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“Black Women’s Lives Matter”: Breonna Taylor’s Family Demands a Special Prosecutor to Reopen Case

StoryOctober 05, 2020
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Image Credit: Matt Stone/Courier Journal/Reuters

Breonna Taylor’s family is calling on Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear to appoint a new special prosecutor to reopen the case after they say newly released grand jury tapes confirm the state Attorney General Daniel Cameron “did not serve as an unbiased prosecutor in this case and intentionally did not present charges to the grand jury that would have pursued justice for Ms. Taylor.” Cameron complied with a judicial order to release 15 hours of audiotapes just before the judge’s noon deadline on Friday. “The recordings that were released were just as we assumed they were, that nobody was presenting evidence on behalf of Breonna Taylor,” says Ben Crump, a civil rights attorney representing Taylor’s family. We also speak with Democratic Kentucky Representative Attica Scott, who was arrested last month during a protest in Louisville calling for justice in the case and faces charges of first-degree rioting, failure to disperse and unlawful assembly, even as police officers were directly charged in Taylor’s killing.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! The Quarantine Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

Kentucky’s attorney general has been forced to comply with a judge’s order to release 15 hours of audiotapes from the disputed grand jury proceedings into the police killing of Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old African American Louisville resident who was shot to death last March inside her own home by white police officers executing a no-knock warrant. The tapes were filed Friday just before the judge’s noon deadline. They confirm Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron did not ask jurors to consider homicide charges for the white police officers who fired 32 times into Taylor’s apartment, striking her with six bullets.

Cameron has claimed a witness heard officers announce themselves before breaking down Breonna Taylor’s front door. That witness now says he only heard the police identify themselves quietly and in passing. Meanwhile, lawyers for Taylor’s family say a dozen other witnesses did not hear police announce themselves. Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, testified he rushed out of bed, grabbed his handgun on the night of the fatal raid, fearing a home invasion after he heard loud and repeated banging on Taylor’s front door.

Listen closely to these recordings in the grand jury. The audio is hard to understand.

KENNETH WALKER: I was scared to death. So, she says that there’s another knock at the door. She’s yelling at the top of her lungs, and I am, too, at this point, “Who is it?” No answer, no response, no anything. So, we’re like, “What the heck?”

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, testifying to the grand jury in her case. He said, “I was scared to death. So, she says there’s another knock at the door. She’s yelling at the top of her lungs, and I am, too, at this point, 'Who is it?' No answer, no response, no anything. So, we’re like, 'What the heck?'” Walker said.

This comes as a second anonymous member of the grand jury has now asked a judge to allow them to speak publicly about the case. Legal analysts have raised concerns the instructions from prosecutors were not included in the grand jury audio recordings that were just released. Kentucky Attorney General Cameron’s office said in a statement, quote, “Juror deliberations and prosecutor recommendations and statements were not recorded, as they are not evidence.”

Now Breonna Taylor’s family is calling on Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear to appoint a new special prosecutor to reopen the case, saying in a statement, quote, “Cameron did not serve as an unbiased prosecutor in this case and intentionally did not present charges to the grand jury that would have pursued justice for Ms. Taylor.”

For more, we go to Tallahassee, Florida, to speak with civil rights attorney Ben Crump, representing the family of Breonna Taylor.

Ben Crump, welcome back to Democracy Now! The significance of the recordings that were released and were not released, and what your demand is, the demand of the family of Breonna Taylor?

BENJAMIN CRUMP: Yes, ma’am. It’s so good to be with you, Amy. And thank you for covering these important matters, because Breonna Taylor’s life matters, Black women’s lives matter in America, and we have to continue to remind America of that.

The grand jury recordings that were released were just as we assumed they were, that nobody was presenting evidence on behalf of Breonna Taylor in that grand jury proceeding. In fact, there is one exchange where you hear the prosecutors — after they’ve offered just a snippet of a bodycam video, a grand juror who sounds like a Black woman says, “Well, do we get to see the rest of the bodycam video?” And the prosecutor says that, “Well, ma’am, we have 15 hours of bodycam video, and that would take too much time,” of which, Amy, she retorts back, “We have the time.”

And so, you know, when you listen to the recordings, it’s as if the prosecutors are trying to justify the unjustifiable killing of Breonna Taylor, this Black woman, in the sanctity of her own apartment, after they illegally, based on a lie, busted open her front door, executing this no-knock warrant. And then you have the jurors, who seem to be advocating for evidence for Breonna Taylor far more than the prosecutors are doing.

So, the family of Breonna Taylor is demanding that a new grand jury be convened and you have an unbiased prosecutor present the evidence to the grand jury, so that Breonna may have her due process, that her family can have their day in court, and that she could have a chance at achieving justice for this unjustifiable, unnecessary and senseless killing of this Black woman.

AMY GOODMAN: The significance of none of these three white police officers being charged with Breonna Taylor’s death? Again, the only one charged, Brett Hankison, who was indicted on three counts of wanton endangerment, ultimately was charged only with shooting into a neighbor’s apartment. And if, Ben, you can also talk about the fact that Hankison and the others, again, were not charged in this case?

BENJAMIN CRUMP: Certainly, Amy. It’s a slap in the face to Breonna’s mother and her family. When you actually make recommendations — Daniel Cameron, the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office, made recommendations, and the grand jury does what the prosecutors ask. You know, 99.9% of the time, whatever the DA wants the grand jury to do, they do. You can get an indictment on a ham sandwich, it’s often been said, if the prosecutor wants it.

