LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Lawyers wrapped up their individual questioning of potential jurors Friday in the trial of a former Kentucky police officer involved in the raid that left Breonna Taylor dead.
The jury pool in former officer Brett Hankison's trial was expanded to about 250 people because of widespread publicity and massive protests over Taylor's death in Louisville in the spring and summer of 2020. By the end of the day Friday, prosecutors and defense attorneys had agreed on a pool of 48 who passed the first round of questioning.
On Feb. 22, the 48 will be winnowed down to 12 jurors and three alternatives, said Jefferson Circuit Judge Ann Bailey Smith.
Attorneys and occasionally Smith have been questioning prospective jurors one by one since Tuesday to weed out any who might be biased on the question of Hankison’s guilt.
“I'm very pleasantly surprised the way the week has gone,” Hankison's attorney, Stewart Mathews said Friday. Stewart said he is confident lawyers will be successful choosing a jury from the group of 48. Last year, Mathews had asked that the trial be moved out of Louisville because of the publicity the Taylor case has attracted, but Smith denied the request.
After finishing with prospective jurors on Friday, lawyers discussed how the trial would move forward. Barbara Maines Whaley, a prosecutor with the Kentucky Attorney General’s office, said she planned to call about 30 witnesses to testify. Mathews said the two sides would be questioning many of the same witnesses.
Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman who worked as an emergency medical technician, was shot multiple times during a botched narcotics raid on March 13, 2020. No drugs were found in her Louisville apartment, and the warrant used to enter by force was later found to be flawed.
Hankison was not charged in Taylor’s death, but he faces three counts of wanton endangerment for allegedly firing shots that went into a neighbor’s apartment. He was fired from the force. Two other officers on the scene with Hankison who fired bullets that struck Taylor were not charged in her death.
After officers burst in with a narcotics warrant, Taylor’s boyfriend fired a shot that struck one of those officers, Jonathan Mattingly, in the leg. Police returned fire, striking and killing Taylor. Her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, said he fired his gun because he feared an intruder was breaking in. Hankison was outside the apartment by a glass door and fired 10 shots.