by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The release of the videos from the lethal arrest of Tyre Nichols, 29, is shocking for its lack of professional tactics and procedures. This looks like adrenaline-filled rage … from the officers. At certain points, it is the suspect who sounds to be trying to de-escalate the situation.
It is unfortunately not unique. In physical encounters, officers can escalate violence and lose control with lethal consequences.
The footage helps establish a number of legal points. The force is clearly and undeniably excessive. It was a complete breakdown of training and supervision.
It is hard to look at this tape objectively and analytically given the emotional impact of the scene. Yet, the footage helps establish a number of legal points.
There is both a state and federal investigation ongoing and the tapes will help and hurt aspects of those cases.
There is ample basis for taking a second-degree murder case to trial. However, the tape also shows where the defense is likely to go in the coming weeks.
The officers are not just facing second-degree murder charges but a whole slew of charges from aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping to official oppression. The aggravated assault and official oppression charges are amply supported by the videotape. The defense will likely focus on controlling the damage rather than leave the case unscathed.
The defense is likely to attack the second-degree murder charge because there was a rapid escalation and a defendant fled. While the beatings on the tape could well justify most people fleeing in fear, second-degree murder is “a knowing killing of another.” It does not require premeditation. The officers appear out of control but the counsel will argue that they did not knowingly or intentionally try to kill Nichols. Indeed, his death may have been caused in part by the delay in medical aid.