Demonstration in Memphis (late January) demanding justice for Tire Nichols
Photo: Gerald Herbert/AP
The five ex-cops charged after the violent death of Black Tire Nichols as a result of a brutal traffic stop in the USA have pleaded not guilty.
They appeared in court in Memphis, Tennessee on Friday.
In addition to aggravated assault, they are accused of second-degree murder, which in Tennessee corresponds to an intermediate stage between murder and manslaughter.
The defendants pleaded not guilty to these and other charges.
The next hearing is scheduled for early May.
»Right to a fair trial«
Judge James Jones urged patience in the process, despite the understandable emotions.
"Everyone involved wants this case to be closed as soon as possible," the judge said.
However, the accused have a “right to a fair trial”.
Nichols was brutally beaten by police officers during a traffic stop in Memphis on January 7.
The 29-year-old died of his injuries in hospital three days later.
The case sparked widespread protests and reignited the debate about police brutality in the US - especially after the release of extensive video footage of the incident.
Vice President Kamala Harris also attended Nichols' memorial service in early February.
The five black police officers involved in the operation were fired.
Other officials have been released from duty.
Two paramedics and an ambulance driver also lost their jobs for failing to care for Nichols properly.
In the USA, the police have long been criticized for being accused of excessive and sometimes brutal use of force, especially during traffic stops.
Often the victims are black.
In the past, operations that got out of hand in this way have repeatedly triggered violent protests.
The death of the African American George Floyd in May 2020 led to nationwide demonstrations and sometimes violent riots.
At that time, a white police officer pressed his knee on Floyd's neck until he died.
The perpetrator has since been sentenced to life imprisonment.