Tuesday Talk*: Disclosing The Breonna Taylor GJ Transcript

The idea of a grand jury moving for the disclosure of the grand jury transcript is simultaneously bizarre and interesting. By law, they are sworn to secrecy for sound policy reasons, and since their role is not about them, they have neither a right nor interest in challenging the law. Yet, a grand juror in the presentation against the cops involved in the killing of Breonna Taylor got a lawyer and made the motion.

The unnamed juror filed a court motion on Monday seeking the release of last week’s transcripts and permission from a judge to speak publicly to set the record straight. Hours later, the office of Attorney General Daniel Cameron granted both requests, saying that the juror is free to speak and that recordings of the session will be made public.

Apparently, Kentucky law allows the attorney general to “grant” these requests, and AG Daniel Cameron has chosen to do so. The grand juror can say what he or she wants to say. The public will be given access to the grand jury proceedings. Transparency! Yay?

[The grand juror’s lawyer, Kevin] Glogower said the juror came to him last week in a state of turmoil after Mr. Cameron repeatedly said at a news conference that the law did not permit him to charge Sgt. Jon Mattingly and Detective Myles Cosgrove, the two white officers who shot Ms. Taylor, a Black woman, after one officer was shot by her boyfriend — and that the jury had agreed with him.

It would appear that the statement at issue is that the grand jury “agreed” with Cameron. Whether that means that the grand jury was presented with the opportunity to vote on charges of murder or manslaughter for the killing of Breonna Taylor is unclear. Maybe it means there was a divided vote. Maybe it means there was no vote.

“While there are six possible homicide charges under Kentucky law, these charges are not applicable to the facts before us because our investigation showed — and the grand jury agreed — that Mattingly and Cosgrove were justified in the return of deadly fire after having been fired upon,” Mr. Cameron said, one of several moments in the news conference where he emphasized such a consensus.

Much has been made of surrounding details which remain in significant dispute, such as whether the cops really knocked and announced, and if they did so, whether it was sufficient to inform Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, that they were cops before he fired. These are issues of extreme interest to many, although they have no legal bearing on whether a police officer, having been fired upon and shot, can lawfully return fire, even if everything about their presence in the apartment was otherwise totally wrong and unlawful. There was never a “provocation rule”in Kentucky. There is no “provocation rule” anywhere anymore.

At first blush, most of us would applaud this transparency. Transparency has become widely accepted as an inherent virtue and, in this particular case, almost a duty. When a killing is this horrible and the circumstances this outrageous, who wouldn’t want to see for themselves whether the prosecution put in its best effort to secure a legitimate indictment rather than sabotaged the presentation to cover for the cops?

But as we also know, putting inflammatory legal information out into the wild creates an enormous likelihood that it will be manipulated and twisted into whatever shape partisans want to make of it. And their fan clubs will embrace their conclusions, idiotic or not, if it confirms their bias. Will this be the impetus to the next round of burning and looting, not because it should but because it simply will?

Cameron’s “grant” of the requests, and statements of confidence that the presentation to the grand jury was beyond reproach, seem naive at best. It may be that he was in a no-win situation, so went with disclosure because it was bound to happen anyway. But is this a good thing? Will this clarify anything or just feed the outrage machine and provide hard copy support for the worst and wrongest legal takes?

*Tuesday Talk rules apply.

31 thoughts on “Tuesday Talk*: Disclosing The Breonna Taylor GJ Transcript

  1. Quinn Martindale

    The lack of a provocation rule under the 4th amendment is irrelevant as to whether the police have a defense to a murder charge. Under KRS 503.060(2), if the police had intentionally provoked the use of force in order to kill Taylor or Walker, they would not be entitled to a justification defense. In addition, if the police knew that Walker’s use of law was lawful, they would similarly be barred from a self-defense instruction. KRS 503.050(1). Of course, the state could never meet either burden where the cops were executing a valid warrant.

    This came up in the Botham Jean case where the defense was blocked from using jury instructions from case law involving civil suits against police.

    1. SHG Post author

      There is nothing here remotely applicable or accurate. You are very much one of the most serious problems with disclosure; woke lawyers will spew nonsense like this to the public and not only make them stupider, but inflame them to engage in further destruction and violence. And no, the Botham Jean case has no applicability to cops executing a warrant. And no again, I will not allow this sort of idiocy to make anyone here stupider.

      1. Quinn Martindale

        Your prerogative. My point was that the question of whether the police committed murder is determined by state criminal law not federal civil rights law, and that a lot of legal commentators in Dallas were mistakenly talking about case law from 1983 litigation that had no bearing on Amber Guyger’s defense

    2. Sgt. Schultz

      This is sovereign citizen level insanity. Which is it, the fringes on the flag or your rights under HIPPA? Delete your account and demand a refund from your law school

  2. Jay

    Well that’s a head scratcher. One of the few limitations on the first amendment created so that folks on grand juries can operate without fear or favor, and Greenfield wants to chat about the actual free speech angle and whether free speech is even worth it anymore. I recall when Greenfield shouted the first amendment from the rooftops. Now he’s clutching his pearls and grumbling about the great unwashed. Most principled member of the new york bar huh? No wonder you guys are so messed up.

    1. Dan

      Do you have anything at all to say about the substance of the piece (ever), or are you only here to complain about what SHG decides to write about?

