Judge On Search Warrant Task Force Disciplined For Public Opinions on Warrant Procedure Wednesday, May 12 2021 

A member of the Kentucky Attorney General’s search warrant task force was sanctioned this year for publicly defending the search warrant process and the judge who approved the warrant for Breonna Taylor’s home.

Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Charles Cunningham received a private reprimand from the Judicial Conduct Commission in January for comments he made in an op-ed published in The Courier Journal. The reprimand doesn’t name Cunningham, but he confirmed to KyCIR that he is the subject of the disciplinary action.

Cunningham was publicly named last week as a member of the task force the attorney general will charge with scrutinizing and suggesting possible reforms for how search warrants are obtained and executed in Kentucky.

In the opinion article published last July, Cunningham shot down the need to randomize search warrant assignments to judges and to record their conversations with law enforcement officers seeking warrants. Both were reforms proposed in an earlier op-ed by Louisville attorney Ted Shouse.

Cunningham went on to defend the integrity of the judge who signed the much criticized search warrant that led to Taylor’s killing. 

That warrant is still the focus of an ongoing federal investigation, and the Louisville Metro Police Department fired the officer who obtained it, alleging he lied in his affidavit.

The judicial commission ruled that Cunningham violated the Judicial Code of Conduct by making comments that could affect the outcome or impair the fairness of impending court matters. By personally attacking a local attorney, Cunningham failed to uphold a standard of patience, dignity and courtesy required of judges in Kentucky, the reprimand said.

Cunningham has been on the bench since 2008.

He said in an interview this week that “there is no basis for someone to contend that Charlie Cunningham’s mind is made up” regarding the system of issuing search warrants.

“I never said the policy is perfect,” he said.

Criminal justice reform advocates say the judge’s actions go beyond a mere violation of rules, and instead serve as proof that the deck is stacked against any effort to change the system of search warrant issuance.

“I think it does call into question the viewpoint diversity on that task force,” said Corey Shapiro, the legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky. “We already had concerns that it was not fully representative of what the community wanted to see.”

One judicial ethics expert said Cunningham’s comments — and his position as a sitting judge — should disqualify him from serving on the task force. 

“Judges ought to stay the hell out of politics,” said Charles W. Wolfram, a professor emeritus at Cornell Law School. “I find it very disturbing.”

Wolfram said no sitting judge should have been tapped to serve on the task force, which could influence policy decisions. A better choice, he said, could be a retired judge with knowledge of how the system works but no stake in it, or an expert who studies the process of warrant issuance.

“It’s a real mistake and not consistent with the independence of the judicial code for judges to be taking policy positions on political issues,” he said. 

Cunningham is one of two current judges the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Minton, appointed to serve on the search warrant task force. Christian County District Court Judge Foster Cottoff will also serve on the task force.

In an emailed statement, Minton’s spokesperson said the chief justice “is confident in Judge Cunningham’s ability to serve impartially on the attorney general’s task force.”

Jefferson Circuit Court Chief Judge Angela McCormick Bisig declined to comment on the particulars of the sanction against Cunningham, but defended the judge, calling him a “hard working, thoughtful colleague.”

Cameron’s spokesperson, in an emailed statement, did not directly address the disciplinary action levied against Cunningham, nor did she respond to the question of if Cunningham should be removed from the group.

“The members of the task force represent every aspect of the search warrant process, and each member will bring his or her own opinions, experiences, and ideas to bear as part of the conversation,” she said.  

Task Force Slow To Start

Cameron formed the search warrant task force as a direct result of the police killing of Breonna Taylor. He announced it during a September 2020 press conference, after  a grand jury convened by his office brought no criminal charges for the death of Breonna Taylor, 26, who LMPD officers shot and killed in her home during the execution of a search warrant.

Cameron formally launched the task force with an executive order in January.

Now, nearly eight months since the announcement, it hasn’t met. It’s first meeting is set for May 24. Cameron announced the group’s members last week, after KyCIR asked for comment about the task force’s inaction.

Cameron told WDRB News in an interview broadcast on Tuesday that he is hopeful the task force will propel Kentucky to be a national model for how search warrants are processed.

Taylor’s killing sparked change at the executive and legislative branches of government, but judges have been averse to adopting any notable changes. In November 2020, Jefferson District Court judges voted down a proposal from fellow district judge Julie Kaelin that aimed to bring more transparency and oversight to the search warrant system. 

Jefferson Circuit Court judges did take one step to promote transparency, however, after a report from KyCIR and WDRB News found their signatures on search warrants were often illegible: The judges began using stamps imprinted with their name.

A Spat in the Papers

Cunningham’s article was a direct response to an op-ed penned by local defense attorney Ted Shouse. He called for pointed reforms to how warrants are issued in articles published by The Courier Journal and in the Louisville Bar Association newsletter.

Shouse wrote that the communication between judges and the law enforcement officers who seek a warrant should be recorded. Additionally, he said there should be a process to randomly assign judges to review search warrants.

Cunningham responded sharply. He shot down the necessity and practicality of the reforms and accused Shouse of trying to mislead the public to gain support for changes that would serve the interests of defense attorneys and defendants.

“Those sorts of misstatements can be chalked up to ignorance,” Cunningham wrote.

The commission noted the judge’s tone in its ruling that Cunningham violated a provision of the Judicial Code of Conduct that requires judges by “patient, dignified and courteous to lawyers and others with whom the judge deals in an official capacity.” 

