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Opinion Failures of grand jury process evident in Breonna Taylor case

01:05  17 october  2020
01:05  17 october  2020 Source:   usatoday.com

'An encyclopedia of police incompetence': Breonna Taylor case exposes array of errors

  'An encyclopedia of police incompetence': Breonna Taylor case exposes array of errors An analysis of the Breonna Taylor case reveals poor planning, execution and judgment from the raid on her home to their failure to control the scene.The litany of errors shows that the March 13 police shooting of Taylor in her home was more than the result of a few bad apples, according to Samuel Walker, who reviewed The Louisville Courier Journal’s summary of investigative documents made public over the past two weeks.

The state grand jury in the Taylor case charged one former officer with wanton endangerment. Critics have cited a list of reasons that grand juries often decline to return Members of Ms. Taylor ’s family have faulted him for not presenting “a comprehensive case that supported justice for Breonna .”

Tapes of the grand jury 's deliberations in the case of a black American woman killed in a police operation at her home in Kentucky are to be made public. Breonna Taylor 's death in March has become a key issue in protests over police brutality and racism. The jury decided no officers should

The Breonna Taylor case provides a stark illustration of the failings of the grand jury process in officer-involved shooting investigations. The fact that the only charges were against an officer for errant shots into a neighboring apartment, coupled with transcripts confirming the limited charges presented, make clear that grand juries no longer serve their original purpose. Intended as a “bulwark ... between the ordinary citizen and an overzealous prosecutor,” they instead became, in the words of late Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, “a tool for the Executive.”

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  Fact check: Viral post misstates amount of Justine Damond family settlement Viral posts on Facebook falsely claim Minneapolis police shooting victim Justine Damond's family received a $55 million settlement.In the weeks following that decision, outrage and frustration has erupted across social media platforms. Viral posts compare Taylor's case to Justine Damond, an unarmed white woman killed by a Minneapolis police officer in 2017.

Grand jury indicts former Louisville cop Brett Hankison in Breonna Taylor raid, but no charges related to her shooting death. Brett Hankison, on wanton endangerment charges connected to the police raid that led to the killing of Breonna Taylor — but he was not charged with any crimes related to her death.

Kentucky's Jefferson County Circuit Court has released audio of the grand jury proceedings in the Breonna Taylor case . The audio gives a rare level of public access to more than two days of grand jury proceedings in a case that has fueled widespread protests over racial injustice and police use of

a sign in front of a tree: A protester stands in Louisville, Ky., on Sept. 24, 2020. © John Minchillo/AP A protester stands in Louisville, Ky., on Sept. 24, 2020.

Prosecutors generally exercise complete control over the grand jury process — including what evidence to present, witnesses to call, and charges to seek. And all of this occurs behind closed doors. This shroud of secrecy shields important decisions from the public’s eye.

Grand juries have become a rubber stamp for prosecutors — returning indictments in the vast majority of cases presented to them. Yet in state policing cases indictments are rare. That may well reflect a failure by prosecutors to vigorously investigate, present all evidence and seek charges against law enforcement partners they work with every day. In some instances, prosecutors may instead use grand juries to provide cover for their reluctance to prosecute, and thereby avoid accountability.

Breonna Taylor case sparks renewed scrutiny of grand juries

  Breonna Taylor case sparks renewed scrutiny of grand juries Some legal experts argue grand juries should not hear police misconduct cases. That included lingering questions about facts in the case and a juror eager to publicly counter what he called "inaccurate" statements by state Attorney General Daniel Cameron on how the panel reached its controversial decision.

Two Louisville police officers were shot Wednesday night as protesters marched following news that only one of the three officers involved in Breonna Taylor 's death was indicted on Two officers shot during protests over grand jury decision not to charge Louisville cops with killing Breonna Taylor .

A grand jury has been empaneled to investigate the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, two people close to the process told CNN.

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Some have proposed simply doing away with grand juries in officer-involved shooting cases. Four years ago, in Minneapolis — the same city where George Floyd's death sparked the largest civil rights movement the nation has seen in decades — Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman made that commitment. The officers responsible for Floyd's death were indicted on various second-degree murder charges. The lack of a grand jury makes it possible for the public to more directly press DAs if charges aren't pursued.

But in most cases, bypassing the grand jury process eliminates public participation in the charging process and can fail to address the underlying problem of prosecutorial reluctance to vigorously pursue these cases. Moreover, in 23 states, grand juries are required. In some cases, abolishing grand juries means passing a time-consuming constitutional amendment.

Breonna Taylor grand jury "didn't agree that certain actions were justified"

  Breonna Taylor grand jury A Breonna Taylor case grand juror took issue Tuesday with the Kentucky AG's characterization of the panel's proceedings.Cameron presented evidence to the panel that in September indicted former Louisville officer Brett Hankison on three counts of wanton endangerment in the March police raid that left Taylor dead. Hankison, who fired bullets into Taylor's apartment from outside, was indicted for endangering Taylor's neighbors when bullets flew into their unit, but no one was charged directly in Taylor's death.

The grand jury in Louisville issued charges against one officer, Brett Hankison, for endangering three of Taylor 's neighbors by firing through her home, into an adjacent Mattingly was struck by a bullet in the leg. There was no conclusive evidence that any of Hankison's bullets hit Taylor , Cameron said.

