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Weeks after grand jury decision, the Breonna Taylor case is far from over

Crystal Hill
·Reporter
·7-min read

Troubling details about the shooting of Breonna Taylor, mounting calls for a new special prosecutor in the case and an ongoing effort by a grand juror to be allowed to speak publicly all signal that the case didn’t end with the grand jury report on Sept. 23.

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced that day that a grand jury had declined to bring homicide charges against the Louisville police officers — Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, Detective Myles Cosgrove and now fired Officer Brett Hankison — who shot into Taylor’s apartment in March. The grand jurors indicted Hankison for allegedly endangering the occupants of a neighboring apartment who were in the line of fire, although they were not hit.

“The truth is now before us,” Cameron said. “The facts have been examined, and a grand jury comprised of our peers and fellow citizens has made a decision.”

But in the weeks following that decision, the grand jury recordings and the investigative file into the shooting have been released. An anonymous grand jury member is asking a judge for permission to speak freely about the proceedings. And a petition with more than 8,000 signatures is calling on Cameron, whose office took over the case in May after the local prosecutor recused himself, to step away from the case.

“The [grand jury] did not determine that anyone was justified in killing Breonna,” Lonita Baker, an attorney for Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, said on Facebook. “I pray that more jurors get attorneys and come forward — because what happened during these proceedings and Daniel Cameron’s press conferences has truly been a miscarriage of justice. I want an independent special prosecutor to present charges on behalf of Breonna to a grand jury.”

Cameron’s office did not respond to a list of questions from Yahoo News.

Breonna Taylor. (Handout)
Breonna Taylor. (Handout)

A Kentucky judge is expected to rule soon on whether the anonymous member of the grand jury can talk publicly about the proceedings, which under ordinary circumstances is illegal. Legal experts have said the request is almost unprecedented.

The anonymous juror filed a request for a declaratory action — seeking clarification from a judge on their rights — in Jefferson County last week, according to the juror’s attorney, Kevin Glogower.

“We posed it to the court as: Attorney General Cameron’s office has indicated they don’t want grand jurors to speak out,” Glogower told Yahoo News. “Obviously our client has that desire, and we feel like other grand jurors may also have a desire to speak out. But they’re not going to do that until they know what those rights are, because we do have a rule here in Kentucky that that stuff is secret.”

A juror who discloses information about the secret proceedings can be charged with contempt of court, which can result in up to six months of jail time.

“Nobody really wants to wade out into those waters without really knowing what they can do,” Glogower said.

A local activist in Louisville, Christopher 2X, who leads the organization Game Changers, told Yahoo News that a second grand juror had approached him about also speaking out on the proceedings. Glogower acknowledged that a second person wants to come forward but said his legal team is not currently representing that juror.

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron addresses the media following the return of a grand jury investigation into the death of Breonna Taylor, Sept. 23. (Timothy D. Easley/AP)
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron addresses the media following the return of a grand jury investigation into the death of Breonna Taylor, Sept. 23. (Timothy D. Easley/AP)

In a statement Wednesday, Cameron said he has no problem with a grand juror sharing thoughts about his office or the case, but said he has “concerns with a grand juror seeking to make anonymous and unlimited disclosures about the grand jury proceedings.”

Cameron filed a motion opposing the juror’s request.

“The motion argues that the proceedings and testimony before a grand jury are required by law to remain secret,” Cameron said. “The motion also points out that the anonymous grand juror does not seek to limit the scope of his or her disclosures. This type of broad and unchecked disclosure could jeopardize not only witnesses and other grand jurors but also set a dangerous legal precedent for future grand juries.”

The juror said in their motion that they disagreed with how Cameron characterized the outcome of the proceedings, implying that the grand jury weighed and rejected the option of charging the officers with homicide. It wasn’t until after the juror sought the release of the grand jury recordings that Cameron revealed to local news outlet WDRB that his office didn’t present homicide charges to the panel, despite earlier saying the “grand jury agreed that Mattingly and Cosgrove were justified in the return of deadly fire.”

Kenneth Walker, the boyfriend of Breonna Taylor. (AP)
Kenneth Walker, the boyfriend of Breonna Taylor. (AP)

The juror’s motion, filed by Glogower, asked the court to compel the release of the grand jury proceedings. A judge granted the request last week, and Cameron released a redacted recording of the recordings, with no transcript, last Friday.

The recordings included testimony by the three officers directly involved in the raid on Taylor’s apartment; by Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker; by Jeff Fogg, an investigator in the attorney general’s Department of Criminal Investigations; and others.

In the recordings, Fogg told the jury that the officers executed a “valid search warrant,” despite issues with the warrant that are detailed in the investigative file from the Louisville Metro Police Department’s Public Integrity Unit.

“There’s other issues related to the warrants that we’re not getting into too much here,” Fogg told the panel. “The officers were executing a valid search warrant. The officers that served this warrant were acting in good faith.”

The warrant stemmed from suspicions that Taylor was holding packages for her former boyfriend, who was suspected of drug dealing. But according to the investigative report, the detective who wrote the affidavit for the warrant was told that “suspicious packages” were not being received at the home, and the report says the information on the affidavit was “misleading.”

Breonna Taylor
Breonna Taylor.

Taylor, 26, was killed after officers executed a “no-knock” warrant at her residence while she and Walker were sleeping. Officers said they knocked and announced their presence, but Walker said both he and Taylor repeatedly asked who was at the door and received no response.

As police breached the apartment, Walker, who had a licensed firearm, told investigators he “let off one shot,” believing they were intruders, according to the grand jury recordings.

“All of a sudden there’s a whole lot of shots,” Walker said. “And we both just dropped to the ground and the gun fell. I’m scared to death. We’re both on the ground. I’m panicking. She’s right there on the ground, bleeding. She’s bleeding and nobody’s coming.”

The episode, according to the three officers’ account, was a chaotic blaze of gunfire, during which the officer who fired the fatal shot, Cosgrove, did not seem to realize that he’d hit Taylor, according to the recordings. Cosgrove said he experienced “tunnel vision” and loss of “hand sensation” when he fired his gun, according to the investigative report.

Tamika Palmer, the mother of Breonna Taylor, right, listens to a news conference on Sept. 25, in Louisville, Ky. (Darron Cummings/AP)
Tamika Palmer, right, the mother of Breonna Taylor, at a news conference on Sept. 25, in Louisville, Ky., in wake of a grand jury’s decision not to bring homicide charges in Taylor’s death. (Darron Cummings/AP)

An FBI investigation into the shooting is ongoing.

If the members of the grand jury are allowed to talk about their experience during the proceedings, their perspectives could potentially address allegations that Cameron’s office failed to pursue the case against the officers vigorously. Cameron has rejected those assertions.

“This has been a case that’s moved at a speed that nobody’s seen before,” Glogower, who represents the anonymous juror, told Yahoo News. “Part of what we’re tasked with is sounding that alarm, [saying,] ‘Look, there’s more to the story.’”

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