  3. Onlymom

    Looks to me like this time the individual on the grand jury knowing how bad people want to know something and the more they want it the more the odds go up that something will leak. They refused to let the new district attorney throw them under the bus with his I am just doing what the law requires.
    Horse shit. Becomes even more interesting with the new information. The kentucky state labs can’t determine one way or the other who’s bullet hit the officer. The real fun is ahead. The officers in the shooting and those who arrived afterwards seem to have violated department policy covering officer involved shooting. They did not separate them. They failed to place a shadow that was to stay with each from the start till they were done at the Public Integrity Unit. They allowed one of the officers into the crime scene who was heard to be asking which shell casings was who’s. One of the 3 officers was carrying two weapons one the standard issue department weapon and a 9mil the same calibre as walker. It is also being reported that one of the officers can’t be accounted for for a couple hrs. Didn’t mention if that was the one with two weapons or the only one charged with being too blind to hit the side of a building..

      1. Onlymom

        Lol nope it’s something. We won’t get into that. What is happening is people are pissed. Everyone knows it and don’t plan to let the mob to target them. They see it happening every day on the tv.

    1. KP

      “The kentucky state labs can’t determine one way or the other who’s bullet hit the officer.”
      Funny, I thought they’d put plenty of bad guys behind bars because their bullet science was foolproof and definitely above argument..

  4. Charles

    The Times quotes an email from Elizabeth Kuhn, spokesperson for the Kentucky attorney general:

    “Our prosecutors presented all of the evidence, even though the evidence supported that Sergeant Mattingly and Detective Cosgrove were justified in their use of force after having been fired upon by Kenneth Walker,” [Ms. Kuhn] said in an email. “For that reason, the only charge recommended was wanton endangerment.”

    It’s little phrases like “even though” that makes the public crave transparency. Shouldn’t they have presented all of the evidence, no matter what they believed the outcome to be? The fact that the words come out this way suggests that they aren’t always inclined to present “all of the evidence.”

    We’re not being left with many options other than “trust, but verify.”

    1. SHG Post author

      There have been a few such odd phrases used along the way that give pause. Trust but verify, indeed, but who should verify remains the question.

      1. Miles

        What makes little sense is to present evidence without proffering the charge as a possibility. Of course, had they asked for an indictment of the two killer cops and the grand jury complied, what then does a prosecutor do?

        1. SHG Post author

          Life is filled with conundrums. That’s a very good question, what if they got a murder indictment for returning fire?

            1. SHG Post author

              If you were a lawyer, you would say, “but if the indictment were legally insufficient, then it would be futile since it would have to be dismissed.” Much like if you got indicted for Manslaughter for this comment. A grand jury could do it, but silly as this comment is, it still wouldn’t be legally sufficient for manslaughter even though I’m a man and you made me laugh.

  5. L. Phillips

    Responses like this reaffirm my belief in the holy writ that, as a society, “We all got it coming, kid.”

    1. Charles

      Yes, especially when we can’t even find the reply button.

      P.S. Before clicking submit, Google just made me select all of the “parking meters.” It wouldn’t proceed until I also pretended that a mailbox was a parking meter. Truly, we are doomed.

      1. L. Phillips

        Congratulations, counselor. You got me.

        Admiral, if it please the court I move to correct previous testimony by substituting “these” for “this”.

  6. Bob S

    I have little hope for a positive outcome from it, but that should hardly surprise you at this point.

    Giving lay people a clearer glimpse into the workings of the machine will almost certainly result in more outrage, which will likely express itself in unproductive ways. It may further stratify “us vs them”, it’s unlikely that it will help progress desperately reform in the policing system.

    So what?

    The machine belongs to the people. They fund it, it’s built on their behalf. If they want to nose around in it, pull some wires, write some new code, that is wholly their prerogative. The masses may be stupid (scratch that, they surely are) but they are not children, and tooth fairy stories about how systems work cannot serve them well.

    What happened at Taylors apartment, and in every subsequent proceeding, happened under the guise of public safety, a public justice system, all the players involved draw their pay from the public trust. The fallout from the incident and others like it are of great public interest nationwide, and the public is tired of the “official report”. They are tired of the lies from Waco to bite marks, ginned up ballistics, massaged statements… They want to see the raw data, they want to look at the gears, and fear of outrage is not a compelling reason to deny them.

    1. Jake

      “The machine belongs to the people.”

      This only works if the people are able to, or at least believe they are able to, effect change through democratic process.

      I suggest you may be severely underestimating the extent to which the people feel they have any control over the system, and offer civil unrest in evidence.

  7. John Barleycorn

    If someone were to actually write the definitive grand jury post (which to this day does not exist), Merriam Websters and Oxford English might just add “simultaneously bizarre and interesting” to the definition.

    tsk, tsk…

  8. B. McLeod

    The AG has basically now admitted that no homicide charges were recommended to the grand jury. This was because the AG’s office thought there was not a basis, due to Walker having fired first. Still, the protesters have an uphill battle. There is no appeal from the AG’s decision. They can try to bring a mandamus to force him to charge, but would have little chance of success. Apart from that, they can try to elect a different AG who will bow to their demands and file charges no matter what. Then I suppose they would move on to intimidating the trial court and the jury to whatever extent might be required to secure a show trial with convictions. If they were to succeed in all of this, there would still be the risk of the appellate courts vacating the convictions because the trial was reduced to a mockery of due process. Ultimately, I do not think the protesters will be able to secure the result they want, but they may continue their fanatical efforts until even the most remote possibilities have been exhausted.

    1. SHG Post author

      But if no charges were sought, then the grand jury never returned no true bill. That makes it fair game for anyone else to do so.

      1. B. McLeod

        Even if a grand jury returns a no true bill, I don’t think that precludes do-overs, in that it is still all at the pre-charging stage and jeopardy has not attached. So, sure, another AG and another grand jury if they can manage it. Do-overs ad nauseum unless and until they hit a limitations problem.

  9. B. McLeod

    ABC News today posted an Internet article renewing the discredited narrative that Breonna Taylor and Kenneth Walker were asleep when officers broke in with a battering ram. What is the point of pressing for additional factual detail when they are obviously going to publish whatever fallacious version strikes their fancy?

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