Shelby County judge to decide if former MPD officers in Tyre Nichols case to be tried separately

Published: Aug. 18, 2023 at 5:20 AM CDT|Updated: Aug. 18, 2023 at 6:38 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Five former Memphis Police officers charged with murdering Tyre Nichols had their cases reviewed in court on Friday.

Tadarrius Bean, Justin Smith, Desmond Mills, Demetrius Haley, and Emmit Martin lll are all charged with second-degree murder, among other charges, for the death of 29-year-old Nichols.

Paul Hagerman, the prosecutor in the case, told a judge they are making significant progress toward a trial date. However, now the question is whether will they be tried together or separately.

Mills now makes the third defendant in the Nichols case who is asking for a separate trial—along with Bean and Smith. Mills’ attorney Blake Ballin filed the motion for severance Friday morning.

Ballin stated in his motion that the night Nichols was killed, there were two separate crime scenes, but his client was only present at one.

“There is a danger potentially of a jury being confused, feeling that one or more of the defendants is guilty, and Mr. Mills is not guilty, but grouping them together prejudicially, mistakenly, and he may not get a fair trial,” said Ballin.

Hailey and Martin have not asked for a separate trial, but Martin’s attorney says he is missing a potential key piece of discovery for his defense.

“Everyone is looking for an expert for use of force. We want to know what the Memphis Police Department’s policy is on use of force and then we will look at the conduct of the officers and see if it’s within those guidelines,” said attorney William D. Massey.

Hagerman says MPD’s “Use of Force” policies will have to come from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Citizen in attendance of Memphis City Council's Tuesday, March 21, 2023, meeting in which the...
Citizen in attendance of Memphis City Council's Tuesday, March 21, 2023, meeting in which the "Tyre Nichols Justice in Policing Ordinance" was passed. Some community members claimed even Nichols' family is against the new ordinance.(Action News 5)

The state says they have turned over all discovery in the case, and the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office plans to file a motion to oppose the severance.

“We’re going to make it clear that as a matter of law, we believe it should be tried together,” said Hagerman. “That a law of criminal responsibility when different actors join together to commit a crime. We’re going to make that clear in our response.”

If a judge grants these motions, there is a possibility of four separate trials involving the death of Nichols.

“We’re going to oppose severance. We do want to try all defendants together,” said Hagerman.

A trial date will be set on September 15 at the former officers’ next court appearance.

By then, it will be decided if there will be one joint trial or separate trials for the suspects.

Tyre Nichols died in the hospital several days after he was beaten. The attack was captured on video.

MPD determined the officers violated multiple policies, including excessive use of force, duty to intervene, and duty to render aid.

The five former officers were not in court on Friday, but Hagerman says when this case goes to trial, he wants all of the defendants tried at the same time.

“It is a matter of law. We feel like they should be tried together, the law of criminal responsibility, when different actors join together to commit a crime and we’ll make that clear in our response,” said Hagerman.

They will be required to show up at their next court appearance on September 15.

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