Attorneys for Metro Nashville Police Officer Andrew Delke argue he can't get a fair trial in Davidson County because the local jury pool has already been tainted. A newly unsealed document asks the court to move the trial to another location because of widespread publicity in the aftermath of the shooting.
The 61-page document argues that news coverage — along with attention to the case on social media — has likely affected potential jurors' feelings about the case. Delke's lawyers also point a finger at the Davidson County District Attorney's Office, which released surveillance footage just days after Delke shot Daniel Hambrick following a chase through a North Nashville housing complex. They say the video might have caused viewers to rush to judgement without context.
The motion cites dozens of passages from news stories, highlighting language Delke's lawyers call "emotional, sensational, and prejudicial."
One section of the motion includes nearly 50 quotations from news articles his attorneys say are "certain to increase the salience of race and racial bias."
The motion also focuses on media attention surrounding a campaign to establish a board to investigate allegations of police misconduct. The campaign garnered thousands of signatures for a ballot referendum in the days after the shooting. The measure passed last year, and the Community Oversight Board — seated in January — has already launched multiple probes.
Delke's attorneys write they waited to file a request for a new trial location, to see if public scrutiny of the case might decrease with time. But they say recent news coverage on the anniversary of Hambrick's shooting suggests "the community atmosphere remains inflamed."
A consultant for the defense surveyed Davidson County residents and found about half of respondents believe Delke is guilty of murder. Among potential jurors who are black, more than 80% of those surveyed say Delke is guilty and 91% say he wasn't in serious danger when he fired his gun.
In a comparison survey of Hamilton County residents, only 16% of respondents said they'd heard about Delke's case.
Tennessee law allows for trials to be moved if judges determine a fair trial is "unlikely" in the area where the crime was committed. In the motion, Delke's attorneys said their client "has no other choice" but to ask that his trial be held outside of Davidson County. If the Court doesn't honor the request, his lawyers argue, they'll have no choice but to strike as many potential jurors as they can.
A judge will decide whether or not to move Delke's trial after a hearing in mid-November. The District Attorney's Office has asked to set a trial date as early as January. In the meantime, all other documents related to the case are being kept under seal.
The DA's Office declined to comment.
Samantha Max is a Report for America corps member.