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Some Additional Records for Tyre Nichols' Case Could be Publicly Released Next Month

Attorney Paul McAdoo is representing a coalition of media outlets asking for the release of additional video footage and documents from the night of Tyre Nichols' violent arrest.
Katie Riordan
Attorney Paul McAdoo is representing a coalition of media outlets asking for the release of additional video footage and documents from the night of Tyre Nichols' violent arrest.

Video footage and internal Memphis Police Department documents related to the night of Tyre Nichols’ violent arrest will be subject to further court scrutiny before the public may be able to access them.

After hearing arguments on Friday from a lawyer representing media organizations advocating for the release of the records, a Shelby County judge decided to give the legal defense team for the five former MPD officers charged for Nichols’ death more time to review the material and request exceptions to its release.

The City of Memphis intended to publicly share thematerial— which includes more than 20 hours of body camera and other video footage and MPD administrative files—in March after it had concluded its own internal investigation.

But Judge James Jones, who is presiding over the criminal trial of the former officers, temporarily haltedthe city’s action after the officers’ attorneys argued some of it could prejudice a jury.

It prompted local and national media outlets to appeal to the court to release the records, saying it’s in the public’s interest.

Media lawyer Paul McAdoo went before Jones on Friday to make that case.

“The media is a surrogate for the public,” McAdoo told reporters after the court hearing. “The more they can know about high-profile criminal trials, the better.”

Jones decided to give the Shelby County District Attorney’s office, which is prosecuting the officers, until June 5 to determine what they believe can be publicly shared without compromising the trial’s integrity.

In general, prosecutors say with the exception of what are known as Garrity statements, the remainder of the material should be released, including videos. Some items, they say, would require redactions in order to share.

Garrity statements can be collected during an internal investigation, but constitutional protections typically prohibit them from being used against a defendant in court.

The defense will have until June 23 to respond and disagree if they think any of the materials the prosecution green lights for release should be restricted to ensure defendants receive an impartial trial.

Blake Ballin, a defense attorney representing Desmond Mills Jr., says the release of MPD administrative files that pre-date the criminal investigation of his client is acceptable, but he says city officials should not have agreed to release material that could be used during the trial.

“The Memphis Police Department in my experience—and I have been doing this for a while— has never, ever, just turned over their whole investigative file and [said], ‘Here you go media, take it,” Ballin said after the hearing. “They never do it because they can’t and because they have a duty to protect defendants’ rights to fair trial. They have a duty to protect the state’s right to a fair trial.”

During Friday’s hearing, Jones indicated that material both sides deem releasable could become publicly accessible on an ongoing basis after June 23.

“There’s going to be information that we determine, or that is discovered during the process, that we may realize at a later date is not something that is pertinent to the investigation, and that information can be released,” he said. “But, we need to have these things be timely.”

This post has been updated.

Katie is a part-time WKNO contributor. She's always eager to hear your story ideas. You can email her at kriordan@wkno.org