Answers are still needed
The process was broken from the beginning, on March 12, when a judge in Kentucky’s Jefferson County signed off on the no-knock search warrant that led to the death of Breonna Taylor. It remains broken today. New questions have been raised about the actions of Louisville police as well as those of the state’s Republican attorney general who declined to bring criminal charges against the two officers who shot and killed Ms. Taylor. Answers and accountability are still desperately needed, which buttresses calls for appointment of a special prosecutor.
Last week saw the release of grand jury materials in the case, a highly unusual move ordered by a judge after an unnamed grand juror accused Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron of duplicity in explaining why no one was directly charged in Ms. Taylor’s killing. But the materials only added to the confusion and the controversy. Fifteen hours of recorded testimony were made public, including conflicting accounts about whether police had announced themselves before breaking down the door to Ms. Taylor’s apartment. But the release did not include the guidance or statements that prosecutors gave to the grand jury. The panel brought no charges against the two officers whose bullets struck Ms. Taylor during a botched drug raid but charged a third officer, since fired from the force, with wanton endangerment for firing his weapon indiscriminately and endangering neighboring residents.
Mr. Cameron said the two officers involved in Ms. Taylor’s death were “justified in their acts.” This was unquestionably a complicated and fraught case, given the chaos of that night when Ms. Taylor’s boyfriend (not knowing who had broken down the door) fired his gun in self-defense, apparently hitting one officer. But Mr. Cameron undermined his credibility and the inquiry with his shifting statements — first saying he walked jurors through “every homicide offense” and then acknowledging (after a grand juror hired a lawyer and went to court to dispute his claims) that he only recommended the wanton endangerment charges. Why not be completely aboveboard?
From the start, there has been a troubling pattern of obfuscation and even duplicity in how authorities have handled this case. The initial police report on the raid incorrectly said that Ms. Taylor suffered no injuries. The ex-boyfriend of Ms. Taylor, the target of the raid, said he was offered a plea deal by prosecutors if he would name Ms. Taylor as a member of his alleged criminal gang; he refused because the only thing the 26-year-old ER technician was guilty of was being at home in her bed after working double shifts. According to recent reporting by Vice News, officers involved in the raid violated crime scene protocols that raise questions about the integrity of the investigation.
Ms. Taylor’s family has called on Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) to appoint a special prosecutor. The FBI is also conducting a civil rights investigation. It is clear there are still many more stones that need to be overturned.
* Guest editorial from The Washington Post in Washington, D.C.