'A flat-out lie': Breonna Taylor attorneys seek new prosecutor after jurors speak out
(Yahoo News) - The two anonymous members of the grand jury in the Breonna Taylor case who spoke out this week about the deliberations had no agenda other than to pursue the truth, their lawyer told Yahoo News on Friday.
But their disclosures have spurred calls for a new prosecutor who, attorneys for Taylor’s family hope, will handle the case differently than Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, whose office took over the case from local prosecutors in May.
Taylor, 26, was killed during a botched raid on her Louisville apartment on March 13. Months later Cameron announced that none of the three officers who shot into her apartment would be charged directly with her death. One of the officers, former Detective Brett Hankison, was charged with wanton endangerment for firing into a nearby apartment.
After securing permission from a judge to speak publicly about the grand jury proceedings, an anonymous grand juror said Tuesday, in a statement released by their attorney, Kevin Glogower, that the panel was steered away from considering homicide charges and left in the dark about self-defense laws during deliberations. A second juror later backed that account, which contradicts how Cameron portrayed the indictment on Sept. 23.
“At this point, if Daniel Cameron wanted to actually see justice take place, he would voluntarily recuse himself from this case,” Lonita Baker, an attorney who represented Taylor’s family in a civil suit, told Yahoo News on Wednesday.
The Taylor family’s legal team, which has for weeks expressed their disapproval of Cameron, hopes to “have an application filed for appointment of a new prosecutor within the next few days,” Baker’s co-counsel Sam Aguiar said Tuesday on Facebook.
An FBI investigation into the shooting is ongoing.
The 12-person grand jury “was not presented any charges other than the three wanton endangerment charges against Detective 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.”
“I was not surprised by the statement that [jurors] were not given those charges,” Baker said. “What I was surprised by was the depth of the lies that Daniel Cameron told to America when he said that the grand jury was getting instructed on all of the different levels of homicide.”
The second grand juror who came forward issued a separate statement that asserted that the jury was only allowed to consider wanton endangerment charges against Hankison. “No opportunity to consider anything else was permitted,” they said.
The jurors’ statements came almost a month after Cameron announced at a press conference that a grand jury had declined to bring homicide charges against the Louisville police officers — Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, Detective Myles Cosgrove and Hankison — who shot into Taylor’s apartment. Cameron said Mattingly and Cosgrove were justified in the shooting because they fired in self-defense after Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired a warning shot “at the ground,” believing intruders were at the apartment. The bullet wounded Mattingly in the leg.
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 on Sept. 23. “The facts have been examined, and a grand jury comprised of our peers and fellow citizens has made a decision.”
The public later heard a very different version.
“That’s a flat-out lie,” Baker told Yahoo News. “I don’t know any other way to phrase it.”
Glogower told Yahoo News via an emailed statement that his clients “have no desire to affect any potential outcomes with Breonna Taylor, but rather to ensure that the proceedings they participated in are accurately portrayed to her family and the public.”
Their accounts of the proceedings, a legal expert told Yahoo News, raise questions about the role Cameron’s office played in the grand jury proceedings.
“The prosecutor is only there to advise the grand jury and to draft indictments,” criminal defense attorney John W. Stewart, who formerly served as an assistant attorney general in Kentucky, told Yahoo News. “The prosecutor is not there to run the grand jury. In fact, if the grand jury wanted to, they had the authority — but nobody ever told them this — to kick the prosecutor out. We don’t need you. All we want you to do is draft indictments. We want you to give us legal advice, and we’re going to determine who should be indicted.”
Stewart said it seems that Cameron thought it was “his grand jury, not the people’s grand jury.”
“It struck me as odd that apparently this attorney general saw his role differently than what I understood and knew the role of the prosecutor and the grand jury should be,” Stewart, who’s now based in Adams, Tenn., said.
Under Kentucky law, if a local prosecutor has a conflict with the case, the person must inform the attorney general’s office, which can direct another prosecutor to take the case. In this instance, Cameron’s office took the case after Jefferson County prosecutor Thomas Wine recused himself.
“Once Mr. Wine announced that he had a conflict,” Stewart said, “then there is a mechanism that is set up that allows the attorney general or the local prosecutor to work out with another prosecutor to take his case. If that didn’t work out, then the attorney general steps in and he can appoint somebody. Since [Cameron] has already indicated his bias, he should not be able to name himself as a special prosecutor. He needs to find one of the local prosecutors that would take the case. And I don’t think there’s going to be a local prosecutor in Kentucky that will get close to this case the way it’s been handled.”
Cameron’s office did not respond to questions from Yahoo News about how he intended to proceed, and pointed to a statement it released on Tuesday that defended Cameron’s handling of the case.