BRETT HANKISON-SHELBY COUNTY DETENTION CENTER BOOKING PHOTO-9-23-20.JPG

Brett Hankison's booking photo from the Shelby County Detention Center

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) –The attorney for former Louisville Metro police Det. Brett Hankison has asked that his wanton endangerment trial in the Breonna Taylor case be moved out of Louisville because of a “media circus” that has portrayed Hankison and other officers in a “false and negative light."

Cincinnati attorney Stew Mathews, who represents Hankison, told Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Ann Bailey Smith last month he would be requesting a change of venue for Hankison’s Aug. 31 trial on three felony counts of wanton endangerment, for shooting into a nearby apartment during the raid of Taylor’s home.

In a motion filed on Tuesday, Mathews claims media accounts of the case have been inaccurate and prejudicial and LMPD has described Hankison’s actions as “wanton,” writing in his termination letter that he fired blindly.

The “avalanche of publicity,” Mathews argues, has created a “negative impression” of Hankison, causing the potential jury pool in Louisville to be “irreparably harmed.”

In addition, Louisville jurors who sit on Hankison’s case may fear for their safety and be unable to be impartial, Mathews wrote.

"During the trial and after a verdict is reached, these jurors will return to their homes, jobs, places of worship and other venues," he wrote. 

And the "potential threat to the personal wellbeing of these jurors" will weigh on their minds, Mathews said. 

Matthews asked that the trial be moved to an adjacent county so Hankison could get a fair and impartial trial.

The request is scheduled to be heard in court on March 25.

The last trial moved out of Jefferson County was in 2002 when the case against a former Jefferson County corrections officer accused of killing an inmate in 1998 was held in Lexington. The former officer, Timothy Barnes, was acquitted in the death of Adrian Reynolds.

Other police officers have been tried in Louisville, including McKenzie Mattingly on a a murder charge in the 2004 death of 19-year-old Michael Newby. Mattingly was found not guilty. 

On Sept. 23, Hankison was charged with firing at a neighboring apartment unit, showing "extreme indifference to human life" for three people inside, a grand jury concluded.

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said a man, pregnant woman and child were inside that unit at the time. 

Hankison also shot into another apartment, but it was empty. 

Each wanton endangerment charge carries a prison sentence of 1 to 5 years, if convicted.

Neither Hankison nor the two other officers who fired their weapons during the raid  -- Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and Det. Myles Cosgrove -- were indicted in Taylor's death. Taylor was killed by one of Cosgrove's bullets, according to FBI ballistics findings released by Cameron.

Police shot and killed Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency room tech and former EMT, during an undercover raid on her apartment on Springfield Drive as part of a series of raids elsewhere that targeted narcotics trafficking.

No drugs or money were found in her home. 

Taylor’s death touched off Louisville’s racial justice protests and gained national prominence as demonstrations spread across the U.S. in response to the death of George Floyd, a Black Minneapolis man who died after a white officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on his neck as he pleaded, “I can’t breathe.”

Copyright 2021 WDRB Media. All rights reserved. 

Digital Reporter

Jason Riley is a criminal justice reporter for WDRB.com. He joined WDRB News in 2013 after 14 years with The Courier-Journal. He graduated from Western Kentucky University. Jason can be reached at 502-585-0823 and jriley@wdrb.com.