So, when he said that we want wanton endangerment charges for the bullets that went into the walls of Breonna’s white neighbors, but not any wanton endangerment for the bullets that went in Breonna’s Black neighbors who lived above her, or not even the bullets that went into Breonna’s apartment for wanton endangerment, and, worst of all, Amy, not even wanton murder or homicide or manslaughter or anything for the bullets that mutilated Breonna Taylor’s body while she was in her underwear. And so —

AMY GOODMAN: Ben Crump, you seemed to have an inkling of this when it was announced, the $12 million settlement, because I remember you saying, “Remember, even second-degree manslaughter.”

BENJAMIN CRUMP: Yeah, because it was — Amy, it was clearly reckless, and blindly, how these police officers were shooting in this apartment, I mean, executing this no-knock warrant. We have to remember, Amy, he never presented evidence about the lie that was in the probable cause affidavit which helped form the basis of why the judge signed the no-knock warrant in the first place, which was they said that Breonna Taylor had suspicious packages being delivered to her apartment per the United States postal inspector. Well, the postal inspector then came out and said he never made such a statement, and that wasn’t true. Well, Daniel Cameron and his office never presented that to the grand jury.

So, it begged the question, for me: What did they present to the grand jury? Now we know with these recordings. And we know, Amy, they did not put forth second-degree manslaughter charges or homicide charges as the law clearly suggests they would have been well reasoned to do so.

AMY GOODMAN: Before we go, what does it mean to be calling on the governor, Beshear, to reopen this and appoint a second second prosecutor? How does that happen?

BENJAMIN CRUMP: Well, to be exact, we now know the governor does not have that authority. It’s the attorney general. And a governor can only try to use his bully pulpit. And I think he has been doing that to try to say it wasn’t right, what happened to Breonna Taylor.

The power lies within Daniel Cameron, the Kentucky attorney general, so we want to make sure that’s clear. We want to put the ire of our frustration exactly where it needs to be: his office and the county attorney, who is [Tom] Wine. Those are the two men who can give Breonna justice. And apparently, with the exception of the Department of Justice, they are the only two individuals that will determine whether this Black woman even has due process of the law to have her day in court.

So we want to make sure everybody continues to say her name and tell Daniel Cameron and County Attorney Wine we need to reconvene a new grand jury and have an independent prosecutor, who is not trying to advocate for the police but is presenting the evidence in an unbiased manner, because Breonna Taylor’s life matters.

AMY GOODMAN: Ben Crump, we want to thank you so much for being with us, civil rights attorney. We’re going to continue with this after break, and we’re going to speak with the first African American state legislator in Kentucky. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: “Matter” by Brittany Campbell. This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman. For more on the Breonna Taylor case and more, we go to Louisville, Kentucky, to speak with Democratic state Representative Attica Scott. In 2016, she became the first African American woman to serve in Kentucky’s state Legislature in 20 years.

Representative Scott, last month, as you and hundreds protested in downtown Louisville, you were live-streaming when police surrounded your group. You, your daughter and 22 others now face charges of first-degree rioting, failure to disperse and unlawful assembly, this coming as no officers were directly charged in Breonna Taylor’s killing. Can you talk about this, the significance of you being charged with a felony?

REP. ATTICA SCOTT: Yes. And thank you so much, Amy, for having me on this morning.

Yes, we were fighting for justice for Breonna Taylor, as we have done for more than 130 days here in Louisville, Kentucky. And on that Thursday, September 24th, night, we were trying to get to sanctuary before the 9:00 curfew, and we were stopped by police. In fact, they told us to turn around. As we turned around, they yelled, “Circle them! Circle them!” And I asked, “What do you want us to do?” And it was 8:58, two minutes before curfew. We were literally 100 feet from First Unitarian Church in District 41, the district that I serve.

And they told us to get on the ground, and they started arresting us. And they refused to tell us why they were arresting us. And when we found out that we were being accused of trying to burn down the library that I represent in my district, I was in shock. Couldn’t believe it.

AMY GOODMAN: And the significance of why you were protesting, the case of Breonna Taylor, and the release of these audiotapes now and what you’re demanding?

REP. ATTICA SCOTT: Yes. So, we were — at the time we were protesting, it was before the grand juror was able to get the tapes released. It was actually the week of Daniel Cameron’s press conference where he told us that he was going to do no justice for Breonna Taylor, there would be no justice for Breonna Taylor. That’s basically what he told us. And so we continued our protest.

And on that Wednesday night, the night of his announcement, 127 people were arrested. The Thursday night that we were out, we had 24 people arrested. And then, the next day, Friday, we had more than a hundred people arrested.

We are determined to get justice for Breonna Taylor. No law enforcement body is going to stop us from exercising our First Amendment rights and from stopping us from having civil disobedience in this city that refuses to have justice for Breonna Taylor, her family or her community.

AMY GOODMAN: What are you demanding now, as we wrap up? And then we’re going to do Part 2 to talk about what you’re going to be doing in the state Legislature around the killing of Breonna Taylor.

REP. ATTICA SCOTT: Yes, and thank you for that question. As we face court tomorrow afternoon, Tuesday afternoon, we are clear that we will continue to demand justice for Breonna Taylor. What that looks like right now is exactly what attorney Crump said. We need a new special prosecutor, who is independent, who is not politically motivated, who is not directly tied to Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump. We need an independent investigator who will listen to the witnesses who lived where Breonna Taylor lived, in her apartment complex. There are many witnesses who need to be heard, because Breonna Taylor has not received justice.

AMY GOODMAN: Attica Scott, I want to thank you for being with us. We’ll do Part 2 and post it online at, Democratic state representative in Kentucky.

And that does it for our broadcast. I’m Amy Goodman. Stay safe. Wear a mask. Save lives. Happy Birthday to Becca Staley!

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