5th former Memphis officer pleads not guilty to federal civil rights charges in Tyre Nichols' death

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Memphis Police Department

FILE - This combo of images provided by the Memphis, Tenn., Police Department shows, top row from left, officers Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, and bottom row from left, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith. The five former Memphis police officers are now facing federal civil rights charges in the beating death of Tyre Nichols as they continue to fight second-degree murder charges in state courts arising from the killing. They were indicted Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023, in U.S. District Court in Memphis. (Memphis Police Department via AP, File)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – A fifth former Memphis police officer pleaded not guilty Thursday to federal civil rights charges in the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols after a traffic stop.

Emmitt Martin made his first federal court appearance since he and four former collagues were charged Tuesday with using excessive force and conspiring to lie about the Jan. 7 beating of Nichols as he cried out for his mother just steps from his Memphis home.

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Magistrate Judge Annie T. Christoff said Martin would be released on a $50,000 unsecured bond, which means that he does not have to pay any money unless he fails to appear in court.

Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills, Justin Smith and Martin were indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of deprivation of rights under the color of law through excessive force and failure to intervene, and through deliberate indifference; conspiracy to witness tampering; and obstruction of justice through witness tampering. Bean, Haley, Mills and Smith entered not guilty pleas Wednesday.

Nichols, 29, died in a hospital three days after he was punched, kicked and hit with a baton in a pummeling that was caught on police video. His beating was one of several violent encounters between police and Black people that have sparked protests and renewed debate about police brutality and police reform in the U.S.

The five former officers also have been charged in state court with second-degree murder and other alleged offenses. The five former officers, all Black like Nichols, have pleaded not guilty to the state charges as well.

The officers were part of a crime-suppression team that officials disbanded after Nichols’ death. However, members of that Scorpion unit have been moved to other teams.

Kristen Clarke, who leads the U.S. Department of Justice’s civil rights division, said at a Tuesday news conference that the five former officers used excessive force, failed to advise medical personnel about Nichols’ injuries, and conspired to cover up their misconduct.

The indictment says the officers failed to tell dispatchers, their supervisor and emergency medical technicians they knew Nichols had been hit repeatedly. It alleged they were trying to cover up their use of force and shield themselves from criminal liability.

Additionally, the indictment alleges instances where the officers used their body cameras to limit what evidence could be captured at the scene.

The former officers are scheduled to report to court on Sept. 21. They also have a hearing scheduled Friday in state court. Three of the five officers have asked for separate trials on the state charges.

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