Claiming unrest potential, Nashville officer wants murder trial moved

Friday, January 22, 2021, Vol. 45, No. 4

NASHVILLE (AP) — An attorney argued Monday that the potential for civil unrest is among the reasons a white Nashville police officer charged in the 2018 fatal shooting of an armed Black man from behind during a chase should have his first-degree murder trial and the jury pool moved.

In Davidson County Criminal Court, defense attorney David Raybin argued again for a venue change in the case against Officer Andrew Delke in the shooting of 25-year-old Daniel Hambrick. A previous motion, which would have pulled the jury from outside Nashville but kept the trial in town, failed in November 2019 and wasn't granted on appeal.

That was before the national unrest sparked by the death of George Floyd and other Black people at the hands of police. Raybin focused his argument on the May night of destructive protests in downtown Nashville in which a fire was set inside the historic courthouse, across the street from where criminal court is held. Protests that have occurred in Nashville in recent months have included chants about Hambrick.

Raybin also repeated his prior contention that negative publicity has biased the city's pool of prospective jurors against Delke. Raybin said his team's research found local public sentiment has become more unfavorable for Delke since.

"All it takes is one spark to turn a protest into violence," Raybin said.

Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk argued in favor of keeping the case in the community where the shooting occurred, citing the safeguards in place during the jury selection process. Funk said that if they try and fail to seat a jury in Nashville, he will support an outside jury.

Judge Monte Watkins said he expects to rule on the request by the end of the week. Delke's trial is set to begin on July 12 after multiple delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"This is not a situation where Nashville is going to burst into flames based upon a situation where the institutions have held and ultimately we are going to trust the decision of 12 jurors, 12 Nashvillians deciding guilt or innocence, in a case that happened in this jurisdiction," Funk said.

Delke has pleaded not guilty in the July 2018 shooting.

Delke's attorney has said the officer acted in line with his training and Tennessee law in response to "an armed suspect who ignored repeated orders to drop his gun." Funk has argued Delke had other alternatives, adding the officer could have stopped, sought cover and called for help.

The opposing attorneys have turned to heated rhetoric at times in the case. In one January 2019 hearing, Funk described Delke's adherence to his training as tantamount to the defense asserted by the Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg. In response, Raybin told reporters shortly after that Funk had "functionally declared war" on the city's police.

The case produced another testy exchange in court Monday.

"What I'm here to talk about is the fact that this woman's child was murdered by this man here," Funk said, pointing at Hambrick's mother, then Delke.

Raybin later responded that he objected to Funk "pointing his bony finger at my client across the room."

"That's going to be the last time he does that," he said.