The release of 20 more hours of video and audio recordings of the beating death of Tyre Nichols by Memphis police officers in January has been blocked by a judge. Those recordings, along with other reports and personnel files related to an administrative investigation by Memphis city officials, had been slated to be released Wednesday, reports NPR. Shelby County Criminal Court Judge James Jones Jr. intervened to delay the planned release of the recordings and documents after a last-minute motion by a defense attorney for one of the five former officers charged with second-degree murder in Nichols' death. The records will be held until prosecutors and defense lawyers have been able to review them. It is unclear when that will be. "The motion and order filed today are the result of the need to balance the interests of transparency with the defendants' right to a fair trial," said defense lawyer Blake Ballin. "Police department investigations often uncover evidence that is irrelevant, prejudicial, misleading or inadmissible." Prosecutors did not object to the delay in documents and "other material" from the investigation. "Our office needs to review it carefully to ensure it doesn't prejudice the defendant or jeopardize our prosecution," prosecutors said.
Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, was stopped by Memphis police as he was driving near his home on the evening of Jan. 7. Police claimed the traffic stop was for reckless driving, but documents show that officers never explained the reason for the stop to Nichols. After his attempt to flee on foot, officers caught Nichols and beat him severely. He died in a hospital three days later. The Memphis Police Department fired five officers involved in the beating: Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr., and Justin Smith, all of whom face several felony charges, including second-degree murder, aggravated assault, and aggravated kidnapping. In total, 13 Memphis police officers were subject to the investigation by city officials, said chief city legal officer Jennifer Sink. The judge ruled hours after the U.S. Department of Justice announced it would review the Memphis Police Department's use of force and de-escalation policies after a request by Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and Police Chief Cerelyn Davis. The review will cover "policies, practices, training, data, and processes related to MPD's use of force, de-escalation, and specialized units," DOJ said.