Cameron has reluctantly agreed to comply with an order to release the recording, and a judge has extended his deadline to produce the audio until Friday so he can take steps to protect witnesses’ identities. It’s unclear when the public will hear it.
“Grand jurors need direction in their assimilation of information,” the Frankfort trial attorney said. “In the absence of direction and discussions with the prosecuting attorney, grand jurors can become very confused and ineffective. Evidently, the attorney general felt he had to recommend some criminal offense to the grand jury.”
The recording of the grand jury hearing may answer the charging question. Beyond that, numerous queries remain that could illuminate aspects of how the grand jury reached its conclusion.
Was the search warrant legit?
Unless police provided false information to procure the warrant, a matter doubtless under scrutiny, the warrant appears legitimate, experts say. Jaynes’ attorney has not responded to CNN’s request for comment.
Less clear is whether police identified themselves before ramming through Taylor’s door. Kenneth Walker III, Taylor’s boyfriend, told investigators he didn’t know who was entering the home and fired a warning shot. While authorities say Walker’s round hit Sgt. Jon Mattingly in the leg, setting off a 32-bullet hail of return fire, Walker’s attorney disputes the accusation his client shot the sergeant.
While Connelly says it’s “troubling” that Cameron would take the word of one witness over several others, she conceded she’s never been a prosecutor and there remain myriad unknowns about what evidence and testimony the grand jury was asked to consider.
Why wasn’t Walker charged for shooting a policeman?
Mattingly said police knocked six or seven times over the course of 45 seconds to a minute, identifying themselves after the first two attempts to summon Taylor.
“At that point, we started announcing ourselves, ‘Police. Please come to the door. Police. We have a search warrant,'” Mattingly said.
It took three attempts to send the battering ram through the door, Mattingly said. Walker told investigators he heard only two or three knocks before he saw the battering ram hit the door. He and Taylor loudly called out asking who was at the door, he said, but heard no response.
“I still can’t see who it is or anything,” Walker said, explaining he worried the intruder might be Taylor’s ex-boyfriend, who had come by previously.
When the door was broken down, Mattingly was the first of the plainclothes officers to cross the threshold, the sergeant said.
“As soon as I clear, he fires — boom,” he told investigators of Walker’s shot.
Mattingly then fired six shots, Cameron’s office said, while Detective Myles Cosgrove let off 16 rounds and Hankison fired 10.
As police returned fired, Walker dropped his gun and called his mother, 911 and Taylor’s mother before the officers, who had retreated, ordered him outside, he told police.
“The only reason I even had the gun out is because we didn’t know who it was,” Walker told investigators, adding he would’ve opened the door had he known it was police.
In attempting to dispel rumors in May, Wine said Mattingly’s and Walker’s statements “dovetail very well as to the number of knocks, what was going on, the efforts to breach the door and what happened once that door opened.”
Can the police claim self-defense?
In suing to have the grand jury audio released, the anonymous juror said of Cameron’s public announcement, “The only exception to the responsibility he foisted upon the grand jurors was in his statement that they ‘agreed’ with his team’s investigation that Mattingly and Cosgrove were justified in their actions.”
“Sgt. Mattingly was following orders of superior officers, was not involved in the planning process of the arrest and at all times followed established police procedures,” defense attorney Todd McMurtry told CNN.
Another attorney for Mattingly, Kent Wicker, added, “These officers did not act in a reckless or unprofessional manner. They did their duty, performed their roles as law enforcement officers and, above all, did not break the law.”
Is this a castle doctrine case?
Connelly and Johnson, again stressing the case’s many unknowns, say castle doctrine could protect Walker if prosecutors or a jury believe he didn’t hear police identify themselves.
“He’s entitled to defend himself under Kentucky law,” Johnson said. “Someone’s breaking into your house, you’ve got a right to use whatever force is necessary to protect you from death or serious bodily harm.”
Added Connelly, “The castle doctrine may protect him if he felt he was in danger or he felt Breonna was in danger.”
In May, Wine said it’s a “great debate” how castle doctrine and stand your ground laws can exist in the same legal system as no-knock warrants.
The conflict has created problems, he said, but he left open the possibility of Walker being charged.
“Whether Mr. Walker heard and knew who was at the door when the police were there is a decision that may ultimately be decided by a jury — not a grand jury, but a regular jury that hears all the evidence — and whether or not you believe Mr. Walker determines whether or not you believe that he was entitled to act in self-defense,” Wine said.
Could more charges come for officers?
A prosecutor could take new evidence to another grand jury, but Connelly and Johnson say it’s curious Cameron didn’t seek any of Kentucky’s homicide charges to begin with.
Probable cause — the bar a grand jury must reach — is far lower than the beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard a jury in a criminal trial must reach, and “it is fairly easy for any prosecutor to get an indictment if they want one,” Connelly said.
“I suspect you have heard the saying, ‘The prosecutor can indict a ham sandwich if he is so inclined,” Johnson said. “Here, it appears from the statement of the attorney general that he was not inclined to seek a murder, manslaughter or reckless homicide indictment.”
It’s not uncommon in controversial cases, Johnson said, for prosecutors to dump evidence on grand jurors and let them sort it out.
“It will be interesting to see what kind of questions were asked by the grand jurors,” he said.
It’s rare for grand juries to go beyond the statutes a prosecutor presents, CNN senior legal analyst Laura Coates said
“They are not combing through the criminal code to see if prosecutors could pursue criminal charges,” she said. “They are far more reactive to facts that are presented to them.”
It’s not clear if jurors considered excessive force. Thirty-two shots is a “lot of rounds,” Connelly said, but excessive force is “very fact-specific” and the US Supreme Court provides police immense protection in the course of their duties.
Johnson, a former Army captain, said, “Those of us in the military and trained — and police officers get similar training — one of the things you’re trained on is if you’re in a combat situation where someone shoots at you, you don’t count your bullets when you’re shooting (back).”
Is it possible no one else will be charged?
There is a distinct chance that Kentucky law protects both police and Walker, as unsatisfying an outcome as that might be for observers on both sides.
“What separated these two parties was a door,” Wine said in May, “and it’s very possible that there was no criminal activity on either side of that door because people couldn’t hear what the other party was saying.”
Castle doctrine could protect Walker, Johnson said, while at the same time the law surrounding no-knock warrants — which he says is “nebulous” — could protect the officers if investigations ultimately find they were allowed to enter Taylor’s home.
“It’s not a right to go about shooting people,” the trial attorney said, explaining the investigation would need to show policemen demonstrated “the care a reasonable officer would exercise.”
Connelly concurs there may be no criminal outcomes in the case, even if Walker or police are indicted.
“You could have a compete wash. … Jurors reach their own conclusions, right? So you could have the officers tried and found not guilty. You could have Walker tried and found not guilty,” she said.
Again, she emphasized the unknowns: “The wash isn’t a lock-solid thing. There are so many variables.”