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Breonna Taylor grand jurors say there was an 'uproar' when they realized officers wouldn't be charged with her death

CNN logo CNN 10/30/2020 By Elizabeth Joseph, CNN
a group of people posing for the camera: breonna taylor grand juror interview charges orig mg_00001729.jpg © Provided by CNN breonna taylor grand juror interview charges orig mg_00001729.jpg

Two grand jurors who heard the Kentucky Attorney General's Office presentation of the Breonna Taylor case say prosecutors were dismissive of their questions and that there was an "uproar" when jurors realized Louisville police officers wouldn't be charged with Taylor's death.

The grand jurors -- who are choosing to remain anonymous, citing security concerns -- spoke to journalists by phone Wednesday evening along with their attorney, Kevin Glogower, and community activist Christopher 2X. They spoke about how their service on the Taylor case was unlike dozens of other cases they heard throughout their month of service.

"Was justice was done? No, I feel that there was there's quite a bit more that could have been done or should have been presented for us to deliberate on," Grand Juror 1, a White male, told reporters on the call.

Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Annie O'Connell earlier this month allowed grand jurors to speak about their service after Grand Juror 1 filed court documents suggesting public comments by Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron about the proceedings were misleading.

Six possible homicide charges under Kentucky law weren't considered against the Louisville Metro Police Department officers who fired their weapons in Taylor's apartment because "they were justified in the return of deadly fire" after being shot at once by Taylor's boyfriend, Kenneth Walker III, Cameron said in a news conference last month. The "grand jury agreed" with that decision, he said in his first public comments about the grand jury proceedings.

Grand Juror 1 described Cameron's comments as "inaccurate" and said the first time he heard there were six possible homicide charges that the jurists could have reviewed was in Cameron's news conference.

"Even though we asked for other charges to be brought, we were never told of any additional charges. We were just told that they didn't feel that they can make any charges stick" and that LMPD officers were justified in returning fire," the juror said.

"They didn't go into the details of the self-defense statutes, they didn't go into the details of any of the six possible murder statutes," he said, explaining Cameron's news conference was the catalyst for filing the petition with the court.

Grand Juror 2, a Black male, said there should have been additional charges against "maybe up to the six officers that were there" when Taylor was killed.

"We were never given the opportunity to deliberate against any other charges," he said, calling Cameron's comments "just false all the way around."

"We were open the whole time to listen to everything they presented, and it would have been nice if they had presented every charge, but they only presented those three charges," Grand Juror 2 said, referring to the charges brought against former LMPD detective Brett Hankison.

A third anonymous grand juror who also has come forward "firmly supports the fact that no additional charges were allowed at the conclusion of their service," according a statement released late Friday afternoon by Glogower, who now represents all three grand jurors.

The grand jury indicted Hankison on three counts of wanton endangerment in the first degree in connection with Taylor's death. He is not charged with causing the death of Taylor, but for "wantonly and blindly" firing at her apartment.

Some of the bullets went through Taylor's apartment and into one next door, where three people were inside, including a pregnant woman and a child. The three counts are for each of those people in that apartment.

"There was an uproar" when prosecutors announced those were the only charges being presented to the grand jury, according to Grand Juror 1.

"When they finally did present the charges to us ... almost of all of the people at once said, 'Isn't there anything else?'" The reply from the attorney general's office was there were no other charges that they could make stick, Grand Juror 1 recalled.

"There were a lot of questions," he said. "We didn't go right into deliberation on charges because we wanted to know what else was missing. ... There was an uproar at the end, and it suggested to me that there were several other people who wanted to know more information."

According to Kentucky law, prosecutors "shall attend the grand jurors when requested by them" and "when requested by them, draft indictments."

'Deliberately did it backwards'

The two grand jurors -- who are not authorized to speak on behalf of other members of the panel -- told journalists Wednesday evening they found it unusual that prosecutors announced the charges they wanted the jurists to vote on after all the evidence was presented, whereas in the dozens of cases they heard throughout their grand jury term, charges were announced by prosecutors at the beginning of the case.

"There were probably 40 cases we'd heard throughout the month of September," Grand Juror 1 explained.

"All of the charges were brought to us first and then we listen to the evidence that applied to those charges, so we knew what we were listening to and what we're listening for."

In Taylor's case, prosecutors "provided two and a half days of evidence and then presented the charges at the very end, which was confusing to us," he said.

Juror 1 said Cameron's office told the grand jury "more than once" that they were going to present the case like a trial, "but even in a trial the jury knows what the charges are and why they're listening to the evidence they're listening to. We were not afforded that luxury."

Grand Juror 2 said it seemed the attorney general's office "deliberately did it backwards."

CNN has asked Cameron's office why it presented charges at the end of its presentation of the Taylor case, when the jurors said they heard charges at the start of all other cases during their September grand jury service.

Next steps and healing

Part of the reason both jurors chose to come forward, they said, was because they wanted Tamika Palmer, Breonna's mother, to know they weren't behind the attorney general's decision not to indict officers for the killing of her daughter.

"I'd like her to know that in this room we took seriously our responsibility to listen to all the evidence that they presented to us," Grand Juror 2 said.

Palmer is asking the Kentucky Prosecutors Advisory Council to appoint an independent prosecutor to present the case of her daughter's death before a new grand jury, saying the state attorney general's handling of the case "undermines the trust and integrity of the entire process."

And as daily protests calling #JusticeForBreonna continue, the FBI is investigating whether any federal civil rights violations occurred in the events that brought the LMPD officers to Taylor's apartment and the events that followed her death.

"I believe part of how we heal is doing exactly what we're doing," Grand Juror 1 said.

"Bringing this further into the public eye as to how, how and what it was, was presented. And I believe that that may begin part of the healing process, but it's not enough."

a person wearing a costume: Tamika Palmer, Breonna Taylor's mother, marches with Black Lives Matter protesters in Louisville in September. © Darron Cummings/AP/FILE Tamika Palmer, Breonna Taylor's mother, marches with Black Lives Matter protesters in Louisville in September. a man wearing a suit and tie: Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron addresses the media following the return of the grand jury investigation into Taylor's death, in Frankfort, Kentucky, on September 23. © Timothy D. Easley/AP/FILE Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron addresses the media following the return of the grand jury investigation into Taylor's death, in Frankfort, Kentucky, on September 23.
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