'It's a mistake' to believe murder case against cops who beat Tyre Nichols to death 'will be easy': legal expert
According to CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig, the criminal charges filed against the five Memphis police officers accused of murdering 29-year-old Tyre Nichols by beating him to death are justifiably "aggressive," but he cautioned that the prosecution won't be easy.
Speaking with host Michael Smerconish, the former prosecutor said each of the five accused cops, Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills, Jr, Emmitt Martin III, Justin Smith and Tadarrius Bean, are facing seven charges each and that a jury -- should defense attorneys not seek to have them tried separately -- will have to come back with 35 verdicts.
According to Honig, "it is a mistake" to think the prosecution will "easy" because jurors can't convict if they have any doubts.
Honig also took up the matter of the failure to provide Nichols with medical help as he lay on the ground after the savage beating.
"So the theory here is failure to render aid or failure to render medical aid," he told the host. "Now, this is a really important point legally because this is the sort of new development that we're seeing in some of these police cases. We saw in the Derek Chauvin trial in the killing of George Floyd. The theory around all of those officers is, in addition to causing George Floyd's death, they failed to render aid."
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"That was a fairly novel legal theory at the time, but the jury accepted it, and now we're starting to see that type of theory brought to bear more often," he continued. "It's some of the lesser charges but still significant lesser charge; the official misconduct charge and official omission charge if you look further down the charges here. The theory is by standing around doing nothing, first, I would think that tells you something about their mind-set, their intent. They didn't care what happens to him and that's a crime in and of itself. And we're seeing prosecutors do that kind of theory used much more aggressively in charging some police officers and with some success."
"Bottom line, do you expect there to be more charges?" host Smerconish pressed.
"I don't expect there to be more charges," Honig replied. "I don't think there's a first-degree charge to be had here, as you said that involves an intentional premeditated killing, prosecutors plainly must have considered that charge -- I don't think the proof is there. I think they've charged this as aggressively as they can charge it. I'm all in favor of charging aggressively; that's what I used to do as a prosecutor, Michael, but the risk is if the jury thinks you have overcharged, that could actually backfire because that can compromise your credibility."
"The prosecutors really took an aggressive approach here, I think it was warranted, but I do not think it is a safe assumption that everyone is going to be convicted across the board," he added.
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