LOUISVILLE (Ky.) — Friday saw the start of Breonna Taylor’s criminal trial. Hundreds of potential jurors gathered in Louisville to hear what activists consider a chance for justice.
Brett Hankison (ex-Louisville officer) is currently on trial for three lesser felony charges. He was allegedly accused of firing his service weapon into Taylor’s apartments during the raid on March 13, 2020.
Whatever the verdict, it could have a negative impact on protesters who marched through Louisville for months singing “Arrest the cops that killed Breonna Taylor!” as part of the racial injustice demonstrations which exploded across the country in 2011.
Shameka Parrish Wright, a local organizer, said that no officers were arrested for the death the 26-year old Black woman.
Parrish-Wright is running for Louisville mayor. “There are certain people who want some form of justice. They will take any piece.” Hankison’s trial is “a part of that, however it’s not what we originally set out for.” We asked for all of those officers to be fired and arrested, and then prosecuted.
Two other murder cases were also brought to justice that fuelled the 2020 protests. Three white men were sentenced to death in November in Georgia for the murder of Ahmaud Albery, a 25 year-old Black man. Last spring, Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, was sentenced to 22 years for the murder of George Floyd.
Taylor’s death led to significant changes, despite the fact that no charges have been filed against her. Louisville prohibited the use so-called “no-knock warrants” like the one that was used in the deadly raid. The governor also signed a law restricting the use such warrants across the state. After the raid, the Louisville Metro Police Department was subject to regime change. Federal investigators are also investigating possible racial biases within this department. The $12 million settlement was made by the city to Taylor’s mother in a wrongful death suit.
The two officers who shot at Taylor were not arrested. Myles Cosgrove was the one who fired the fatal shot according to state investigators. He was fired in January last year, months after Hankison was expelled. Jonathan Mattingly was also wounded in the leg by a shot fired by Taylor’s boyfriend. He retired last June.
Hankison’s defense filed a motion to allow Cosgrove, Mattingly, and other officers involved in the raid to testify at this trial.
Amber Brown joined hundreds of protests in downtown Louisville for Taylor’s cause, and Hankison’s trial is “not justice for Breonna.” Brown used her talents to create a non-profit that provides safe supervision for children in low-income neighborhoods.
Brown stated that “nothing in that courtroom has any real connection with Breonna.” Brown said that he is not charged with the bullets which went into her body.
She stated that Taylor’s name would not be surprising to be omitted during the trial.
As part of a series raids targeting Taylor’s former boyfriend and drug dealer, the Louisville officers served a no-knock warrant at Taylor’s house. He wasn’t there that night and no cash or drugs were found in Taylor’s two-bedroom apartment. Later, it was discovered that the warrant used by police to enter her home was flawed.
According to an FBI ballistics investigation, Hankison fired 10 shots through Taylor’s patio door during the raid. Three shots were directed through a wall connecting to the neighbor’s apartment.
The former Louisville police chief was shocked by Hankison’s actions on that night.
Hankison’s termination letter stated that “your actions displayed an extreme disregard for the value of human lives.” According to a lawsuit, one of Hankison’s bullets allegedly passed by the head of a neighbor at the apartment’s hallway.
Hankison could spend one to five years prison for each wanton endangerment charge if he is convicted. These three charges were the sole criminal indictments that were issued by a special grand jury convened by state attorney general. Its work was completed in September 2020. It was controversial. Some grand jury members later complained that they were not allowed to consider harsher charges against other officers.
After the recusal of the local prosecutor, Attorney General Daniel Cameron took control and concluded that Cosgrove’s and Mattingly’s use of force was justified.
The jury selection process for Hankison’s trial will take several weeks. Stewart Mathews, his attorney, requested that Jefferson Circuit Judge Ann Bailey Smith move Hankison’s trial from Louisville due to the public attention surrounding it. He felt it would be difficult to place an impartial jury because of the media coverage. Smith declined to grant the request.
Instead, the judge will be joined by lawyers to begin the tedious process of questioning 250 jurors individually over several weeks in February. This will help to narrow down the candidates. On Friday, jurors completed questionnaires. Smith stated that she would ask jurors to refrain from reading or discussing any news regarding the Taylor case.