By Nina Hall
LOUISVILLE, KY – An anonymous grand juror in Breonna Taylor’s case wrote, “The grand jury did not have homicide offenses explained to them” this week, just hours after Judge Annie O’Connell ruled that the grand jurors could disclose the proceedings—which are normally kept secret.
As a result, the anonymous grand juror’s statement is sparking a large uproar across the country because the grand jury wasn’t permitted to consider additional charges.
Breonna Taylor’s case played a large factor in the major push seen recently in the civil rights and police reform movements. Taylor was the 26-year-old African American EMT from Louisville fatally shot by police in her own apartment shortly after midnight on March 13.
That night, three officers from the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) conducted what is known as a “no-knock” search warrant (these warrants have since been banned). The officers on site, Detective Brett Hankison, Sergeant Jonathan Mattingly, and Detective Myles Cosgrove, attested they announced themselves upon entry.
Kenneth Walker, Taylor’s boyfriend, who was present at the time of the shooting, reported that he did not hear any identification. Neighbors also didn’t hear it. Walker was initially charged with attempted murder for firing at Sgt. Mattingly, but those charges have since been dismissed as self-defense.
The officers were investigating Taylor’s former boyfriend, Jamarcus Glover, who was suspected in drug distribution and thought to be receiving packages at Taylor’s apartment. Glover claimed, and Taylor’s family lawyers later confirmed, that Glover was not participating in activity at her address and that Taylor was not involved in any distribution.
Taylor was fatally shot multiple times yet no officers were charged in Taylor’s death. The only officer who received charges was former LMPD Det. Brett Hankison, whose bail has been set at $15,000. Hankison is charged with three counts of wanton endangerment for firing 10 shots into Taylor’s apartment, some of which went into the unit next door where three other individuals resided. Hankison pleaded “not guilty” to all changes.
Hankison’s actions were deemed against department policy, as officers are required to have a clear line of sight when firing their weapons.
In fact, many protocols were violated that night such as the dismissal of the ambulance outside the apartment building. Standard practice requires that an ambulance wait outside during raids, yet that night the rig received instructions to leave prior to Taylor being shot.
Kentucky law states that wanton endangerment is a Class D felony, subject to one to five years in prison. Wanton endangerment is defined by Kentucky law as “…circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life,” and defines a person as guilty when “…he wantonly engages in conduct which creates substantial danger of death or serious injury to another person.”
Improvements have been made since the events of March, including the ban on no-knock warrants, a requirement that all officers must wear body cameras, and the addition of a new chief of police for Louisville.
Officials in Louisville agreed to pay $12 million dollars in restitution to Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, for a wrongful death lawsuit that she filed against the department. Yet many agree that justice still has not been served, and these actions taken by the department are not enough.
Now, one of the grand jurors on Taylor’s case has spoken out, alleging that the jury was not allowed to even consider homicide charges against any of the officers.
The grand juror stated that the procedure the grand jury operated under in Taylor’s case was quite unusual: “The three weeks of service leading up to that presentation [Taylor’s case] showed how the grand jury normally operates. The Breonna Taylor case was quite different.”
The anonymous grand juror attested that homicide charges were not considered, noting, “The grand jury was not presented any charges other than the three Wanton Endangerment charges against Det. Hankison. The grand jury did not have homicide offenses explained to them. The grand jury never heard anything about those laws.”
The anonymous grand juror also wrote that the grand jury asked about additional charges, but the prosecution “didn’t feel they could make them stick.”
Law professor Roger A, Fairfax Jr of George Washington University stated that the prosecution’s dismissal of the grand jury’s concerns could potentially be grounds for a new trial altogether.
On the opposing side are the three officers involved in the case. Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, who was placed on administrative leave, wrote a statement saying, “You [Hankison] DO NOT DESERVE to be in this position. The position that allows thugs to get in your face, yell and curse at you.”
Mattingly even went so far as to go on and slam the FBI administration, adding, “The position that if you make a mistake during one of the most stressful times in your career, the department and FBI (who aren’t cops and would piss their pants if they had to hold the line) go after you for civil rights violations. Your civil rights mean nothing, but the criminal has total autonomy.
“I know we did the legal, moral and ethical thing that night.” Mattingly wrote, but the anonymous grand juror is indicating otherwise, arguing, “The grand jury didn’t agree that certain actions were justified, nor did it decide the indictment should be the only charges in the Breonna Taylor case.”
Kentucky’s Attorney General, Daniel Cameron (R), claimed that the grand jury had agreed with prosecutors that homicide charges were not warranted in Taylor’s case.
However, later Cameron admitted that his office never presented any homicide charges to the grand jury.
The anonymous grand juror concluded the statement by reiterating the fact that homicide charges were not available for consideration.
“The grand jury was not given the opportunity to deliberate on those charges [homicide] and deliberated only on what was presented to them. I cannot speak for other jurors but I can help the truth be told.”
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