3 of 5 former Memphis officers charged in Tyre Nichols’ death want separate trials

Three of Five Former Memphis Officers Charged in Tyre Nichols’ Death Want Separate Trials


A Tennessee judge has scheduled a court hearing in September to discuss the requests made by three out of five former Memphis police officers charged in the death of Tyre Nichols to face separate trials. Tadarrius Bean, Desmond Mills, and Justin Smith, who have pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder and other offenses, have filed motions asking Judge James Jones Jr. to grant them separate trials.


The violent beating and death of Tyre Nichols, which was captured on police video, has intensified discussions about police brutality not only in Memphis but across the country. The incident has raised concerns about the excessive use of force by law enforcement officers.

Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, was stopped by police on January 7 for an alleged traffic violation. During the stop, officers used profanity and at least one officer brandished a gun. After hitting Nichols with a stun gun, he managed to run away towards his nearby home. The officers, part of a crime-suppression team known as Scorpion, caught up with Nichols and subjected him to a violent assault. They punched, kicked, and struck him with a baton while he pleaded for his mother.

Following the beating, the officers stood by and conversed with each other while Nichols struggled with his injuries on the ground. One officer even took photos of Nichols as he was propped up against an unmarked police car.

Autopsy Report and Charges

An autopsy report released on May 4 revealed that Nichols died as a result of blows to the head. The manner of death was determined to be homicide, and the report described brain injuries as well as cuts and bruises to the head and other parts of the body.

All five officers, including Demetrius Haley and Emmitt Martin, who are no longer with the Memphis Police Department, have pleaded not guilty to charges connected to Nichols’ beating and death.

Severance Motions

The lawyers representing Tadarrius Bean, Desmond Mills, and Justin Smith have filed motions requesting separate trials. Mills’ motion argues that while all the officers are charged with the same crimes, Mills was not present at the scene of the traffic stop. Trying Mills with the other officers may result in confusion for the jury and prejudice his right to a fair trial.

Blake Ballin, Mills’ lawyer, intends to highlight the differences in Mills’ actions compared to the other officers. Mills’ defense team believes that trying him alongside the other officers may unfairly associate him with actions he was not involved in.

Prosecution’s Stance

Deputy District Attorney Paul Hagerman has expressed the prosecution’s desire to try all five defendants together. The prosecution opposes the requests for separate trials, arguing that trying the officers together would be more efficient and prevent any inconsistencies or contradictions that could arise from separate trials.

Court Hearing and Media Coalition’s Request

Judge James Jones Jr. has scheduled a court hearing for September 15 to address the severance motions. Additionally, the judge will issue an order at a later date regarding a media coalition’s request for the release of more video footage and records related to the case.

Consequences and Departmental Actions

Following Tyre Nichols’ death, Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis disbanded the Scorpion unit, to which the officers belonged. The officers who were part of the unit have been assigned to other units within the department.

Two other Memphis police officers involved in the beating and death have been fired, while another officer was allowed to retire before facing termination.

Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy announced that his office has dropped 30 to 40 cases involving the five former officers, citing a lack of credibility after they were charged.

Department of Justice Investigation

The U.S. Department of Justice has initiated an investigation into the use of force and conduct of arrests by the Memphis Police Department. This “patterns and practices” investigation will also examine whether racially discriminatory policing is prevalent within the majority-Black city.

In March, the Justice Department announced a separate review focusing on the Memphis Police Department’s use of force, de-escalation strategies, and specialized units. Federal investigators are also specifically looking into Tyre Nichols’ arrest and death.

Tyre Nichols’ mother has filed a lawsuit against the city and its police chief, seeking justice for her son’s death and accountability for the officers involved.