Judge declares mistrial in case against ex-Louisville detective from Breonna Taylor raid
A federal judge declared a mistrial Thursday in the case against former Louisville Metro Police Department detective Brett Hankison, after a jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict.
After more than three days of deliberation, the 12-member jury told U.S. District Court Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings they could not come to an agreement on whether they believe Hankison is guilty. With the jury deadlocked, Grady Jennings declared a mistrial.
Hankison was charged with two civil rights violations for his actions during the middle-of-the-night raid on Breonna Taylor’s apartment in March 2020. Police shot and killed the 26-year-old Black woman as they tried to serve a search warrant. Hankison’s bullets did not strike her, but traveled into her apartment and a neighboring one where a pregnant woman, her boyfriend and a five-year-old child slept.
Outside the Gene Snyder Federal Courthouse in downtown Louisville, Taylor family attorney Lonita Baker said prosecutors informed her they plan to try Hankison again. She said the hung jury was the not outcome that Tamika Palmer, Taylor’s mother, was hoping for.
“Of course Ms. Palmer was disappointed, but encouraged because, you know, a mistrial is not an acquittal and we live another day to fight for justice for Breonna,” Baker said.
Palmer was in the courtroom multiple times over the course of the three-week trial. Early in the proceedings, Taylor’s sister, Ju’Niyah Palmer, testified about their close relationship and the impact the shooting had on the family.
Following Thursday’s decision, Ju’Niyah tweeted “mistrial” along with a broken heart emoji.
“I’m so confused on why we keep getting f—ing failed,” she said.
Hankison and his team of defense attorneys left the courthouse through a side door Thursday and did not comment on the outcome.
During the trial, prosecutors said Hankison fired blindly through Taylor’s covered sliding glass door and window without being able to see who he was shooting at and after everyone else had stopped shooting. They accused the 17-year Louisville Metro Police Department veteran of using unjustified force against Taylor and her neighbors.
The two counts of deprivation of rights under color of law could each carry a life sentence because it involves an attempt to kill.
Hankison’s attorneys, meanwhile, argued he was reacting to the threat posed by Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who fired one shot at police as they were breaking down the door. They said Hankison’s only motivation was to save his life and the lives of the other officers on the scene.
There’s no set date yet for the second federal trial against Hankison, which will be based on the same charges. Prosecutors and defense attorneys are due back in court Dec. 13 for a status conference.
Baker, who represents Taylor’s family, said she believes federal prosecutors will have a better case against Hankison next time.
“Honestly, I think a retrial bodes in their favor because things they had to prove this time they set in stone,” Baker said. “[Hankison] had argued all along that he could see into the window that he was shooting through, but on cross-examination he had to admit that he was not able to see what he was shooting at. That’s something that’s very important.”
Baker said the family is also focused on the two other cases federal prosecutors are bringing against officers involved in planning the raid.
When the Department of Justice indicted Hankison last August, they also announced charges against three other former LMPD officers. Detective Joshua Jaynes and his supervisor, Sgt. Kyle Meany, are facing four federal charges including obstruction and civil rights violations for allegedly falsifying information on the search warrant application for Taylor’s apartment.
Former detective Kelly Goodlett was also charged with conspiring with Jaynes to cover up the alleged falsification after the FBI started investigating. She pleaded guilty last year, but has yet to be sentenced.
A trial date for Meany and Jaynes has not been set.