A court released more than 20 hours of recorded grand jury proceedings in the Breonna Taylor case Friday – an extraordinary action that comes after a juror disputed Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s explanation for why no one was directly charged in Taylor’s killing by Louisville police this spring.
Ahead of a noon deadline, Cameron’s office filed a redacted version of the recording with the court in which Social Security numbers and other personal information of people involved in the case were removed. Those edits removed three minutes and 50 seconds of material, according to a court filing.
The recording is now posted online in 14 different audio files.
The audio promises to give a rare level of public access to more than two days of grand jury proceedings in a case that has fueled widespread protests over racial injustice and police use of deadly force against Black people and other minorities. It also could answer lingering questions about how prosecutors have handled the case.
“I’m confident that once the public listens to the recordings, they will see that our team presented a thorough case to the Jefferson County Grand Jury,” Cameron said in a statement. “Our presentation followed the facts and the evidence, and the Grand Jury was given a complete picture of the events surrounding Ms. Taylor’s death on March 13.”
Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Ann Bailey Smith directed prosecutors to file the recording during an arraignment hearing Monday for Brett Hankison, the former Louisville Metro Police Department detective who is the only officer indicted on criminal charges from the night in March when police shot and killed Taylor.
Hankison has pleaded not guilty to three counts of wanton endangerment — he’s charged not with contributing to Taylor’s death but to firing his weapon indiscriminately, sending bullets into a neighboring apartment. Cameron said his office determined that the other two officers in the case, Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and Detective Myles Cosgrove, didn’t break the law when they fired multiple rounds into Taylor’s apartment during a botched drug raid.
When Cameron announced the charges in the case, he stressed that a grand jury operates independent of the prosecutor to avoid any outside influence.
“This independence is necessary to ensure that justice is done both for the victims and for the accused,” Cameron said. He then said that after hearing all the evidence, the grand jury had voted to indict Hankison.
As for criminal homicide charges, Cameron said:
“While there are six possible homicide charges under Kentucky law, these charges are not applicable to the facts before us because our investigation showed, and the Grand Jury agreed, that Mattingly and Cosgrove were justified” in firing their guns.
Taylor’s family and their supporters sharply criticized Cameron after the charges against Hankison were announced, saying they don’t believe the attorney general advocated on behalf of Taylor. They noted, for instance, that Taylor’s name does not appear in the indictment.
“I never had faith in Daniel Cameron to begin with,” Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, said in a statement after the charges were announced last week. Her family and their attorneys and supporters have urged prosecutors to release the transcript and other information related to the case.
An anonymous grand juror asked Smith to release the recording of the proceedings as well as to permit jurors to speak publicly about their experience of a process whose secrecy is normally viewed as sacrosanct.
Cameron said this week that the only criminal charge his office recommended to the jurors was one of wanton endangerment – but he gave that clarification only after Smith’s release order. Indeed, Cameron’s refusal to provide details about the grand jury’s options was highlighted in the anonymous grand juror’s motion.
The filing asserted that the attorney general went too far in describing the grand jury’s role.
“It is patently unjust for the jurors to be subjected to the level of accountability the Attorney General campaigned for” in his remarks after the indictment was announced, the juror’s court filing said.
“The full story and absolute truth of how this matter was handled from beginning to end is now an issue of great public interest and has become a large part of the discussion of public trust throughout the country,” the juror’s filing said.
In addition to the state proceedings against Hankison, the FBI is investigating the police shooting that killed Taylor.