Breonna Taylor's family demands to see Kentucky grand jury evidence

A sign sitting in flowers after a grand jury decided not to bring homicide charges against police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor, in Louisville, Kentucky on September 25 2020.
A sign sitting in flowers after a grand jury decided not to bring homicide charges against police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor, in Louisville, Kentucky on September 25 2020.
Image: REUTERS/Lawrence Bryant - Lawrence Bryant

A lawyer for Breonna Taylor's family on Friday demanded Kentucky's state attorney general release the evidence presented to a grand jury that decided against charging police officers with homicide in her death during a botched raid.

Protests erupted in Louisville and several other US cities following the announcement on Wednesday that the grand jury would not bring murder charges against three police officers involved in the March 13 shooting of Taylor in her home during the execution of a search warrant.

Two Louisville police officers were shot and wounded during demonstrations on Wednesday night. Both survived.

"Release the transcripts!" Ben Crump said, leading Taylor's relatives and others in a chant outside the grand jury building and questioning whether Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron had offered enough evidence.

"There seems to be two justice systems in America. One for Black America and one for white America," Crump said.

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear has also called on Cameron to make evidence in the case public.

In the US justice system, prosecutors can present findings to a grand jury to decide if there is sufficient evidence to bring charges against a suspect. Since defense lawyers are not present, the system gives prosecutors wide leeway in guiding the grand jury's decisions.

The grand jury decided against charging any of the officers involved with wrongdoing in Taylor's death, but charged one officer with wanton endangerment for stray bullets that struck a neighboring apartment.

At a news conference on Friday, Interim Louisville Police Chief Robert Schroeder said he expected demonstrations to grow over the weekend, and expressed concern about reports that militia groups were planning to come to the city.

"Many of them say they are coming to help us. Let me be clear: That is not help we need, that is not help we want, and it does not help the situation," Schroeder said.

About 150 people gathered in downtown Louisville after dark on Friday evening, waving a large Black Lives Matter flag.

SUMMER OF PROTESTS

Taylor's killing, which initially drew little national attention, gained prominence after the death of George Floyd, a Black man, under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer on May 25 ignited a summer of protests.

Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician and aspiring nurse, was shot six times by police after her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired a single round at the officers, wounding one of them. Three officers responded by firing 32 rounds.

"I am angry. ... The system as a whole has failed her," Taylor's mother, Tamika Palmer, said in a statement read aloud by her sister. "You robbed the world of a queen."

Crump, who represented Taylor's family in a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Louisville, questioned whether Cameron was attempting to protect the police when he presented the case to the grand jury.

Cameron has declined to release the grand jury evidence, in part because a separate federal investigation was ongoing.

Cameron's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday. On Thursday, Cameron's spokeswoman, Elizabeth Kuhn, said: "Releasing that information now would compromise the federal investigation and violate a prosecutor's ethical duties."

Police said on Friday they had arrested 24 protesters, including state Representative Attica Scott, the only Black woman in the Kentucky legislature. Scott is a sponsor of "Breonna's Law," proposed legislation which would end "no-knock" warrants and require police to wear body cameras while warrants are served.

Police also arrested Scott's daughter, Ashanti Scott, and Shameka Parrish-Wright, a prominent activist. The three were charged with felony first-degree rioting and the misdemeanors of failure to disperse and unlawful assembly.

They were released Friday morning after spending the night in jail, said Ted Shouse, an attorney for Parrish-Wright. Shouse said they were arrested together when somebody broke the window of a library and threw a flare into the building, but neither Parrish-Wright nor the Scotts were involved.

Attica Scott said the charges against her and her daughter were "ridiculous."

Police officer Larynzo Johnson, 26, pleaded not guilty on Friday to two counts of assault and multiple counts of wanton endangerment, said Josh Abner, a spokesman for the Jefferson County attorney's office. He was ordered held on $1 million bail (about R17-million).

Reuters


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