The first murder trial of a Nashville police officer for an on-duty killing has been delayed again.
Andrew Delke will not stand trial until at least July, according to an order signed by a judge on Tuesday. Jury selection was slated to begin in mid-February.
“Considering the increasing dangers of COVID-19, the Court believes a continuance of the February trial is necessary,” Judge Monte Watkins wrote in his order.
Jury selection is now scheduled to start on July 6, with opening statements following the next week. Delke, a white police officer, faces a first-degree murder charge for shooting and killing Daniel Hambrick, a Black man, while he ran away with a gun in his hand in July of 2018.
“We’re just sitting and waiting — sitting and waiting to get justice,” says Sam Hambrick, Daniel Hambrick’s cousin. He says it’s been frustrating for the family to face one delay after the next.
“It’s my duty to keep Daniel’s name alive, no matter how long they put it off,” he says. “I’m not going to stop.”
This is the third time Delke’s trial has been postponed — first for a scheduling conflict with an expert witness and now twice because of the pandemic. Jury trials have been suspended in Davidson County since March, and a recent order from the Tennessee Supreme Court paused jury proceedings throughout the state until at least February.
The decision to postpone the officer’s trial follows a recent motion from his attorney to bring in jurors from outside of Nashville. Delke’s defense team made a similar request last year, without success.
Increased awareness of the case
In the motion, Delke’s lawyer argues that many potential jurors in Davidson County are biased against the officer — even more so than they were last year, when an expert witness for the defense conducted a survey to gauge residents’ perceptions of the case. According to a new survey, 58% of people polled in the county who are familiar with the case already believe Delke is guilty of murder, compared to 48% of those surveyed in 2019.
“Thus, over half of prospective jurors who recognize this case have already decided Officer Delke is guilty of murder,” attorney David Raybin wrote in his motion. “It is significant that nothing has changed in Officer Delke’s case to produce such a profound variance; rather, people’s opinions have shifted solely because of external factors.”
Raybin cited nationwide protests against police brutality, including here in Nashville, and argued that some locals jurors might be afraid to acquit Delke out of fear that a not guilty verdict would cause violent demonstrations. He said that “increased hostility to the police in this community, and by extension, Officer Delke” in the wake of this summer’s protests have exacerbated the challenges Delke will face to get a fair trial.
Delke’s attorney also noted that local media coverage of the case has continued since a judge initially decided not to honor his request to bring in out-of-town jurors. He argued that evidence presented at trial is more carefully curated than information that may appear in media coverage, in order to protect a defendant’s constitutional rights.
Raybin cited multiple publications from the past year, including WPLN’s Deadly Force podcast, which was released this summer. The series delves into the details of Delke’s case, as well as the Metro Nashville Police Department’s deadly force training and history of using force against Black residents.
“The more media information the respondents had read, seen, or heard about the Daniel Hambrick shooting, the more likely the respondents were to prejudge Officer Delke as guilty,” Raybin wrote. He said 90% of people “had read, seen, or heard that Officer Delke had shot Mr. Hambrick several times in the back as he was running away. This 90% marks a near 40 percentage point increase from the 2019 survey.”
A judge is expected to rule on Delke’s motion early next year. A hearing has been scheduled for Jan. 25.
Samantha Max is a Report for America corps member.