Crucial Moments in the Trial of Breonna Taylor Killers

Breonna Taylor’s story is one that has become all too familiar in this country: An unarmed black person killed at the hands of police. In the months following the murder of Breonna Taylor, protests erupted throughout the country calling for justice and an immediate end to systemic racism. In Taylor’s case, many of the protests were fueled by the lack of punishment against the three officers who shot her. Officers Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove remained free, and only Officer Hankison was fired from the force. The lack of action taken against the officers is unjust and has sparked insurmountable outrage in the media and streets. The nation demanded justice for a woman who was murdered in her sleep by the people who were sworn to protect her. 

On Sept. 23, the grand jury charged former officer Brett Hankison with three counts of “wanton endangerment,” for the shots that went into the neighbor’s walls, potentially endangering them; no officers were directly charged with her death. In other words, Hankison was only charged for the shots that he missed. 

On Friday, Oct. 2, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron released the tapes from the grand jury hearings. Cameron was ordered to release the tapes by Judge Ann Bailey Smith of the Jefferson County Circuit Court, after jurors complained that he was putting the blame for the results on them and not taking accountability, according to The New York Times. 

The information gathered from the released tapes revealed that the night of Taylor’s killing was complete and utter chaos. The officers claimed on the tapes to have announced themselves multiple times before using a battering ram to bust the door open. 

CNN reported that Sgt. Mattingly specifically said that they “banged” on the door at least six times and announced themselves before entering. Mattingly was shot by Taylor’s boyfriend Kenneth Walker, who thought he was an intruder. Mattingly fired back after being shot.

Walker, however, recalled no such announcement and stated that there was no response from the officers when he asked who was at the door. Walker said the couple was “scared to death” upon hearing the knocking outside the door in the middle of the night. Jurors also heard testimony from three additional officers who reported hearing the officers announce themselves before entering. 

CNN reported that Detective Cosgrove, who fired the shot that killed Taylor, sounded extremely confused during the raid, as he described seeing “vivid white flashes...and blackness at the same time.” He then stated he was “almost positive” he fired in the midst of the aforementioned “flashes.” 

The tapes revealed a disorderly scene, to say the least, and numerous inconsistent accounts of what exactly transpired.  

Perhaps the most perplexing part of the tapes being released is that they did not include prosecutor recommendations or juror deliberations. Prosecutor recommendations include statements about whether or not officers should be charged in the case and what they should be charged with. On the report of The Washington Post, Attorney General Cameron stated that he had not recommended homicide charges towards officers Cosgrove and Mattingly. He went on to say that jurors had the liberty to indict on charges they saw fit, regardless of the recommendation of prosecutors. The Washington Post also claimed that this particular unreleased portion of tape may hold vital information which could provide much-needed insight as to how Attorney General Cameron’s office handles Ms. Taylor’s case. 

While the events of the night of Breonna Taylor’s murder are not clear, one thing is: The justice system has failed once again, and systemic racism continues to corrode our society. Attorney General Cameron’s questionable behavior shows just how corrupt the justice system is and how, now more than ever, we need leaders who will fight for equality and equity for every single human being. Breonna Taylor was robbed of a long, happy life, and we need to keep fighting for the justice that she so rightfully deserves.