The first Nashville police officer indicted for murder is asking the court to move his trial out of Davidson County at a hearing Monday morning. Andrew Delke could go on trial as early as January for the 2018 shooting death of Daniel Hambrick in North Nashville.
But Delke doesn’t think Nashville can seat an unbiased jury to hear his case. In a motion filed this summer, Delke’s attorneys argued that “inflammatory” media coverage has tainted the jury pool.
“There has been extensive pretrial publicity — much of it hostile to Officer Delke — concerning related policy issues,” they wrote, adding, “A significant percentage of potential Davidson County jurors have already formed strong (and potentially immutable) opinions about the case which may not be overcome by the evidence ultimately presented at trial.”
At the hearing, defense lawyers will likely read from the dozens of news stories they say have influenced public opinion about the case. In their 61-page motion, Delke’s attorneys cited almost 50 excerpts from local news stories they argued are “likely to undermine the presumption of innocence and create undue excitement against Officer Delke.”
Delke’s lawyers are also expected to call an expert witness who studies the impact of pretrial publicity on potential jurors.
Earlier this year, social psychologist Bryan Edelman surveyed Davidson County residents and found that nearly half already believe Delke is guilty of murder. In contrast, only about one in six residents of Hamilton County, which includes Chattanooga, have even heard about the case.
Edelman attributed the difference in perception between the two regions to widespread new coverage in the Metro Nashville area. He also noted that the incident has been extensively debated on social media, and that a video of the shooting has been widely circulated among Nashville residents.
“The nature of this pretrial publicity — and its apparent prejudicial effect on the jury pool — has undermined the presumption of innocence,” Delke’s attorneys wrote.
The district attorney’s office is challenging the defense’s request to change the location of Officer Delke’s trial. Prosecutors filed an opposing motion Tuesday afternoon.