AG never asked grand jury to consider homicide charges in Breonna Taylor's killing

A judge has ordered that recordings of the grand jury hearing be released.

September 29, 2020, 2:44 PM

A Kentucky judge has ordered the release of audio recordings from the grand jury hearing in the Breonna Taylor case despite warnings from state Attorney General Daniel Cameron that the move could jeopardize a federal investigation and an admission that no homicide charges were recommended to the panel.

The decision by a Jefferson County Circuit Court judge came after an anonymous member of the grand jury who heard evidence in the high-profile case filed a motion asking that the transcripts and recordings of the three-day hearing be released. The grand juror also requested the judge allow members of the panel to speak publicly about the evidence they heard and the decision they reached.

"My client is 'aggrieved,' to use that term, that what was presented is not being publicly disclosed," the grand juror's attorney, Keven Glogower, said at a news conference on Tuesday morning.

"I think they (the grand jurors) were aware ... there were certain questions that were left unanswered," Glogower said. "It's the accountability and the sense of public trust to make sure that everything that can get out there does and there was some concern that maybe it wasn't."

PHOTO: Breonna Taylor, 26, was shot and killed by Louisville, Kentucky, police officers after they allegedly executed a search warrant of the wrong home.
Breonna Taylor, 26, was shot and killed by Louisville, Kentucky, police officers after they allegedly executed a search warrant of the wrong home.
Courtesy Tamika Palmer

In a statement released Monday night, Cameron claimed that prosecutors presented "all of the evidence," even though the evidence supported that two of the Louisville Metro police officers involved in the shooting, Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and Detective Myles Cosgrove, "were justified in their use of force" after having been fired upon by Taylor's boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, when they busted open Taylor's door.

The officers, who were serving a search warrant on Taylor's apartment in the early morning hours of March 13, claimed they feared for their lives when Walker fired on them causing them to unleash a barrage of 32 shots, striking Taylor six times and killing her, according to statements made by Cameron.

"For that reason, the only charge recommended was wanton endangerment" against a third officer involved in the shooting, Brett Hankison, Cameron said.

Cameron did say last week that the prosecuting team walked the grand jury "through the homicide offense, and also presented all of the information that was available to the grand jury."

"And then the grand jury was ultimately the one that made the decision about indicting Detective Hankison for wanton endangerment," Cameron said.

Citing the secrecy of the hearing, Cameron declined to say if the grand jury was presented, beyond the recommended wanton endangerment counts, with options to consider homicide charges, including manslaughter and reckless homicide.

"The citizens of the Commonwealth have demonstrated their lack of faith in the process and proceedings in this matter and the justice system itself," reads the motion filed by the grand juror. "Using grand jurors as a shield to deflect accountability for these decisions only sows more seeds of doubt in the process while leaving a cold chill down the spine of future grand jurors."

During his news conference on Tuesday, Glogower added, “I think the dangerous precedent to set is more of a chilling effect of not letting the public in on what’s happening and trying to distort that level of secrecy to the extent that you’re, at least by appearance, not putting all of the truth out there."

Attorneys for the Taylor family released a statement Tuesday, saying, "Daniel Cameron clearly failed to present a comprehensive case that supported justice for Breonna."

"That conclusion is supported by the grand juror who came forward to say that the attorney general misrepresented the grand jury’s deliberations," reads the joint statement from attorneys Benjamin Crump, Sam Aguiar and Lonita Baker. "We fully support the call to release the entire proceeding transcript as the only way to know what evidence was presented and how the grand jury instructions led to this outcome."

Hankison, who was fired in June for violating police department policy in the shooting, was the only officer indicted in the case but not for Tayor's death. The grand jury announced three felony counts of wanton endangerment against Hankison for firing shots into Taylor's apartment that penetrated a wall of the residence of a white family next door to Taylor's apartment.

Hankison pleaded not guilty to the charges during his arraignment on Monday.

Cameron said that none of the 10 shots fired by Hankison struck Taylor, while the bullets that did hit her were fired by Cosgrove and Mattingly. Citing an FBI ballistics analysis, he said Mattingly fired six shots and Cosgrove fired 16 bullets, including the fatal shot that hit Taylor.

Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Ann Bailey Smith ordered that recordings from the grand jury hearing be placed into the court record by noon on Wednesday despite objections from Cameron, who said he will comply with the judge's order.

The judge's decision was not based on the grand juror's motion, since it was only filed Monday night and there hasn't been a hearing. Judge Smith ordered the recording released as part of the normal trial rules of discovery.

"The Grand Jury is meant to be a secretive body. It's apparent that the public interest in this case isn't going to allow that to happen," Cameron said in the statement he released Monday night. "As the special prosecutor, our team has an ethical obligation not to release the recording from the Grand Jury proceedings, and we stand by our belief that such a release could compromise the ongoing federal investigation and could have unintended consequences such as poisoning the jury pool. Despite these concerns, we will comply with the Judge's order to release the recording on Wednesday."

