The five police officers charged with murder after the fatal beating in January of African-American Tire Nichols, a case which had raised fears of a social conflagration and in which the White House was heavily involved, pleaded not guilty on Friday.
The officers, who are black themselves and were fired after the fact, appeared before a judge on Friday in Memphis, Tenn., 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 bodily harm, aggravated kidnapping, malpractice and abuse by person in authority. public. Tyre Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, was present in the courtroom, as was his lawyer Ben Crump, very active in cases of police violence. The next hearing has been set for May 1.
“Patience” versus “quick” action
Judge James Jones Jr called on the defendants and the audience to “patience”, urging the ex-police officers to “work” and “cooperate” with their lawyers. “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 is 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 permit any behavior that would jeopardize that right,” he said. he warned.
At a press conference after the hearing, Ben Crump appeared to respond to the magistrate by asking for action “quickly”. “We don’t want it to last forever. We have videos,” he said. Images of the arrest were indeed made public and broadcast at the end of January on the largest channels in the country, showing the extent of the ordeal of the young man.
” In the eyes “
His mother said she would attend all hearings “until we get justice for my son”. “And I want each of these policemen 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 agents from a special unit in Memphis, in the southern United States, for a traffic violation according to the police. But beaten relentlessly, so much so that he had become unrecognizable according to his family, he died three days later in hospital.
Ben Crump insisted on Friday strongly denying “salacious” rumors reporting a “personal” reason (a connection between the victim and one of the police officers) which would have caused the arrest. “These rumors circulating are bogus and false,” he hammered.
“That side issue has nothing to do with why this happened to Tire Nichols,” he added. The unit the officers belonged to “had a systematic pattern of doing this to black people in Memphis. That’s all. 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 had also been invited to President Biden’s big State of the Union speech in Washington. His death recalled that of African-American George Floyd, killed by a white police officer in May 2020. Demonstrations against racism and police violence then engulfed the country, united around the slogan “Black Lives Matter” (Les vies quarter notes count).