LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Breonna Taylor’s mother is asking a state commission to appoint a “competent and capable” prosecutor to review her daughter’s death, alleging that Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron “refused” to properly prosecute Louisville police officers.
In a letter sent to the Kentucky Prosecutors Advisory Council on Wednesday, Palmer and two attorneys urge the state board to “evaluate the unwillingness and refusal” of Cameron to present possible charges against officers in Taylor’s March 13 shooting to a grand jury.
In addition, the letter accuses Cameron of making his own “biased internal decision” and failing to present “critical” evidence to the 12-member Jefferson County grand jury, including information from important witnesses, cell phone data, ballistics and forensics testing.
“Daniel Cameron deliberately engaged in misconduct designed to impede upon the grand jury’s independent investigative and factfinding roles,” the letter claims. “The public has no faith that justice was done in this case, further supporting the need for a new prosecution.”
Cameron previously has said he is confident in his office's presentation to the grand jury. His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Cameron and his office have come under scrutiny since recordings of the evidence presented to the grand jury in the Taylor case were released on Oct. 2. Two anonymous grand jurors have spoken out, saying they were only allowed to consider charges against one officer and that Cameron has misinterpreted the position of the grand jury.
Cameron's office presented wanton endangerment charges against former Detective Brett Hankison for shooting into a nearby unit, the grand jurors have said. Hankison was indicted on three wanton endangerment counts.
In the request for a new prosecutor, Palmer said Cameron told her in a meeting in Frankfort on September 23 that the grand jury “declined to indict other officers and that his team had done the best they could.”
She said Cameron and one of his prosecutors then “advised me that I should consider finding peace through the Lord and watched as I sobbed uncontrollably.”
In a press conference after that meeting, Cameron said the grand jury determined officers were justified in firing their weapons after having been fired upon by Kenneth Walker, Taylor’s boyfriend.
Walker, Taylor's boyfriend and a licensed gun owner, acknowledged firing a single shot as police entered the apartment while serving a search warrant as part of an undercover narcotics investigation. Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency room tech and former EMT, was listed on the warrant because police believed the investigation’s main target, Jamarcus Glover, may have been keeping drugs or money at her apartment.
None were found, according to a police evidence log.
Walker has said he thought officers were intruders. Officers have said they repeatedly knocked on Taylor’s door and announced their presence. Several neighbors have disputed that account; Cameron’s staff told the jury that one neighbor did corroborate the police account. Palmer’s letter says Cameron’s statements were “flat out lies” that have been confirmed by two grand jurors who said the jury asked about additional charges but were told there would be none because the prosecutors didn’t feel they could make them stick.
“The grand jury didn’t agree that certain actions were justified, nor did it decide the (Hankison) indictment should be the only charges in the Breonna Taylor case,” a grand juror said in a statement through an attorney last week.
Palmer argued in the letter that Cameron tried to “pawn” his decision not to charge officers involved in the shooting onto the grand jury while denying jurors their right to make their own decision.
“At a minimum, my daughter deserves, as do all aggrieved victims, a competent and capable prosecution team which is committed to properly investigating the case, evaluating the law from an unbiassed lens, presenting the evidence and allowing the grand jurors to perform the functions guaranteed to them under the law,” Palmer wrote. “No mother should be deprived of justice and truth surrounding her child’s death simply because the perpetrators were police officers.”
Her request now goes to a nine-member advisory council that is chaired by Cameron, a Republican. Its other members are county attorneys, prosecutors and two citizen members appointed by Kentucky’s governor.
Democratic Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear appointed 2 of the 8 governor-named members; he re-appointed 4 members previously chosen by former Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, a Republican. Bevin also appointed both citizen members.
The council’s primary duties include sponsoring an annual prosecutors’ conference; providing training for newly elected prosecutors and county attorneys; and managing the preparation of the Child Sexual Abuse Prosecution Manual and a data collection report, according to its website.
But, citing case law and Kentucky statutes, Palmer’s letter says the council can replace a prosecutor “in the event of ‘incapacity,’ ‘refusal’ or ‘failure’ to act in any certain case or cases ‘without sufficient grounds,’ ‘inability,’ or ‘conflict of interest.’"
The letter, which attorneys Sam Aguiar and Lonita Baker helped write, argues Cameron abdicated his duty by failing to accurately explain the law to grand jurors, accurately present evidence and “perform the job with honesty, integrity and free of bias.”
“Cameron usurped the authority of the grand jury when he unilaterally decided that the jurors would not be instructed on the laws or be permitted to deliberate on charges related to Breonna’s death,” according to the letter. “Had the grand jury been presented with the full panoply of possible charges, the outcome likely would have been different.”
No charges were brought against Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, who led the undercover raid shortly before 1 a.m. March 13, and Detective Myles Cosgrove, who forensic analysis showed fired the shot that killed Taylor.
The two grand jurors have said they did not have homicide offenses explained to them or hear about self-defense laws.
The attorney general said he decided to ask for an indictment on "charges that could be proven under Kentucky law. Indictments obtained in the absence of sufficient proof under the law do not stand up and are not fundamentally fair to anyone."
But the letter by Palmer and her attorneys argue Cameron “made a blatant, palpably erroneous legal conclusion” when he determined that the officers were justified to protect themselves.
Under Kentucky law, according to the letter, self-defense is unavailable as a justification in a prosecution for an offense involving wanton or reckless conduct toward an innocent person.
“Simply put, the law does not coincide with Daniel Cameron’s apparent assessment that law enforcement officers, if fired upon, are blanketly justified to return fire without regard for the number of shots, the location of the shots, whether the shots are directed towards a threat, whether the shots are wanton or reckless or whether the shots are directed at an unarmed, innocent third party,” the letter said.
Included with the letter were statements from the two grand jurors, a transcript of Cameron’s press conference when the grand jury decision was released and background of the Taylor case.
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