Tuesday marked the 144th day since officers with the Louisville Metro Police Department recklessly executed Breonna Taylor in her own home nearly five months ago on March 13. However, according to a couple of legal experts interviewed by the Associated Press, we should probably not hold our breaths waiting for Taylor’s killers to be arrested and charged for their roles in what social justice advocates have called murder.
Renowned civil rights attorney Ben Crump has been among those at the forefront making demands for the officers to be arrested and charged. Considering Crump’s track record when it comes to knowing the law, it’s more than fair to call him a legal expert. However, the AP decided to speak with a couple of white legal experts — who came across really sympathetic to everybody BUT Taylor — to inform its report on why they said Taylor’s killers haven’t been charged. Chances are the perspective from a Black legal expert could have balanced out the AP’s report a bit.
One criminal justice professor seemed to feel bad for the position Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron finds himself in. Christopher Slobogin, who leads the criminal justice program at Vanderbilt University, told the AP that he thought Cameron has been confronted by “a tough issue” of deciding whether to prosecute the three officers involved in Taylor’s killing. “He has to figure out whether there’s probable cause to believe that there was an unreasonable use of force.”
Slobogin’s comments suggest that he, a legal expert, doesn’t think that police shooting and killing an unarmed woman who, while sleeping, posed no threat to officers, justify criminal charges. In fact, it’s unclear what kind of legal consequences, if any, the officers should face.
That’s because of the no-knock warrant the cops were also armed with when they arrived at Taylor’s home; the same kind of no-knock warrant that has a racist and deadly history of going wrong; the same kind of no-knock warrant that Lousiville joined other cities and states in banning following Taylor’s killing.
Not to be outdone by Slobogin, a University of Louisville law professor told the AP that the cops are the ones who have a case for claiming self-defense because Taylor’s boyfriend, who was with her at the time, heard someone attempting to enter the apartment. Sam Marcosson said the aforementioned “combined with the fact that [cops] were fired upon, would make for a powerful defense argument that they acted in valid self-defense while conducting a lawful police operation.”
Kenneth Walker, Breonna’s boyfriend, fired his legally owned and licensed gun at the door that police broke down, prompting the police to blindly return fire without seeing their target. That scenario, in theory, should pave the way to argue that Walker was simply trying to stand his ground, which is legally protected under Kentucky state law, thus negating any claims of self-defense. Even more, charges of attempted murder were dropped against Walker, suggesting he was well within his rights to try to defend himself and Taylor.
One of the lawyers representing Taylor’s family told the AP that any suggestion police are innocent is absurd.
“Breonna did not shoot at them and posed no threat,” Sam Aguiar said irrefutably. Aguilar said Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, who Walker shot in the leg, testified that he saw “a female without a firearm and a male with a firearm. He and the others don’t get a license to keep shooting an unarmed female simply because they are confronted by an armed male.”
As for Cameron, it’s unclear why he simply cannot convene a grand jury to let the panel of Louisville residents decide whether to indict one or all three of the officers involved. Cameron came under fire last month when critics said he was more invested in his upcoming marriage than he was in Taylor’s case.
Cameron has been called Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell’s “protégé” and is a favorite of President Donald Trump, the “stop and frisk” fan who made his position on police brutality very clear when he encouraged cops to “not be so nice.”
All of which brings us back to the nearly five months it’s taken to sit by idly and allow Taylor’s killers to continue being gainfully employed and not suffer any legal consequences aside from one of the officers involved being placed on administrative leave. It was also pretty telling when Louisville Police Chief Steve Conrad announced his unexpected retirement after Taylor’s killing began making national headlines only to be fired less than two weeks later under the guise of a different deadly police shooting of a Black person, David McAtee.
But the officers who killed Taylor have remained on the department’s payroll.
At the very least, it seemed there should be some charges surrounding Walker’s allegation that the officers involved didn’t try to medically treat Taylor after shooting her. The Lousiville Courier-Journal reported that Walker said Taylor survived her gunshot wounds for at least five minutes, but no one tried to render any first aid despite her “yelling” for help and “coughing.” The Jefferson County coroner said Taylor died within one minute of being shot, but the Courier-Jurnal reported that dispatch logs showed “For more than 20 minutes after Taylor was fatally shot at approximately 12:43 a.m. by Louisville officers, the 26-year-old emergency room technician lay where she fell in her hallway, receiving no medical attention.”
But to let the experts who spoke to the AP whitesplain it, there is no justifiable legal precedent to bring charges against the officers who killed Taylor.
This is America.