(The Center Square) - A former Kentucky attorney general said current Attorney General Daniel Cameron and his staff made “a legal mistake” in presenting the Breonna Taylor case to a grand jury last month and that he should consider bringing the controversial case before a new panel.
Taylor was a 26-year-old Black woman who was shot and killed in her Louisville apartment in March by police officers trying to execute a search warrant. Her death has led to ongoing demonstrations and calls for both justice as well as law enforcement reforms.
Cameron’s office took over the investigation in May and presented information to the grand jury on the three officers involved. The grand jury returned an indictment against just one Louisville Metro Police officer, former Det. Brett Hankison who was fired in June, and that indictment was not directly tied to Taylor’s death.
Since the grand jury’s decision, there have been questions about just what the panel heard and what Cameron’s office recommended. Members of the grand jury asked a judge for permission to speak about the case, and as Cameron’s office is challenging the request, WFPL-FM is reporting a second juror also wishes to speak. (https://wfpl.org/another-grand-juror-wants-to-speak-publicly-about-breonna-taylor-case/)
While Cameron initially said it was the grand jury that made the decision, he has since said that his office recommended against charging two of the officers, Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and Det. Myles Cosgrove, saying the officers had a right to fire into the apartment after Taylor’s boyfriend fired a shot at them.
The grand jury is "an independent body,” Cameron told WDRB-TV earlier this month. “If they wanted to make an assessment about different charges, they could have done that, but our recommendation was that Mattingly and Cosgrove were justified in their acts and their conduct." (https://www.wdrb.com/news/grand-jury-not-presented-with-murder-charges-against-2-officers-in-breonna-taylors-death-ag/article_d6fb9ade-0279-11eb-8dd6-d7e39a63357a.html)
However, in a guest op-ed Friday written for The Louisville Courier-Journal, Fred Cowan said Cameron and his attorneys erred when they allowed the panel to believe they could not indict the officers. (https://www.courier-journal.com/story/opinion/2020/10/16/breonna-taylor-case-cameron-must-offer-facts-new-grand-jury/3657610001/)
“Under Kentucky law, “justification,” or self-defense, is not a defense to the crimes of manslaughter in the second degree or reckless homicide, particularly when an innocent person, as Breonna was, is the victim,” wrote Cowan, who served as Kentucky’s attorney general from 1988 to 1992 and as a nonpartisan Louisville circuit court judge from 2007 to 2015.
Cowan conceded the Taylor case, which stems from a narcotics investigation and has raised questions about search warrants and the process to obtain one, is a complex case. There are concerns about accountability, both regarding the police and now, Cameron.
“He needs to explain clearly to the public the reasons for his actions and his recommendations to the grand jury,” Cowan wrote. “Alternatively, as permitted under Kentucky law, he should present a full and accurate explanation of the law and facts to a new grand jury and let those grand jurors make a deci