NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Judge Monte Watkins has ruled on what evidence will be allowed at trial in the case against decommissioned Metro police officer Andrew Delke.
NewsChannel 5 has learned that Judge Watkins will allow former District Attorney Torry Johnson to testify for the defense as a use-of-force expert. Johnson has already testified during an earlier motions hearing and claimed that Delke did have probable cause to chase Daniel Hambrick. State attorneys characterized this as Johnson admitting he may not have prosecuted Delke if this happened while he was still in office.
Delke said he followed Hambrick's vehicle the day of the shooting, because it appeared suspicious. Hambrick noticed the officer and eventually led Delke on a chase by car. At one point Hambrick left the car and began running on foot.
Delke claimed self-defense when he shot and killed Hambrick. He told investigators that because Hambrick was carrying a gun as he ran, he believed Hambrick was a threat to others. Johnson has said it's for these reasons, he may have gone in a different direction than current prosecutors.
A use-of-force expert, who also testified in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, will also be allowed to testify. Sgt. Jody Stiger is expected to take the stand for the state. The defense argued that this witness is the state's way of connecting this case with that of Chauvin, who was charged with the murder of George Floyd. Prosecutors have said they will not mention Floyd's name, although they only learned about this expert through that trial.
NewsChannel5 legal expert Nick Leonardo says it will be a challenge to present the credentials of this witness without detailing their experience in other cases.
"They might say something like maybe we've seen you before. Obviously that's very relevant from the fact that you have to have testified as an expert previously. So there are questions to make sure that they are actually the real McCoy and they're qualified to give an expert opinion," said Leonardo.
Judge Watkins also ruled on a third issue on whether surveillance video will be allowed at trial. He denied the defense's motion and all video will be allowed at trial. The video has been a point of contention because as defense attorney David Raybin described, it's incomplete. 17 of the 84 cameras near MDHA's John Henry Hale community were not working at the time in 2018. Footage of the Delke chasing Hambrick does not playback in a smooth sequence of frames, but rather in a much slower frame rate.
"Both sides obviously want this video footage in from their perspective. I mean obviously if you're the defense, it's going to be your position that Mr. Hambrick was running with a firearm in his hand. That goes to the heart of their case and their contention of using deadly force. Obviously if you're the state, you want to show this video because you want to show officer Delke squared off in a prone position and fired the shots that ended Mr. Hambrick's life. The state's perspective is that in that video, when you square off and you see that, that's premeditation. That's the evidence we're asking you find as an element of first-degree murder. In Tennessee, premeditation can be formed in an instance," Leonardo said.
There is also a moment when both Hambrick and Delke enter what's been referred to as a "voided area" where both can't be seen for a few seconds. Raybin motioned to have the video dismissed all together claiming there was just too much doubt over what happened in those moments, to include an incomplete video into evidence. This would include the moment Delke shot Hambrick as he ran away.
Other important decisions from the motions hearings deal with how Hambrick and Delke will be addressed in court. Judge Watkins will allow the state to describe Hambrick as the victim, although the defense has argued that Hambrick running with a gun hardly makes him a victim. Pictures of Hambrick will also only be limited to 8x10 photos and nothing over so jurors don't spend too much time focusing on the victim, instead of facts. Raybin motioned he too wanted the flexibility to show photos of Hambrick in contrast to what the state intends to show of Hambrick. Judge Watkins denied the motion saying it wasn't relevant for trial and that included any mention of Hambrick's criminal history, or that of the two people he was seen with on surveillance video.
"The defense wants to show as much criminal history on the victim as they possibly can and the prosecution wants to keep that out. Hopefully what we'll see is a trial that moves a whole lot quicker than some we've covered in the past, because they've taken care of a lot of these issues pretrial. Hopefully with all these agree orders, they can minimize the number of jury out hearings that a lot of times should have been anticipated," Leonardo said.
As for Delke, Judge Watkins notes that the defense may refer to him as officer Delke given he has never lost the distinction since 2018. Officer Delke remains a decommissioned police officer with the Metro Nashville Police Department.
"There's a lot going on with the nomenclature. They haven't left out any details. They're both going as strong as they can as you can see from this order," Leonardo said.
This month, Judge Watkins heard three days of motions in the case. Delke is charged with first-degree murder in the 2018 killing of Daniel Hambrick.
Delke's trial is set to start on July 12 after it was pushed back because of the pandemic. Jury selection is expected to begin in mid-July.