Today, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) joined calls for the appointment of a special prosecutor and new grand jury to examine the police killing of Breonna Taylor. Last month, a court ordered the release of the audio files of the proceedings in response to a grand juror request. LDF assembled a team of attorneys – including pro bono support from the law firm of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP – to review the recordings and identify any deficiencies in the Kentucky Attorney General’s presentation of evidence to the grand jury and irregularities in the proceedings. This report summarizes LDF’s findings and recommendations.
“Our review of the grand jury proceedings reveals that Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s team presented evidence in a biased manner that protected the involved officers rather than hold them accountable,” said LDF President and Director-Counsel Sherrilyn Ifill. “Each step of the way since this tragic killing, Ms. Taylor’s family and the public has had to demand action from their state and local leaders to learn what happened on the night of the killing and to seek justice for Ms. Taylor. They have been disappointed at every turn.
“Attorney General Cameron’s flawed and biased presentation of the case to the grand jury is a betrayal of the public trust, and of the rightful expectation of Ms. Taylor’s family that justice would be vigorously pursued in the case. In light of the highly problematic findings documented in our report, we support Ms. Taylor’s family in calling on Attorney General Cameron to appoint a special prosecutor to resubmit Ms. Taylor’s case to a new grand jury.”
On March 13, 2020, Ms. Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician, was shot and killed by Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) officers as they entered her home while executing a no-knock search warrant. After national unrest over Ms. Taylor’s killing, a grand jury was appointed to review the case. While former LMPD officer Brett Hankison was charged with three counts of wanton endangerment in the first degree for reportedly shooting into the apartment next to Ms. Taylor’s home, none of the officers involved were charged for killing Ms. Taylor.
Since the indictment, three members of the grand jury have spoken out about the nature of the proceedings, including how the grand jury was not presented with full details of the case. LDF’s review of the grand jury proceedings found that the Kentucky Attorney General’s office’s presentation of the case reflected a bias that protected the officers, that the prosecution failed to adequately respond to grand juror inquiries, and did not disclose to the grand jury all potentially relevant evidence regarding the involved officers’ conduct.
“Our thorough review of the grand jury’s audio transcripts and LMPD investigative reports not only supports claims by several grand jurors that they were not provided an opportunity to consider all evidence and potential charges that could be brought against the officers involved, but also reveals the need for systemic changes in the investigation of police killings,” said Monique Dixon, LDF’s Director of the State Advocacy and the Justice in Public Safety Project. “We urge Kentucky’s Governor to take actions to ensure that these critical incidents are investigated by independent and impartial prosecutors going forward.”
“An exhaustive review of the grand jury proceedings here clearly demonstrates that there is much more work to be done to achieve justice in this matter and restore public confidence in how these troubling police shootings are investigated,” said Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP partner Lauren Muldoon, who led the international law firm’s pro bono work on the report. “We were proud as lawyers committed to racial and social justice to devote our energies to this report and collaborate with LDF to assemble these vital findings and recommendations.”
Read LDF’s report here.
Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization. LDF has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF. Follow LDF on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.