Attorneys for a white Nashville police officer who fatally shot an armed black man from behind in July 2018 argued Wednesday that the officer’s murder trial needs a jury from outside the city because media coverage has influenced prospective jurors.
During the Nashville criminal court hearing, defense attorney David Raybin argued that Nashville’s jury pool has been tainted “by a never-ending drumbeat of publicity” about Officer Andrew Delke’s fatal shooting of 25-year-old Daniel Hambrick.
Prosecutors disagreed, saying a fair and impartial jury could be seated locally.
Raybin cited prosecutors’ decision to release video of the shooting before charging Delke, saying that riled up public sentiment. Raybin also contended that Nashville voters already took a de facto vote against Delke when they passed a November 2018 referendum to set up a local police community oversight board.
The shooting sparked anger and tension in Nashville, mirroring the national attention on cases in recent years of young black men who have died in shootings by police.
The defense also laid out findings of a survey it ordered up, saying its results show the local jury pool has become tainted with preconceptions about the case that harm Delke’s chances at a fair shake in court.
“The hearts and minds of Davidson County residents have solidified into two intractable camps,” Raybin said.
In response, Deputy District Attorney Roger Moore said Nashville doesn’t need a neighboring county to do justice in the case.
“Change of venue is not warranted because there are fair and impartial jurors in Davidson County, Tennessee,” Moore said. “History shows that, has shown that.”
The judge expects to rule on the issue within two weeks.
The defense has argued Delke followed his training and state law in shooting after he saw Hambrick had a gun. Prosecutors have said Delke could have sought cover and called for help.
The Nashville Fraternal Order of Police also has peppered the potential juror field with a pro-Delke media campaign.
Among other messaging, one of the group’s ad claims to show a loaded gun that was pointed at Delke. Prosecutors have cast doubt on whether Hambrick pointed the gun at the officer.
Additionally, the police union has set up a “Truth about Delke” website, saying the officer is being unjustly prosecuted for "defending his life and doing his job." The website included a picture of Hambrick holding a gun and money, but that photo and several others have since been removed.