The jury charged with determining if former Louisville Metro Police Detective Brett Hankison violated the civil rights of Breonna Taylor, her boyfriend and three neighbors during the police raid that killed her could not reach a decision, leading the judge to declare a mistrial.
Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings’ announcement comes at the end of the third full day of jury deliberations. The trial lasted about three weeks, with testimony from around two dozen witnesses.
The federal prosecution has not yet said whether they plan to retry Hankison. Jennings has set a status conference date for Dec. 13.
Jury deliberations on Hankison trial stall on third day
The federal jury deliberations were a sharp contrast from the state trial, which took jurors just three hours to acquit Hankison on wanton endangerment charges related to the shooting.
During deliberations this week, the jury asked a few questions, including a request for the court transcript. That request was denied, with the judge instructing the jury to instead rely on their memory.
Thursday afternoon, after about three full days, the jury sent a note saying they were at an impasse and asked what would happen if they could not make a unanimous decision. Jennings responded by issuing an Allen charge, which urged the jury to reach a verdict.
A few hours later, the jury, which appeared to be made of one Black man, five white men and six white women, reaffirmed their split stance.
Breonna Taylor’s family, neighbors react
Lonita Baker, an attorney for Taylor’s family, issued a statement outside of the courthouse shortly after the mistrial was announced, expressing gratitude to the federal prosecutors and optimism for the future.
“A mistrial is not an acquittal,” Baker said. “And so we live another day to fight for justice for Breonna.”
Baker also expressed disappointment at the jury’s makeup, which appeared to have only one person of color.
“The Western District is made up of more than just Louisville, and we recognize that, but hopefully on the next trial, the jury does reflect the diversity of this city and the Western District of Kentucky,” Baker said.
Jeffery Sexton, an attorney representing Taylor’s former neighbors Chelsey Napper and Cody Etherton in their federal civil suit, said “there are no winners in a tie” when it comes to a mistrial.
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“There is no expiration date for the harm Hankison caused my clients,” Sexton said. “Some of those deadlocked jurors are heroes. They stood up for the Constitution. They said ‘No!’ when some of their less-than-patriotic fellow Americans on that jury wanted to wad it up and throw it in the trash can.”
How we got here
Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency room technician, was inside her South End apartment when she was fatally shot by plainclothes officers attempting to serve a search warrant at 12:40 a.m. March 13, 2020, as a part of a botched narcotics investigation.
Though seven officers were on scene to serve the warrant, only three fired their guns: Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, Detective Myles Cosgrove and Hankison. They fired a combined 32 rounds throughout the apartment, with Hankison firing 10 bullets through a covered sliding-glass door and window.
The government accused Hankison of using excessive force while his defense team argued the former LMPD detective’s actions were justified based on his perception that he was saving his fellow officers’ lives.
In March 2022, Hankison was found not guilty on state charges of wanton endangerment related to the shooting and has since had those criminal charges expunged.
Hankison is one of four people federally charged in connection to the raid on Taylor’s apartment. The others are former LMPD Officers Joshua Jaynes, Kelly Goodlett and Kyle Meany.
Meany and Jaynes have been charged with federal civil rights and obstruction offenses related to preparing and approving a false search warrant.
Goodlett was charged with one count of conspiring with Jaynes to falsify the search warrant for Taylor’s home and to cover up their actions. In August 2022, she pleaded guilty to that charge. She is expected to be a star witness at the trial ofJaynes and Meany.
In a mistrial, the defendant is neither convicted or acquitted. The prosecution can decide to retry the case, with the same charges and a different jury, but it is up to the prosecutor’s discretion.