Tonight, I’m thinking of Breonna Taylor’s family who is still grieving the loss of a daughter and sister.
We must never stop speaking Breonna’s name as we work to reform our justice system, including overhauling no-knock warrants.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) September 24, 2020
Radley Balko, at the Washington Post:
Wednesday’s announcement from Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron about criminal charges in the Breonna Taylor case set off a frenzy of misinformation on social media. Based on what we do know — which I’ve culled from my own reporting, reporting from the New York Times and the Louisville Courier-Journal, as well as from conversations with the lawyers for Taylor’s family — the decision to charge Detective Brett Hankison with wanton endangerment was probably correct, as was the decision not to charge the other officers involved in the shooting. If ballistics had conclusively shown that one of the bullets from Hankison’s gun killed Taylor, he could be charged with reckless homicide, but according to Cameron, the bullets that struck Taylor could not be matched to Hankison’s gun. There’s the problem that the police who conducted the raid were relying on a warrant procured by another officer, which was then signed by a judge. There were many flaws and abrogations in that process, but it would be unfair and not legal to hold them accountable for any of that.
But “not illegal” should not mean “immune from criticism.” Part of the problem was Cameron himself, who was selective in what information he released to the point of misleading the public about key facts in the case. (This raises real questions about whether the grand jury was also misled. That’s why an attorney for Taylor’s boyfriend Kenneth Walker, who fired at the police during the raid, is demanding that Cameron release the evidence that was presented to the grand jury.)
Furthermore, Taylor’s death was not, as Cameron suggested, simply a tragedy for which no one is to blame. The police work in this case was sloppy, and the warrant service was reckless. Taylor is dead because of a cascade of errors, bad judgment and dereliction of duty. And it’s important that the record on this be clear. So here are some correctives for the misinformation I’ve seen online…
“This is just an all-around tragedy. We shouldn’t focus on who to blame, whether its police, prosecutors, Walker or Taylor.”
The most serious questions here concern the investigation itself, and why these officers were asked to serve a warrant on Taylor’s home in the first place. There’s the lie about the postal inspector. There is the fact that despite the surveillance on Taylor’s home, the police didn’t know there was another person inside. There are the police bullets that were inadvertently fired into surrounding apartments. There’s the cut-and-paste language used to secure the no-knock portion of the warrant. There’s also the fact that the officer who procured the warrant was not part of the raid team. There’s the fact that five officers involved in the Taylor raid were involved in another violent, botched raid on an innocent family in 2018…