MEMPHIS, Tenn. — There are developments in cases involving Memphis Police Department’s SCOPION Unit. Attorneys say some of their dockets are getting shorter.
The Shelby County District Attorney’s Office continues to review past cases involving the unit. That is the unit that was disbanded following the death of Tyre Nichols. Five former officers within that unit were charged in Nichols’ death and several others were disciplined.
It was predicted by many that once the DA’s office began reviewing past cases involving the SCORPION Unit, there would be some changes in the outcome of those investigations.
It is a long process of backtracking.
“We’ve gone back and reviewed all of our cases that involve the SCORPION team,” said Claiborne Ferguson of Claiborne Ferguson Law Firm.
Lawyers such as Ferguson have started reviewing past cases involving the SCORPION Unit the same five officers charged in Tyre Nichols’ death. That review is also happening on a high level at the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office.
“My experience is these cases are getting either dismissed or significantly reduced plea offers being made,” said Murray Wells of Wells & Associates.
Wells has had cases dropped and reduced.
Other lawyers such as Jarrett Spence see a similar pattern. He represents Monterrious Harris who is suing the city after claiming that days before Nichols’ death, he was also beaten by the same five former officers.
Harris' attorney said his client’s pending charge was dropped. In a statement, Spence said "The City of Memphis/Shelby County have thankfully and justifiably dropped the charges against Mr. Harris."
"You cannot possibly put any of these officers on the stand to testify about arrests they made," Wells said. "It doesn’t matter necessarily if it was a good or bad arrests, whether those officers in the SCORPION Unit behaved badly or properly because at the end of the day, they are subject to cross examination."
That is where the issue lies.
“One hundred percent credibility issue,” said Wells. “When you put those officers on the stand, they’re going to have to admit that they’ve been charged with murder in the course of their duty. Their credibility is going to go out the window, and it’ll be very hard.”
Wells said there is a way for cases to continue.
“If they can find other officers involved, they may be able to move forward,” said Wells.
He does not believe any of the five officers will take the stand for other cases.
“I don’t think those officers’ defense lawyers would allow them to testify because now they’re giving testimony under oath, which potentially could be used in their own case against them,” said Wells.
We asked Mayor Jim Strickland about cases being dismissed or reduced last week.
“What you’re telling me, I did not know. I think that’s in the criminal justice arena,” said Strickland.
It is an arena where defense lawyers say they will take the win.
“It’s good news for the client — maybe bad news for the community. It’s a little bit of both,” said Wells. “I’m glad they’re looking at it this fast. I think justice demands quick examination.”
We reached out to the DA’s office. They said they could not comment on individual cases. Still, they can give general information as to why cases like this might be dismissed.
Wells said this could be a long process as more officers are disciplined in Nichols’ investigation. He said while others may not face charges, any disciplinary action could be cause enough to review cases involving those others as well.