Kentucky AG office and officer in Breonna Taylor raid both argue to keep investigative materials from public
The Kentucky Attorney General’s Office and an attorney for the former police officer charged for his actions in connection with the raid that killed Breonna Taylor both argued Wednesday to keep investigative materials from being released to the public.
The arguments comes as the Louisville Courier-Journal has intervened in the case, asking for discovery materials to be filed as part of the court’s public record, and an attorney for the paper argued the public has a right to know how the case of former Louisville Metro Police Department officer Brett Hankison.
A grand jury indicted Hankison for first-degree wanton endangerment for allegedly shooting through Taylor’s home into a neighbor’s apartment. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Taylor, 26, was shot and killed by police in her home during a botched drug raid in March. The attorney general said that two officers who shot at Taylor, Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and Detective Myles Cosgrove, were justified in their use of force because Taylor’s boyfriend fired at them first, hitting Mattingly.
“I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say the judicial system, in some sense, is on trial here,” an attorney representing the Courier-Journal, Michael Abate, argued in court. “The public has a right and need to see, not only the evidence in this case, but how the Attorney General and the commonwealth have handled this case.”
Assistant Attorney General Barbara Whaley, whose office is prosecuting Hankison, expressed concern that the discovery materials are not yet admitted as evidence and that Hankison deserves a jury that is “as neutral as possible.”
“There’s been a lot of information almost daily in the media. If the discovery is filed in the record and then becomes published that will multiply and intensify the amount of information that is out in the public,” Whaley argued.
Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Ann Bailey Smith pointed out that Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron has, himself, publicized much of the details of evidence in this case — citing his press conference after Hankison’s indictment was announced, and multiple entries on the office’s website for how to obtain information presented to the grand jury in the case.
Jurors are typically asked to only consider what is admitted as evidence in a trial.
“It has been publicized. It’s been publicized by your office. I think it’s a little late to walk that back now,” Smith said.
Hankison’s attorney, William Stewart Matthews, argued that he’s concerned if the discovery materials are released it will be difficult to find jurors who aren’t prejudiced.
Whaley argued there were concerns over releasing documents like lab reports and ballistics reports conducted by federal authorities.
Smith pressed the Attorney General’s office on why the office believes releasing these reports would impact jurors’ impartiality, adding that Cameron already publicly discussed the ballistics report in detail.
“It has been stated, but we respectfully submit that having a hard copy of it and having the opportunity to study it in the public arena will (allow) potential jurors to become very knowledgeable about it,” Whaley argued. “I don’t see any way that a jury panel would not be tainted.”
CNN has reached out to Taylor’s family attorney for comment.
Judge Smith is expected to issue a ruling later. There will be another pretrial hearing in this case on Jan. 20 at 10:30 a.m.