According to NPR: Over 20 hours of additional video and audio recordings of Tyre Nichols’ beating death by Memphis police officers in January have been withheld from the public by a judge in Tennessee.
These recordings were supposed to be made public on 8 March 2023, Wednesday, along with other reports and personnel records connected to a city of Memphis administrative probe.
When a defense lawyer for one of the five former policemen accused of second-degree murder in connection with Nichols’ killing filed a last-minute motion, Shelby County Criminal Court Judge James Jones Jr. intervened to postpone the intended release of the recordings and documents.
The court order states that the information will be kept until prosecutors and defense attorneys have had a chance to evaluate them. When exactly that will be is unknown.
Blake Ballin, the defense attorney who submitted the request, stated that it was necessary to strike a balance between the need for transparency and the defendant’s right to a fair trial. Investigations conducted by police departments frequently turn up evidence that is irrelevant, unfair, deceptive, or inadmissible.
The Shelby County District Attorney’s Office issued a statement in which it declared its support for the decision by authorities to make the additional surveillance evidence public.
Nonetheless, the delay in receiving documents and “other evidence” from the administrative inquiry was not contested by the prosecution. Prosecutors said they needed to carefully study it to make sure it wouldn’t harm the defendant or imperil their case.
On the evening of January 7, Nichols, a Black man 29 years old, was pulled over by Memphis police while he was driving close to his residence. Documents reveal that despite police claims that the cause for the traffic stop was reckless driving, Nichols was never given a justification for the stop.
Nichols tried to run away on foot, but police quickly caught up with him and severely assaulted him. Three days later, he passed away in a hospital, leaving behind a son who was 4 years old.
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Five of the policemen involved in the beating were fired by the Memphis Police Department shortly after he passed away: Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr., and Justin Smith. They were all a part of the SCORPION squad, a specialized one that has since been abolished. The five ex-officers are all Black.
The five are each charged with many felonies, such as second-degree murder, aggravated assault, and aggravated kidnapping. All have asserted their innocence.
City officials were conducting an administrative inquiry against a total of 13 Memphis police officers, the city’s chief legal officer, Jennifer Sink, revealed at a city council hearing on Tuesday.
Last Thursday, city officials announced the firing of two more cops in addition to the five SCORPION unit officers. Before a hearing could be held, one employee retired and another five were suspended. The two who were still facing internal charges had them withdrawn.
The decision was made shortly after the U.S. Department of Justice stated it will examine the use of force and de-escalation procedures of the Memphis Police Department in response to a request from Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and Memphis Police Chief Carolyn Davis.
This tweet is posted by MPR News about the incident:
“[This is] the result of the need to balance the interests of transparency with the defendants’ right to a fair trial. Police department investigations often uncover evidence that is irrelevant, prejudicial, misleading or inadmissible.” https://t.co/awIwmTeQhc
— MPR News (@MPRnews) March 8, 2023
The MPD’s use of force, de-escalation, and specialized units will all be covered in the assessment, according to a statement released by the DOJ on Wednesday. It will then issue a public report outlining its conclusions and suggestions.
Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta stated in a statement, “The department is also glad to be able to satisfy Memphis’s request for technical help on the police department’s use of force and de-escalation protocols, as well as the deployment of specialized units.
Separately, the DOJ announced that it will examine the use of specialized units in law enforcement agencies across the country, such as the Memphis Police Department’s SCORPION Unit, a team of about 40 officers tasked with reducing violent street crime that was disbanded shortly after Nichols’ passing.
Police chiefs around the nation who are evaluating the usage of specialized units and, where deployed, appropriate administration, monitoring, and accountability for such units have spoken with the Justice Department, according to Gupta.
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