— An unidentified grand juror in the Breonna Taylor case is demanding the release of the grand jury ’s transcript and related recordings so “the The grand juror's motion goes on to state Cameron laid decisions "at the feet of the grand jury while failing to answer specific questions regarding the

Failures by grand juries to act in closely watched police accountability cases — from Taylor and Tamir Rice to Eric Garner and Michael Brown — underscore the need to restore trust in the integrity of this process, not to eliminate it.

Community deserves answers

Instead, prosecutors must ensure that they fully, proactively and promptly investigate and present to the grand jury all pertinent evidence in these sensitive cases integral to community trust. Their offices must have safeguards in place to ensure that officer-involved shootings are handled without undue influence from the police — including best practices such as an independent unit, staffed by senior prosecutors and experienced investigators, who report directly to an elected prosecutor.

The police department should never investigate its own officers — doing so is riddled with conflicts. And if local prosecutors aren’t equipped to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation, an independent prosecutor should handle the case.

COLUMN: Breonna Taylor recordings revelatory, but justice in case remains elusive

Kentucky Judge Criticizes AG Daniel Cameron’s ‘Theatrical’ Objection, Allows Breonna Taylor Grand Jurors to Speak About Case

  Kentucky Judge Criticizes AG Daniel Cameron’s ‘Theatrical’ Objection, Allows Breonna Taylor Grand Jurors to Speak About Case A grand juror in the Breonna Taylor case was given permission to speak freely about what occurred during those secretive and controversial proceedings conducted earlier this year. © Provided by Law & Crime “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,” Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Annie O’Connell wrote in her Tuesday opinion and order.

A grand jury has charged a former police officer after a fatal raid killed a black woman Breonna Taylor . Ms Taylor was killed in her apartment in Louisville, Kentucky, during the police raid in March. Brett Hankison is charged with three counts of wanton endangerment but not in relation to her death.

Breonna Taylor investigations are far from over as demands for transparency mount. Release of grand jury proceedings. Mattingly was following orders of superior officers, was not involved in the planning process of the arrest, and at all times followed established police procedures ," attorney Todd McMurtry has previously told Kentucky AG explains why no further charges in Breonna Taylor case .

But independence alone isn’t enough.

With police shootings, the community deserves insight into the process, from decisions regarding which charges to present, to the evidence presented, and ultimate the reasoning of the grand jury. Transparency is essential for communities to understand and accept how decisions are made, hold prosecutors accountable for their choices and instill confidence in the process.

While there are good reasons for grand jury secrecy — it protects witnesses and ongoing investigations, and avoids disparaging individuals under investigation — this veil of secrecy can fuel distrust in the process. Moreover, arguments in favor of secrecy are far less meaningful when no charges result in high profile cases; in these instances, the benefits of disclosing the full record of proceedings are substantial.

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While state laws vary around grand jury secrecy, prosecutors often have the discretion to release grand jury transcripts, and when a grand jury decides not to pursue charges against police officers, prosecutors should support full disclosure. Prosecutors should also ensure that grand jury proceedings are routinely recorded and transcribed. This record can facilitate a second look by an independent body, a well-advised practice in policing cases when the local prosecutor’s decision fails to bring charges.

Breonna Taylor's mom hopes settlement serves as national model for police reform

  Breonna Taylor's mom hopes settlement serves as national model for police reform The mother of Breonna Taylor and the mayor of Louisville, Kentucky, announced the $12 million settlement of a lawsuit involving Taylor's death at the hands of police. "I wear this shirt just to remind people that every day I'm fighting for her," Palmer told ABC News. "It doesn't matter if my day is full of me running errands; when I'm out and about, people see me so they need to see her name.

Restore trust

It’s also time to reexamine what it means to be an ethical prosecutor in the grand jury process. Prosecutors are ministers of justice charged with the pursuit of just results, not a “win” at all costs. Those duties are at odds with grand jury practices that don’t require prosecutors to present exculpatory evidence (or information that might prove the innocence of the defendant). Instead, prosecutors should offer the grand jury a full picture of the case, including exculpatory evidence.

These solutions are not exhaustive and alone will not address the injustices underlying Taylor’s tragic killing and the ensuing investigation. Grand juries exist in many forms throughout the United States; some proposed reforms — including enabling individuals with felony records to serve on grand juries — better reflect the conscience of all in the community, creating a grand jury “counsel” to provide independent legal advice to the group (as exists in Hawaii), or including judges in the proceedings.

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But we don’t need to wait for politicians to take the first step. Elected prosecutors can lead the way now, whether by enhancing independent investigation of these cases, providing reports detailing decision making, releasing grand jury transcripts or moving away from grand juries entirely and presenting potential charges in public proceedings. Communities are demanding a reset of our justice system. Reforms are the only way t restore trust.

Miriam Krinsky is the executive director of Fair and Just Prosecution.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Failures of grand jury process evident in Breonna Taylor case

Breonna Taylor's boyfriend: Cop said it was "unfortunate" I wasn't shot .
Walker recalled the events leading up to and just after Taylor's death at the hands of Louisville police in painstaking detail during an exclusive interview with "CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King."To the world she's just a hashtag, a picture, and all of that," he told "CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King. "But to me it was much more. More than a girlfriend too. I think that's what I want the world to know the most. That was my best friend… The most important person pretty much to me on Earth. And they took her.

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