Breonna Taylor grand juror speaks out, says prosecutors steered them away from homicide charges

Crystal Hill
·Reporter

On the same day a judge granted a grand juror in the Breonna Taylor police-shooting case the right to speak about the deliberations, the juror, who is still anonymous, confirmed what Taylor’s family and supporters suspected: that homicide charges against the officers involved in the raid on Taylor’s apartment were never presented to them by Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron.

The ruling Tuesday by Jefferson County Circuit Judge Annie O’Connell held that any grand juror in the case who “wishes to identify themselves as a participant in the grand jury proceedings” is allowed to do so, and said the disclosure of the proceedings is in the public interest. Cameron, who took over the case from local prosecutors, had argued against allowing the juror to talk about the proceedings, citing years of precedent.

O’Connell’s decision was followed by a statement issued by Kevin Glogower, the attorney for the juror, asserting that the grand jury was dissuaded from pursuing homicide charges for the three officers involved in the March 13 raid on Taylor’s Louisville, Ky., apartment that ended in her death.

“The grand jury was not presented any charges other than the three wanton endangerment charges against Detective [Brett] Hankison,” the juror said in the written statement from Glogower’s office, which was shared by Vice News. “The grand jury did not have homicide offenses explained to them. The grand jury never heard anything about those laws. Self defense or justification was never explained either.”

The statement said members of the 12-person grand jury asked about additional charges. “The grand jury was told there would be none because the prosecutors didn’t feel they could make them stick. 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. The grand jury was not given the opportunity to deliberate on those charges and deliberated only on what was presented to them.”

Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who represented Taylor’s family in a civil suit, said Cameron “whitewashed” what his office presented to the grand jury.

“We now know what we suspected: Attorney General Daniel Cameron took the decision out of the grand jury’s hands,” Crump said in a joint statement with co-counsels Sam Aguiar and Lonita Baker. “They didn’t allow the grand jury to do what the law says they have the right to do. This failure rests squarely on the shoulders of Daniel Cameron.”

The grand juror’s account, along with other recent disclosures about the proceedings, conflicts with Cameron’s announcement about the indictment on Sept. 23.

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.”

Breonna Taylor
Breonna Taylor.

Cameron’s announcement created an impression that the grand jury was primarily responsible for the outcome, which left Taylor’s family and supporters dissatisfied, prompting the anonymous juror to seek to correct what they considered a mischaracterization of the proceedings. Attorneys for Taylor’s family have said that they don’t believe the jury outright declined to pursue homicide charges against the officers and have asked for a special prosecutor to present a case to a new grand jury.

Cameron filed a motion against the juror’s request, arguing that keeping grand juries secret is the law and a practice that has existed for centuries.

“As I’ve stated prior, I have no concerns with a grand juror sharing their thoughts or opinions about me and my office’s involvement in the matter involving the death of Ms. Breonna Taylor,” Cameron said in a statement Oct. 7. “However, I have concerns with a grand juror seeking to make anonymous and unlimited disclosures about the grand jury proceedings.”

On Tuesday, one of the attorneys for Taylor’s family said Cameron’s office committed a “grave error.”

“Once that grand jury asked for additional charges, the AG’s office did not have the authority to say ‘no,’” Lonita Baker said on Facebook. “KY rule of criminal procedure 5.14: ‘The attorney for the Commonwealth or designated assistant shall also, when requested by them, draft indictments.’”

In a statement Tuesday evening, Cameron said he disagrees with the judge’s decision but will not appeal it.

“As Special Prosecutor, it was my decision to ask for an indictment on charges that could be proven under Kentucky law,” Cameron said. “Indictments obtained in the absence of sufficient proof under the law do not stand up and are not fundamentally fair to anyone.”

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron. (Timothy D. Easley/AP)
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron. (Timothy D. Easley/AP)

Besides requesting permission to talk about the case, the grand juror motion also sought the release of the grand jury recordings, which a judge granted. While the recordings, which were released Oct. 2, gave detailed accounts of the events around the shooting and of the investigation, it still wasn’t completely clear how the office presented the case to the jury.

Recently, a second anonymous grand juror was added to the motion. That juror said in Tuesday’s statement that the person is “pleased with this result” and is discussing next steps with counsel. It’s unclear when or if either juror will reveal their identities or give further statements. Glogower told Yahoo News that those decisions have not yet been made.

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