now. I am waiting for this nightmare that I am going through right now. I am waiting for somebody to wake me up, right. I am really waiting for somebody to wake me up. But I also know that is not going to happen. I know my son is gone,” Wells said. “I want each and everyone of those police officers to be able to look me in the face. They haven’t done that yet. They couldn’t even do that today. They didn’t even have the courage to look at me in my face after what they did to my son.”
Van Turner, president of the Memphis chapter of the NAACP, called for state lawmakers to pass police reform legislation and withdraw a bill that would weaken independent police oversight boards.
Blake Ballin is representing Desmond Mills. “Much has been said on the way the system failed Mr. Nichols. I will work tirelessly to make sure the system does not fail Mr. Mills and a fair outcome is achieved,” Ballin said.
Attorney William Massey, who is representing defendant Emmitt Martin, said Thursday that the public hasn’t seen all the video evidence in the case.
“There’s a lot we don’t know,” Massey said. “There’s a lot that we don’t see, and we want to be able to present a complete picture of this stop, particularly the initial stop.”
Tadarrius Bean’s attorney, John Keith Perry, says there are a lot of untrue statements about his client. “That particular night, you’re looking at an isolated incident and [trying] to measure the person.”
Nichols, a 29-year-old father, died three days after he was beaten by officers in a traffic stop that was caught on video.
Seven more Memphis Police officers will be issued a “statement of charges” for policy violations in the case, the city’s chief legal officer said last week. Three members of the Memphis Fire Department were also terminated, and two sheriff’s deputies have been disciplined.