Officers sued by Tyre Nichols’ family want to pause lawsuit until criminal case is resolved

Jun 22, 2023, 11:25 AM

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Lawyers for some of the Memphis officers named in a federal lawsuit over the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols are asking that the civil case be put on hold until the criminal case is resolved.

Motions filed by four defendants, including two who were charged criminally in Nichols’ death, say that the civil case could be prejudicial to the criminal case, the Commercial Appeal reported.

Memphis police officers held Nichols down and repeatedly struck him with their fists, boots and batons as the Black motorist screamed for his mother. The January beating, which was captured on body cameras, was one in a string of violent encounters between police and Black people that have spurred protests and renewed debate about police brutality.

Five ex-officers were charged with second-degree murder in Nichols’ death. In April, his family sued those five former officers as well as the police director, the city of Memphis, another officer who was fired but not charged, and an additional officer who retired before he could be fired. The lawsuit also names three Memphis Fire Department employees who were fired after officials said they failed to render aid to Nichols.

Lawyers for two of the officers charged, Demetrius Haley and Emmitt Martin III, filed motions on June 16 asking to pause the civil case. Haley’s attorney said it would be difficult to defend themselves in civil court while the criminal case proceeds.

“Even filing an answer to the civil complaint could result in statements that could be used against the defendant in the criminal case,” Haley’s motion read.

If the case is put on hold, it would mean stopping any civil depositions, written discovery, requests for documents and mediation efforts while the criminal case is ongoing.

The two other former officers who filed motions to pause the proceedings have not been charged criminally, but said in their request that investigations are continuing and more criminal charges could be filed. Lawyers said in the motion said they were joining the request because it’s unclear whether their clients are the focus of the criminal investigations.

So far, the only responses filed to the lawsuit have come from the former Memphis Fire Department employees, who denied claims that they did not provide adequate assistance and argued for a type of immunity that protects government officials from being held liable in a civil case unless explicit constitutional rights were violated.

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Officers sued by Tyre Nichols’ family want to pause lawsuit until criminal case is resolved