PHOTO: Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron addresses the media following the return of a grand jury investigation into the death of Breonna Taylor, in Frankfort, Ky., Sept. 23, 2020.
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron addresses the media following the return of a grand jury investigation into the death of Breonna Taylor, in Frankfort, Ky., Sept. 23, 2020.
Timothy D. Easley/AP, FILE

He said the release of the recording will also address part of the legal motion filed by an anonymous grand juror.

"We have no concerns with grand jurors sharing their thoughts on our presentation because we are confident in the case we presented," Cameron said. "Once the public listens to the recording, they will see that over the course of two-and-a-half days, our team presented a thorough and complete case to the Grand Jury."

Attorneys for Taylor's family have called the grand jury proceedings a "sham" and demanded last week that Cameron release the transcript of the entire hearing to see what evidence prosecutors from Cameron's office presented to the panel.

The attorneys allege that prosecutors presented scant evidence, if any, that pertained to Taylor's death, and cited at least eleven witnesses who dispute Cameron's claim that the investigation showed the officers knocked on Taylor's door and announced themselves before using a battering ram to force the door open.

He said one witness corroborated the police officers' statements that they knocked and announced themselves before entering the apartment.

But Walker's attorneys say the witness changed his story. They told ABC News that a week after the shooting, the individual claimed the officers did not identify themselves as police, yet two months later he said they did. Vice News published an alleged recording of the witness telling an investigator on March 21 that "nobody identified themselves." ABC has not independently verified the audio.

PHOTO: Former Louisville Metro Police Officer Brett Hankison is pictured in a booking photo released by the Shelby County Detention Center in Kentucky on Sept. 23, 2020.
Former Louisville Metro Police Officer Brett Hankison is pictured in a booking photo released by the Shelby County Detention Center in Kentucky on Sept. 23, 2020.
Shelby County Detention Center

During a news conference following the grand jury's announcement on Wednesday, Cameron was emphatic in his statement that the bullet fired by Walker, who was armed with a licensed 9mm handgun, struck Mattingly in the thigh.

He went on to say that because Walker fired the first shot, Cosgrove and Mattingly were justified in returning fire to protect themselves.

"This justification bars us from pursuing charges in Ms. Breonna Taylor's death," Cameron said.

However, a ballistics report from the Kentucky State Police could not determine that Walker shot Mattingly, contradicting Cameron's statements, according to records obtained by ABC News.

In an interview with ABC News, Steve Romines, one of Walker's attorneys, said "the Kentucky State Police's own ballistics report could not determine that Kenny's shot is who hit Officer [Jonathan] Mattingly."

A portion of the Kentucky State Police ballistic report obtained by ABC News indicates that the one shot fired by Walker "was neither identified nor eliminated as having been fired" from his weapon "due to the limited markings of comparative value."

Walker, 27, a licensed gun owner, was initially charged with attempted murder and assault following the March incident, but those charges were dropped. He has since filed a civil lawsuit against the Louisville police department, claiming they never knocked or announced themselves before they forced open Taylor's door.

Walker claimed he fired a warning shot because he initially thought the police officers, who were in plainclothes, were intruders. His civil suit also raises the possibility that Mattingly was wounded by friendly fire from one of the other officers, a scenario refuted by Cameron.

"Kenneth Walker fired the shot that hit Sgt. Mattingly and there's no evidence to support that Sgt. Mattingly was hit by friendly fire from other officers," Cameron said.

Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman and a certified emergency medical technician, was shot when the officers executed what a judge approved as a "no-knock" warrant based on a sworn affidavit from a detective that an ex-boyfriend of Taylor's was sending packages of drugs to her apartment through the U.S. Postal Service.

Although a judge approved a "no-knock" warrant, Cameron said the officers were instructed beforehand to knock and announce their presence.

No drugs were found in Taylor's apartment and lawyers for Taylor's family allege the warrant was secured with an affidavit that contained lies.

The warrant required the police to verify with postal inspectors that the ex-boyfriend was receiving packages at Taylor's address. But lawyers for Taylor's family say the Louisville Postal Inspector denied that his office inspected packages sent to Taylor's home as part of a drug-trafficking investigation.

Cameron, who was appointed special prosecutor in the case by Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, said the investigation his office conducted did not include looking into how the warrant was obtained. He said federal authorities are investigating that aspect.

It remains unclear if any evidence was presented to the grand jury about how the warrant was obtained.

In addition to investigating the warrant, federal authorities are also probing whether any civil rights violations occurred during the shooting. Federal officials have not commented on the progress of those investigations.

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