Judge James Jones Jr. of the Shelby County Criminal Court set August 12, 2024 as the trial date for four former Memphis police officers implicated in the death of Tyre Nichols, with proceedings expected to commence after a traffic stop incident in January.
Emmitt Martin, Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, and Justin Smith have each entered not guilty pleas to second-degree murder among other charges at the state court level.
Desmond Mills Jr., another officer involved, has entered a guilty plea to federal charges of using excessive force and obstructing justice. This plea is part of a broader agreement, with expectations that Mills will later plead guilty to state charges. Prosecutors have suggested a 15-year prison term for Mills, awaiting a federal judge’s decision for final sentencing.
The length of the trial, anticipated to extend for a month according to defense attorneys, was debated in post-hearing comments to the press by prosecutor Paul Hagerman, who indicated a shorter trial period given the straightforward nature of the evidence.
The possibility of Mills testifying in the state trial was mentioned by Hagerman, and a change of venue motion is under consideration by William Massey, Martin’s attorney, due to extensive local media coverage of Nichols’ death.
The incident, captured on police video, highlights ongoing concerns regarding police conduct towards African Americans in the United States. The officers, also African American, face federal charges for excessive force and obstructing justice following the violent encounter on January 7, which resulted in Nichols’ death three days later.
Nichols, who allegedly was stopped for reckless driving—a claim Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis found unsubstantiated—attempted to flee and was severely beaten by the officers, leading to fatal injuries.
The autopsy report confirmed Nichols died from head injuries, with the manner of death ruled a homicide. Following the incident, the five officers were terminated from the Memphis Police Department, and the specialized unit they belonged to was dissolved.
The federal trial for the remaining officers is scheduled for May 6, separate from the state trial set in August.