A Nashville police officer accused of murder has failed for a second time to convince a judge to move his trial out of Davidson County.
Officer Andrew Delke’s defense attorney had urged the court to allow out-of-town jurors to hear his case during proceedings on Monday. Attorney David Raybin argued that extensive media coverage has biased Nashville residents against his client and that Black Lives Matter protests last summer further prejudiced the local jury pool against him.
Raybin showed a 10-minute video of footage from protests that included some people shouting in support of Daniel Hambrick, the Black man that Delke, who is white, shot in 2018. The attorney also showed dozens of photos of anti-police graffiti and other property damage from a protest in downtown Nashville last May that ended with a small number of demonstrators setting fire inside the historic Metro Courthouse.
“The pretrial publicity surrounding the summer riots and protests would have an impact on people willing to serve as jurors, because they may evaluate evidence and deliberate during trial to avoid the expected protests, riots and violence if Officer Delke is found not guilty,” Raybin said.
But, in order to move the location of a trial, defendants must prove that they can’t get a fair trial in their home jurisdictions. Judge Monte Watkins says he still thinks there are enough impartial people in Nashville.
“Although the case has received extensive pretrial publicity, this Court is of the opinion that jurors can be fair and impartial,” Watkins writes in an order issued Thursday afternoon. “Furthermore, as previously held, this Court believes that it can empanel a jury of citizens who have no knowledge of the case or who can be fair and impartial as it and other courts in Davidson County have done in the past.”
More: Read the full order here.
Watkins says he also wasn’t convinced by Raybin’s argument that a different location would grant his client a fairer trial. He says Tennesseans in other parts of the state had probably been exposed to “the same news coverage.” And, though he thinks protests related to the trial are unlikely, Watkins writes that “there is nothing that would prevent potential protesters from traveling to the site of the trial and disrupt the proceedings at that location.”
The judge says he’ll reconsider if circumstances change and will do “whatever is necessary” to give Delke a fair trial.
Raybin says in an email that he is reviewing the order and has no further comment beyond what he’s already said in court.
Samantha Max is a Report for America corps member.