The five former police officers accused of beating to death last January, the African-American Tyree Nichols, pleaded not guilty today in a Memphis court.

The former police officers, who are themselves African-American, were fired when the case came to light. They are Tadarius Bean, Dimetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmitt Martin III and Desmond Mills Jr. All of them are charged with murder, wounding, kidnapping and abuse of power.

Tyree Nichols’ mother, Rowan Wells, was present in court along with her attorney, Ben Crump, who is known for taking on many police brutality cases.

The next hearing was set for May 1st.

Judge James Jones Jr. asked the defendants and the audience to be patient and asked the former police officers to “cooperate” with their attorneys. “Everyone involved wants this case closed as quickly as possible,” he said. “But it is important that you all understand that the State of Tennessee, as well as the defendants, have a right to a fair trial, and I will not allow any conduct that would jeopardize that right,” warned.

At the press conference he gave soon after, Ben Crump appeared to respond to the judge when he asked for the process to proceed “quickly”. “We don’t want it to last forever. We have video,” he said.

Footage of Nichols’ arrest and beating was broadcast in late January by several major US television networks. His mother said today that she will attend all court proceedings “until her son is vindicated”.

“And I want those cops to look me in the eye. They haven’t yet (…) they didn’t have the courage to look me in the eye after what they did to my son,” he added.

29-year-old Tyree Nichols was arrested on January 7th by agents of the Memphis Task Force for a traffic violation. The police beat him – until, according to his family, his face became unrecognizable – and he died three days later in hospital.