LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – A Jefferson County judge has ruled there is "no sufficient justification” for sealing evidence and other court records from the public in the criminal case of a former Louisville Metro Police officer charged in the Breonna Taylor raid.
Circuit Court Judge Ann Bailey Smith ruled Tuesday there are “less restrictive alternatives” than allowing only attorneys for the Kentucky Attorney General’s office and former Det. Brett Hankison to see evidence in the case.
For example, the judge, who had already ordered the grand jury records released, ruled that photos and videos that include Taylor would be available only to attorneys involved and personal information of witnesses will be redacted.
Prosecutors and Hankison’s defense attorney had asked Bailey Smith to seal the records, claiming, in part, that releasing them could prejudice prospective jurors in the case.
“We are attempting to ensure that a fair jury can be seated in this case,” Assistant Attorney General Barbara Whaley said during an Oct. 28 court hearing on the issue.
But in her ruling, Bailey Smith pointed out that much of the evidence in the case is already in the “public realm.”
The Louisville Metro Police Department has already released its investigation into the March 13 fatal shooting of Taylor, and Attorney General Daniel Cameron and his office have publicly discussed evidence and made it available to the public on its website.
The judge wrote that prospective jurors will be individually questioned as to what they know about the case and whether they can be unbiased.
The order will not go into effect for 30 days, giving the defense time to review all of the evidence and allow prosecutors to make the necessary redactions.
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.
Hankison has been charged with three felony counts of wanton endangerment for shooting into a nearby apartment during the raid.
Each charge carries a prison sentence of 1 to 5 years, if convicted. He has pleaded not guilty.
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