A judge on Thursday denied a request from a Louisville police officer who took part in the deadly raid on Breonna Taylor’s home to bar the media from part of his upcoming trial.
But Jefferson Circuit Judge Ann Bailey Smith ruled that the media can't bring cameras into the courtroom while individual prospective jurors are questioned ahead of the trial of former Officer Brett Hankison who was fired months after the March 13, 2020, raid.
Hankison wanted the media kept out of the courtroom during that phase of jury selection, which is set to begin Tuesday in Louisville. His attorney, Stewart Mathews, argued during a hearing this week that having reporters present during that phase could have a “chilling effect” on the prospective jurors being questioned.
Hankison’s motion was opposed by the Kentucky attorney general’s office and three news outlets: The Associated Press, the Courier Journal and WDRB-TV.
An attorney for the news outlets, Michael Abate, called the ruling “a significant win for transparency.”
“The public’s ultimate confidence in the verdict hinges on everyone knowing that a fair and impartial jury has been seated,” he said.
Taylor, a 26-year-old Black emergency medical worker, was shot to death by police who used a narcotics warrant to kick in her door. Her boyfriend, fearing an intruder, fired a shot that struck an officer before the police returned fire. No drugs were found in her home.
Hankison, who is the only officer who took part in the raid to be charged, will stand trial on three counts of wanton endangerment for allegedly shooting into an apartment next door to Taylor's that night. There will be no media restrictions once the trial begins.
Taylor’s case has resonated among Black Americans, partly because many believe that Black women who are killed by police receive less consideration than cases involving the extrajudicial killing of Black men. Taylor’s name and the names of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery — Black men who died in encounters with police and vigilantes — were rallying cries during the racial justice protests seen around the world in 2020.
When the Kentucky Attorney General announced in September of that year that no charges would be filed against officers for Taylor’s death, the decision stung many who believed the justice system would work in the ways it did in the Floyd and Arbery cases, which resulted in murder convictions.