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Judge rules Breonna Taylor grand jurors may speak about case

Judge rules Breonna Taylor grand jurors may speak about case
© NBC News

A judge in Kentucky ruled Tuesday that jurors empaneled as part of the grand jury in the case of Breonna Taylor can now speak publicly about the case and answer any and all questions about the proceedings.

"There exists additional interest to consider in making this decision: the interest of the citizens of the Commonwealth of Kentucky to be assured that its publicly elected officials are being honest in their representations," Kentucky Circuit Judge Annie O'Connell said in her ruling.

Grand jury proceedings are, by nature, secretive, but O’Connell said in this instance regular procedures “are no longer relevant.”

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“This is a rare and extraordinary example of a case where, at the time this motion is made, the historical reasons for preserving grand jury secrecy are null,” she said.

The ruling comes after an anonymous juror from the case filed a motion requesting that Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron (R) release transcripts of the proceedings and that jurors be free to talk about how the case was presented to them.

Cameron had previously released roughly 15 hours of audio recordings, but stated that the jurors should not be able to speak publicly about the proceedings, citing the usual secretive nature of grand juries.

“I disagree with the Judge’s decision, but we will not appeal it,” Cameron said in a statement Tuesday night to The Hill. “As Special Prosecutor, it was my decision to ask for an indictment on charges that could be proven under Kentucky law.”

In its decision, the grand jury only indicted one of the three officers — former officer Brett Hankison — involved in the killing of the 26-year-old Taylor, sparking national outrage. Following the initial announcement of the grand jury’s findings, Cameron acknowledged that he had not recommended any murder charges to the panel.

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"They're an independent body. If they wanted to make an assessment about different charges, they could have done that," Cameron said at the time in an interview with a local Kentucky news station. 

Taylor, an EMT, was shot and killed by a trio of plainclothes Louisville police officers in her own home on March 13.

The grand jury indicted Hankison on three counts of wanton endangerment, though none were directly related to the killing of Taylor. During the press conference where he announced the charges, Cameron said that none of the 10 bullets that Hankison blindly fired in Taylor's apartment hit her. Instead, multiple shots fired by Hankison traveled into an adjacent apartment where three people unrelated to the case resided, which is why he was charged.

Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove — the other two officers — combined hit Taylor six times, with one of the bullets fired by Cosgrove proving to be fatal. However, Cameron said that under Kentucky law, the officers were “justified” in their use of deadly force since Taylor’s boyfriend Kenneth Walker shot first.

Attorney Kevin Glogower, who is representing two of the jurors, relayed a statement from “Anonymous Grand Juror #1” after O’Connell made her ruling.

“The grand jury was not presented any charges other than the three wanton endangerment against [former] Detective Hankison,” the juror said. “The grand jury did not have homicide offenses explained to them. … Self defense or justification was never explained either. … The grand jury didn’t agree that certain actions were justified, nor did it decide the indictment should be the only charges in the Breonna Taylor case.”

Walker has said he believed the officers to be intruders and never heard them announce themselves.

The three officers were at Taylor’s apartment with a no-knock warrant, but Cameron said the police banged loudly on the door and announced their presence. The head prosecutor said this was corroborated by a single civilian witness, though it has been reported that other witnesses present did not hear Mattingly, Cosgrove and Hankison announce themselves.

“Indictments obtained in the absence of sufficient proof under the law do not stand up and are not fundamentally fair to anyone. I remain confident in our presentation to the Grand Jury, and I stand by the team of lawyers and investigators who dedicated months of work to this case,” Cameron added in his statement.