Mistrial Declared in Breonna Taylor Shooting

In a recent trial concerning federal civil rights charges, a mistrial was declared due to the jury’s inability to reach a unanimous decision. This case involved former Louisville police officer Brett Hankison, who was implicated in the police operation that resulted in Breonna Taylor’s death.

Hankison faced charges for his actions during a botched drug warrant search on March 13, 2020, where he fired 10 shots into Taylor’s residence. Although his gunfire entered an adjacent apartment, no one was injured.

The jury, primarily Caucasian, struggled for several days to come to a consensus. U.S. District Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings initially encouraged further deliberations, but after hearing of tensions within the jury room and subsequent confirmation of their deadlock, she declared a mistrial.

The decision to retry Hankison will be up to federal prosecutors. The lead federal prosecutor, Michael Songer, had previously expressed concern over the substantial resources required for a retrial.

Judge Jennings expressed doubt about the jury reaching a verdict, acknowledging their irreconcilable differences. Taylor’s family’s attorney, Lonita Baker, conveyed Tamika Palmer’s (Taylor’s mother) disappointment but also her determination to continue seeking justice, as a mistrial does not equate to an acquittal.

Previously, Hankison was acquitted of wanton endangerment charges in Kentucky. The U.S. Department of Justice later charged him, alongside other officers, for their roles in the warrant’s creation. U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland stressed the injustice of Taylor’s death when announcing these charges in August 2022.

During the trial’s closing arguments, prosecutor Songer emphasized Hankison’s duty to uphold the law, criticizing his reckless gunfire. In contrast, Hankison’s defense, led by attorney Stewart Mathews, portrayed his actions as a rapid response to protect his colleagues under perceived threat.

Hankison testified about his actions during the raid, claiming self-defense. The incident also involved former police Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and officer Myles Cosgrove, with Mattingly testifying for Hankison and Cosgrove being called by the prosecution.

The trial’s outcome adds to the ongoing discourse surrounding Taylor’s case, which gained national attention following George Floyd’s death and subsequent protests. The case also led to increased scrutiny of “no-knock” warrants, resulting in their ban in Louisville. Three other former officers face separate federal charges related to the warrant’s fabrication, with one, Kelly Goodlett, already pleading guilty.