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A court on Friday released more than 20 hours of taped grand jury trials in the Breonna Taylor case – an extraordinary move that came after a juror denied Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s explanation of why no one this spring was directly charged with Taylor’s murder by the Louisville police force.
Before the lunchtime deadline, Cameron’s office submitted an edited version of the recording to the court, removing social security numbers and other personal information from people involved in the case. In these changes, 3 minutes and 50 seconds of footage was removed, according to court records.
The recording is now published online in 14 different audio files.
The audio promises rare public access to more than two days of grand jury trials in a case that sparked widespread protests against racial injustice and the use of deadly force by the police against blacks and other minorities. It could also answer questions about how prosecutors handled the case.
“I am confident that once the public hears the tapes, they will see that our team has submitted a thorough case to the Jefferson County Grand Jury,” Cameron said in a statement. “Our presentation was based on the facts and evidence, and the grand jury received a full picture of the events surrounding Ms. Taylor’s death on March 13th.”
Jefferson District Court judge Ann Bailey Smith instructed prosecutors to file the tape during a trial Monday for Brett Hankison, the former Louisville Metro Police Department detective.
Hankison has pleaded guilty not to be guilty of willful endangerment on three counts – he is not accused of contributing to Taylor’s death, but of indiscriminately firing his gun and sending bullets to a neighboring apartment. Cameron says his office determined that the other two officers in the case, Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and Det. Myles Cosgrove, were not breaking the law when they fired multiple shots at Taylor’s apartment during a botched drug attack.
When Cameron announced the charges in the case, he stressed that a large jury is working independently of the prosecutor to avoid any outside influence.
“This independence is necessary to ensure that justice can be done to both the victims and the accused,” said Cameron. He then said that after hearing all of the evidence, the grand jury voted to indict Hankison.
Regarding criminal murder charges, Cameron said:
“While there are six possible charges of murder under Kentucky law, those charges do not apply to the facts before us because our investigation found and the grand jury agreed that Mattingly and Cosgrove were entitled to fire their guns.”
Taylor’s family and supporters sharply criticized Cameron after the charges against Hankison were announced, saying they do not believe the Attorney General stood up for Taylor. For example, they found that Taylor’s name was not on the indictment.
“I never had faith in Daniel Cameron from the start,” Taylor’s mother Tamika Palmer said in a statement after the charges were announced last week. Her family and their lawyers and supporters have urged prosecutors to release the minutes and other information related to the case.
An anonymous grand juror asked Smith to release the record of the trial and allow the jurors to speak publicly about their experience of a trial the secrecy of which is normally considered sacrosanct.
Cameron said this week that the only criminal complaint his office recommended to the jury was a willful compromise – but he only gave that clarification after Smith’s arrest warrant. Indeed, Cameron’s refusal to provide details of the grand jury’s options was highlighted in the anonymous grand judge’s request.
The file alleges that the Attorney General went too far in describing the role of the grand jury.
“It is obviously unfair that the jury should be accountable to the prosecutor general,” he said after the indictment was announced in the jury’s records.
“The full story, and the absolute truth of how this matter was handled from start to finish, is now a topic of great public concern and has become a large part of the discussion about public confidence across the country,” reads in the judge’s file.
In addition to the state proceedings against Hankison, the FBI is investigating the police shots that killed Taylor.