LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Kentucky Prosecutors Advisory Council declined to appoint a new special prosecutor in the Breonna Taylor case, concluding it does not have the legal authority to do so.
The council unanimously voted to reject the request from Tamika Palmer, Taylor's mother, during a virtual meeting Friday morning.
Chris Cohron, the Commonwealth's Attorney for the Eighth Judicial Circuit in Bowling Green, said state law governing the council's duties doesn't apply in the Taylor case, where Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron served as prosecutor.
The council does have the ability, Cohron noted, to replace a local prosecutor with the attorney general.
One of the chief arguments by Palmer and her attorneys was that a 1989 Kentucky Supreme Court case supported their request. In that case, one justice wrote that 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.'"
They contended that Cameron didn't accurately explain the law to grand jurors, present evidence correctly and "perform the job with honesty, integrity and free of bias."
But Cohron, who presented the council's finding before the vote, said that 31-year-old case concerned a private lawyer aiding prosecutors and the judge's remark was from a dissenting opinion.
"This comment made by one justice lacks the power of law and is not only inapplicable to the present facts and circumstances, but is not dispositive of the issue," he said.
Cohron said "quite simply put we do not have the legal authority to fulfill the request that has been submitted."
Attorneys Ben Crump, Sam Aguiar and Lonita Baker, who represent Taylor's family, said in a statement Friday afternoon that the council "punted on the issue, inaccurately claiming that they lacked the ‘authority to fulfill the request that has been submitted.’
"This is yet another gross miscarriage of justice in this case, and yet another example of a system which is biased towards law enforcement members and which shuns Black women," the attorneys said. "The level of cowardice that we have witnessed by the Louisville Police Department, the attorney general’s office, and now the council, is staggering."
The council is chaired by Cameron, whose office investigated the fatal Louisville police shooting of Taylor, after Jefferson County Commonwealth's Attorney Tom Wine recused because at the time his office was prosecuting Taylor's boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who fired at police. Cameron did not attend Friday's meeting.
Cameron's representative left the meeting before the panel discussed the request.
After the vote, several people who were attending the virtual meeting broke in, with one person saying, "You're wrong and you know it." Another said, "You have the authority. You're scared." Other people said they opposed the council's action.
Taylor was shot and killed March 13 by LMPD officers serving a search warrant at her apartment near Pleasure Ridge Park. Walker fired a single shot at officers when they used a battering ram to break down the apartment door shortly before 1 a.m.
The officers combined to return 32 shots, and Taylor was hit six times and died in her hallway.
In September, a Jefferson County grand jury indicted former LMPD Det. Brett Hankison on wanton endangerment charges for shooting into a nearby apartment. None of the officers who fired their weapons into Taylor's home was charged in connection with her death.
After the grand jury's decision, Cameron said his office recommended only the charges against Hankison.
Two grand jurors said in October that they believe additional charges should have been considered against other officers who fired shots during the raid.
In her request to the prosecutors' council, Palmer and attorneys Baker and Aguiar claimed Cameron wasn't willing to present possible charges against the officers in Taylor’s shooting to the grand jury.
They accused Cameron of making his own “biased internal decision” and failing to present “critical” evidence to the 12-member grand jury, including information from important witnesses, cell phone data, ballistics and forensics testing.
Cameron has defended his office's work, saying he asked 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," he has said. "I remain confident in our presentation to the grand jury, and I stand by the team of lawyers and investigators who dedicated months of work to this case."
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