Breaking News
More () »

Here's the difference between state and federal charges for the five former Memphis police officers in Tyre Nichols' death

Each federal charge against the officers carries at least 20 years in prison each.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Following Tuesday’s federal indictment, the five officers involved in the death of Tyre Nichols now face both state and federal charges.

“That might be where the real danger lies for these officers,” said Michael Working, Memphis Attorney.

Working said it is more common to see drug trafficking cases get both state and federal charges, but this has happened for former police officers a few times before.

Right now, these charges are down to if prosecutors can prove what the former officers are accused of doing to Nichols at a state level, including second degree murder, aggravated assault and kidnapping. At the federal level it will depend on if prosecutors can prove what the former officers did not do when they deprived Nichols of his civil right in January.

The Minneapolis ex-police officers involved in the death of George Floyd back in 2020 also faced both state and federal charges.

In that situation, those ex-officers each faced the same charges initially; however, the conviction of Derek Chauvin resulted in the harshest sentencing, as he kneeled on Floyd’s neck. The other officers received less than five years in prison each.

According to Working, since all five former Memphis Police officers were involved in beating Nichols to death, they could all face a harsher sentencing.

“The officers in Memphis have the same charges, but they’re much more alleged to be like Derek Chauvin for putting hands on Tyre Nichols, for actually inflicting physical harm and abuse,” said Working.

In Memphis, a major focus now becomes which of the cases will be tried first and if one decision will affect the other.

“It is very likely that they could have the state trial first because the charges are also so serious in state court, but any move that they make in state court can really come back to haunt them in federal court,” said Working.

The federal charges for the Memphis officers came down faster than the Minneapolis officers in 2020. For Nichols, those charges came just over eight months after his death, compared to 11 for Floyd.

Following the indictment on Tuesday, Nichols' mother was grateful for the faster time.

“It was a surprise to us that it happened so quickly, but we’re really thankful that it did,” said RowVaughn Wells, “He really should be here today. Tyre shouldn’t be gone. He should be here today.”

Before You Leave, Check This Out