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DA defends plea deal in Delke case; 'This has never been a slam dunk case'

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Posted at 6:08 PM, Jul 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-02 19:29:32-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Daniel Hambrick's family wanted to see former Metro Nashville police officer Andrew Delke tried and convicted of murder for the 2018 shooting death of their loved one.

But, in the end, Nashville DA Glenn Funk said Friday that he agreed to accept a plea bargain -- where Delke would pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to three years in prison -- because he was not willing to gamble that Delke might walk free.

"It's been a long three-year struggle, and this has never been a slam dunk case for a murder prosecution," Funk told reporters after Delke entered his plea.

"We were ready to try this case, we've been ready, we've been working for three years to get this case ready. But what would the result of the case be? There was a very large percentage that it would have been a hung jury."

Watch DA Funk's full statement below:

District Attorney Glenn Funk gives statement on Delke plea deal

While prosecutors did not believe that Hambrick did anything to justify being shot in the back as he ran from police, they also worried that some jurors would believe he brought it upon himself when he refused commands to stop.

The fact that Hambrick was armed with a gun might also have been a problem for some jurors, Funk added.

"The reality is that would have made it a much more difficult case to get 12 jurors to unanimously believe that this was a murder case."

At the same time, Delke and his attorneys knew that, if convicted, he faced the possibility of spending much of his life behind bars.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked legal analyst Nick Leonardo, "If this had gone to trial, it's possible Delke could have walked completely?"

"That's always the case, that's always a possibility," Leonardo said.

While many point to the conviction of police officer Derek Chauvin in the George Floyd case, it is rare for juries to rule against law enforcement officers.

For example, the Minnesota officer accused of killing Philando Castile in July 2016 was acquitted on all charges.

Leonardo noted that Judge Monte Watkins recently handed the prosecution a win when he ruled that one of the experts from the Derek Chauvin trial could testify against Delke.

But Watkins also ruled that former DA Torry Johnson could testify that he believed Delke's decision to shoot could be justified.

"He's basically saying that 'if I was the district attorney, I would not have prosecuted Officer Delke for this,'" Leonardo said.

NewsChannel 5 asked, "And that could have been persuasive with a jury?"

"Absolutely," Leonard answered, "it could have been persuasive."

Funk said, "I was not willing to risk not having a felony conviction, not having him off the force, not having him incarcerated."

While the DA said he understands the Hambrick family's pain, allowing Delke to potentially walk away would have been even more painful.

"No verdict, no judgment, no accountability, the emotion that we saw in this courtroom today would have been played out a hundredfold if there had been no accountability in this case."

The Tennessee Constitution provides certain protections for crime victims.

Under those provisions, victims have a right to confer with a prosecutor and to be informed of all proceedings.

But they don't get to make the final decision.