The first murder trial of a Nashville police officer has been rescheduled for mid-February, nearly a year after it was first set to begin.
Officer Andrew Delke was charged with first-degree murder for shooting Daniel Hambrick, while he ran away from a traffic stop with a gun in his hand. This Sunday marks the two-year anniversary of the shooting.
Delke’s trial has been postponed twice — first to work around a scheduling conflict for an expert witness, then because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many legal proceedings have been delayed or moved online in recent months to prevent the number of people coming in and out of the courthouse.
Jury trials are particularly difficult for social distancing, since jurors sit close together and deliberate behind closed doors. Plus, such a high-profile case is likely to bring in a large pool for jury selection, in addition to members of the public who may want to watch from the pews.
Delke’s defense team has raised concerns about finding impartial jurors in Nashville, since the case has been widely covered in the local media and video of the shooting has been viewed more than 670,000 times.
That means dozens or even hundreds of potential jurors could be screened before trial. And it’s unclear what would happen if a member of the jury or anyone else involved in the case were to contract the coronavirus in the midst of the proceedings, which could take several weeks.
For now, while the virus continues to spread at alarming rates, the courts are not rushing to hear this case. A judge signed an order Wednesday morning scheduling jury selection to begin February 15. The trial will start the following Monday.
Samantha Max is a Report for America corps member.