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.