Breonna Taylor verdict is seen as 'added insult to injury,' legal expert says

After months of outrage, marches and tears, and nearly a week after Breonna Taylor’s $12 million wrongful death settlement, a grand jury decided to charge only one of the officers involved with the 26-year-old’s shooting — and not for killing her, but for endangering her neighbors with the raid that ended Taylor’s life.

That announcement, as predicted, prompted even more civil unrest, as people gathered in Taylor’s hometown of Louisville, as well as in cities, including Seattle, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Milwaukee, to voice their disappointment with the grand jury’s decision.

“Justice is not often easy and does not fit the mold of public opinion. And it does not conform to shifting standards,” noted Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron at the news conference announcing the verdict, where he called Taylor’s death a “tragedy.” Taylor’s family lawyer, Benjamin Crump, meanwhile, criticized the charges as “outrageous and offensive” on Twitter, where many activists, celebrities and social media users chimed in.

Former prosecutor and longtime trial attorney Debbie Hines, tells Yahoo Life that the decision was “legally unreasonable,” adding that “in its simplest form, what really occurred was a police home invasion,” and comparing the incident to “a criminal breaking into your home at night.” She calls Cameron’s example of justice “a contortion of the law,” and says that charging one officer for damaging property instead of the other two who took a life “only added insult to injury.”

Further, Hines explains that the officers “were not executing the search and seizure warrant because they were at the wrong place — meaning they were not lawfully there,” and that although officers alleged that Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, shot at them first, both Taylor and her boyfriend would have been “well within their rights to shoot at the police” that night. She compares the case to that of Atatiana Jefferson, who was killed by police after her neighbor called them to do a wellness check on her, and Botham Jean, who was gunned down by a police officer in his own apartment. The difference though, she notes, is that the officers involved in both of the aforementioned cases faced consequences for their actions.

Treva B. Lindsey, Ohio State University professor, historian and author of Colored No More: Reinventing Black Womanhood, tells Yahoo Life she is “unsurprised” by the fact that no one will be charged for the murder of Taylor. She explains that “within a criminal legal system that has so rarely rendered any semblance of justice for Black people, it is horribly befitting that no one will be held accountable for killing a sleeping Black woman. Justice was never possible in this case.”

In light of the settlement, Lindsey recently told Yahoo Life that “larger systemic transformation is absolutely necessary” to reevaluate a system that leaves so many Black people killed in a similar way to the young EMT. Lindsey called for everyone to ask an important question: “What is it about policing in this way that could leave Breonna Taylor dead on her bedroom floor?”

Now, in response to the decision, she says, “Nothing will bring back Breonna. Her loved ones’ grief won’t be quelled by money either. To have a system tell you that ‘no one’ did anything wrong — that these officers did their jobs in an appropriate and effective manner reveals how unjust and beyond repair policing is in the U.S.”

However, Lindsey adds, “While there can be no justice for Breonna, there can be movement towards defunding the police and investing in communities in ways that actually serve and protect. I understand why people hoped for an indictment, and I deeply respect that hope. What this non-indictment tells us, however, is that the system operates in ways that render Breonna and far too many other marginalized folks as disposable.”

Adds Hines, “We have to keep fighting. We can’t give up hope. We have to keep pressing on — for ourselves, for our future and out of respect for our ancestors.”

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