Memphis Police Department
- An attorney for one of the cops charged in Tyre Nichols’ death said nobody “intended” for him to die.
- But a lawyer for the victim’s family told Insider the officer’s actions were “designed to harm.”
- Prosecutors say Nichols was brutally beaten by police in Memphis, Tennessee, earlier this month.
A defense attorney for one of the five fired Memphis, Tennessee, police officers charged in the beating death of Tyre Nichols said the cops never “intended” for the young Black motorist to die.
But a lawyer for Nichols’ family said the officers’ “actions were designed to kill.”
William Massey, an attorney for Emmitt Martin III told reporters on Thursday shortly after Martin and four other Memphis Police Department officers were indicted on second-degree murder charges that, “no one out there that night intended for Tyre Nichols to die. No one. No one.”
“I would just imagine police officers have a very difficult and dangerous job, and sometimes a thankless job. And it’s probably one of their worst fears that something like this would happen on their watch,” Massey said.
But attorneys for Nichols’ family, who have already viewed the police body-camera video, said it shows the five Black officers beating Nichols like a “human pinata” for three straight minutes.
Nichols family lawyer Antonio Romanucci has said Nichols was “defenseless the entire time” and told Insider on Friday ahead of the video footage’s release that “When you see the video, and you see the fact that they were taking free punches and free kicks at somebody who was restrained, they knew that their actions were designed to harm.”
“Whether or not they knew they were going to kill him, that’s not the law,” said Romanucci.
According to Tennessee law, second-degree murder is defined in part as “a knowing killing of another.”
Attorney Blake Ballin, who is representing Desmond Mills Jr. in the case, said his client was “devastated” by the charges and “to be accused of something like this hurts him on another level.”
“He could not be more upset about this entire situation, again, somebody who has dedicated his life to protecting society, to protecting the community to be accused of being involved in the death of another is devastating to him,” Ballin said.
The defense lawyers said they have not yet seen police body-camera footage of Nichols’ arrest, which is set to be released to the public on Friday evening.
Authorities allege 29-year-old Nichols was severely beaten by Martin, Mills, Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, and Justin Smith during a traffic stop on January 7.
Nichols, a father, was hospitalized in critical condition and died three days later.
“Their actions were designed to harm, and [Nichols] died as a result of those actions that they took, which caused his injuries,” Romanucci told Insider. “That’s why second-degree murder is appropriate.”
Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis has called the incident “heinous, reckless and inhumane,” while Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director David Rausch said he was “sickened” by what the “appalling” footage shows.
Mills’ attorney cautioned the public to “reserve judgment” once the footage is released.
“Know that there is always more to the story,” Ballin said, adding, “We will do our own investigation, we will gather information from the state that’s not available to the public and when it’s time to defend our clients, our side of things will come out.”
Ballin described his client Mills as “a gentle, respectful father” and “a family man.”
“He has put on a strong facade, but I know underneath it all this is causing his family a lot of anxiety and a lot of pain, not only for his own situation but for what this kind of accusation, this kind of incident is doing to our city,” said Ballin.
Defense lawyers for Martin and Mills said they each intend to plead not guilty in the case.
All five former officers who have been charged posted their bonds of either $350,000 or $250,000 and were released from jail as of Friday afternoon, records show.