The short answer, for me anyway, is “no.” Daniel Cameron, in his first public statement after a grand jury in Kentucky handed down an indictment on three charges of wanton endangerment for a Louisville police officer who fired blindly during the raid on Breonna Taylor’s apartment, said that his office presented “everything” to the jurors before they made their decision.
As it turns out, Cameron not only never brought up the possibility of charges against the officers who shot and killed Taylor when they returned fire after Taylor’s boyfriend Kenneth Walker fired a single round as officers came through the door, believing they were home invaders; according to one grand juror when jurors asked about the possibility of charges for Taylor’s death, they were told the case wasn’t strong enough to pursue.
“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,” the statement said.
A second grand juror who has sought to speak is considering their next steps after the judges, according to the statement.
An attorney representing Taylor’s family had harsh words for Cameron after the grand juror’s statement was released.
“@kyoag you lied to Tamika Palmer (Taylor’s mother). You lied to this country. And you chose a political agenda over the law,” Sam Aguiar tweeted Tuesday. “Get this case to someone willing to do the job.”
I happen to agree with Cameron that the possibility of successfully prosecuting officers for Taylor’s death is remote, largely because Kenneth Walker has already stated that he was the first one to fire. At that point, officers had the right to stop what they believed to be an attack on them, just as Walker had the right to stop what he perceived to be a home invasion.
I’ve said all along that the death of Breonna Taylor is a tragedy, but I don’t think that it was a crime. The problem is that Daniel Cameron’s original statement after the grand jury indictment sure made it sound like his office had presented the evidence involving all of the officers who were involved in the Taylor shooting, not just Brett Hankison, who is accused of firing multiple shots into an adjacent apartment as police returned fire after Taylor’s single shot.
By the time Cameron’s office presented their case to the grand jury, there had been months of public calls for the officers involved in Taylor’s death to be charged with murder. Presenting the evidence (or lack thereof) on murder or manslaughter charges would have resulted in one of two things; indictment on those charges by a grand jury or those same jurors clearing officers of criminal wrongdoing.
Either option would be better than the one that Cameron is facing now; grand jurors who are speaking out because they disagreed with the process, Taylor’s family excoriating you in the press, and questions about why you weren’t forthcoming with the charges that were presented to the grand jury in the first place.
Even if prosecutors had to try a weak case against the Louisville police officers, that would have been a better outcome than the situation we have now, where Cameron’s critics will maintain that the criminal justice system once again failed to find justice and protected police instead, which is why we need to scrap the whole system and build something grand and glorious on its ashes.
The odds are, though, that the grand jury would ultimately have reached the same conclusion as Cameron; the case against the officers who killed Breonna Taylor isn’t prosecutable because they could all reasonably claim that they were acting in defense of their lives. Since one of them was actually shot by Kenneth Walker before they returned fire, they had a solid defense.
Yes, people would have been angry over the decision. There may even have been protests and riots in Louisville as a result. Still, it would have been the decision of a grand jury, not Cameron’s alone, and that would have made a big difference in the long term. Cameron almost certainly acted within his authority as Attorney General in only presenting wanton endangerment charges against Brett Hankinson, but it was still a mistake to not let grand jurors come to their own conclusions about the culpability of the other officers who returned fire and killed Breonna Taylor during their raid on her home.