In an interview this week, Shouse dismissed the squabble as a side-show.

“I’ve been called names before,” he said. “The real issue here is that Breonna Taylor was killed by Louisville police officers and it was a search warrant that brought those officers to her door.”

In his op-ed, Cunningham defended Circuit Judge Mary Shaw, who issued that warrant, and her process for that particular warrant. 

“Judge Shaw did nothing wrong,” Cunningham wrote. “She methodically applied the law as it then existed to the facts as presented to her.”

The Judicial Conduct Commission ruled that Cunningham’s specific comments violated a rule that prohibits judges from “making public statements which might reasonably be expected to impair the fairness of a matter impending in any court.”

Shapiro, with the ACLU of Kentucky, said in defending Shaw, Cunningham showed a troubling bias that permeates the courts — “that judges can do no wrong.”

When asked if he regrets penning the op-ed, Cunningham declined to comment.

Judicial Discipline Rare, Somewhat Secret

Cunningham has been sanctioned at least twice by the Judicial Conduct Commission since 2013, according to records of judicial disciplinary actions maintained on the commissions website.

In 2018, the commission ruled that Cunningham had failed to notify prosecutors of certain court actions and talked to a defendant’s counsel without the prosecutor’s knowledge. For that, he was publicly reprimanded.

The group issues just a handful of sanctions each year — no more than eight each year since 2013 — and the members don’t discuss their work.

The Judicial Conduct Commission consists of six members and four alternate members, which include judges, attorneys and citizens. The chair, R. Michael Sullivan, an Owensboro attorney, said the group is bound by its rules to keep mum on any investigative matters or disciplinary actions.

Nationally, discipline against judges is also somewhat rare. In 2020, at least 127 sanctions were levied against sitting state judges across the country, according to a report from the National Center for State Courts.

Cynthia Gray, who compiles data about each disciplinary action for the center, said some judges will take the sanctions to heart and try to learn from their mistakes. Others, though, she said, will double down.

A sanction stemming from an op-ed is rare, Gray said. Judges are instead commonly disciplined for demeaning or belittling defendants or attorneys in open court, or for posts to social media.

As for making public comments, there is value in getting an inside look at what a judge thinks about certain issues, especially those that pertain to the administration of justice, said Kevin S. Burke, a former district court judge from Minneapolis.

“Just because you’re a judge doesn’t mean I can’t talk about things about the criminal justice system,” he said. “But you have to be careful, there is a fine line.”

And perhaps most of all, they shouldn’t be rude, Burke said — pointing to a quote from the former attorney and politician Morris Udall, who asked God to “give me the grace to make my words gentle and tender, for tomorrow I might eat them.”

Contact Jacob Ryan at jryan@kycir.org.

The post Judge On Search Warrant Task Force Disciplined For Public Opinions on Warrant Procedure appeared first on Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.

Exhibit dedicated to Breonna Taylor opens at the speed Art Museum Monday, Apr 19 2021 

By Tate Luckey

A  new exhibit at the Speed Art Museum, called “Promise, Witness, Remembrance,” reflects on the life of Breonna Taylor and the resulting protests around Louisville and the world. Taylor was killed in her home by Louisville Metro police officers in March of last year.

The exhibit features work curated by Allison Glenn, a contemporary art curator, and seeks to explore the nation’s “reflection on the promise, witness, and remembrance of too many black lives lost to gun violence.”

The section “Promise” explores the ideologies of the US, while “Witness” addresses the moments and finally, “Remembrance,” which reflects on the legacies of those affected.

The exhibit is available now until June 6 and is free to U of L students. More information about the exhibit can be found here.

Photos by Anthony Riley // The Louisville Cardinal

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KY Senate Race 2020: Kentucky needs a change. Tuesday, Oct 20 2020 

By Catherine Brown-

Senator Mitch McConnell does not deserve a place in office anymore. It’s up to us to vote for Democrat Amy McGrath for Senate.

On Sept. 30, McGrath spoke to University of Louisville students at the Red Barn on the Belknap Campus. In her speech, she discussed the corruption of individuals in the government such as Sen. McConnell and President Donald Trump.

McGrath spoke to students about matters like registering to vote, racial injustice and preserving democracy.

“Kentucky has never made it easier to vote than this year,” McGrath said. “Your vote matters just as much as Mitch McConnell’s or Donald Trump’s or anybody else’s. They only get one vote, too.” 

McConnell has been in the U.S. Senate for 36 years. If he wins on Election Day, it could become 42. 

Over his 36 years in office, McConnell has left over 250 bills sitting on his desk, unread. This includes bills on gun control reform, health care and shielding survivors of domestic abuse.

U of L Young Democrats Treasurer Julia Mattingly plans to vote for Amy McGrath on Election Day.

“It’s about time we get Mitch McConnell out of office,” Mattingly said. “Considering the cards she’s been dealt, McGrath and her team have done their best to campaign throughout the state and promote her platform.”

Mattingly further explained that McGrath’s safe and socially-distanced campaign events are effective in promoting her platform. McGrath’s campaign also offers volunteer sign-ups after her speeches, where students can volunteer to make calls or canvass on her behalf.

Certainly, the young voters that she looks to appeal to appreciate her choice to take COVID-19 safety seriously.

Furthermore, McGrath and McConnell took part in the first Senate debate on Oct. 12. The candidates were questioned on multiple topics including whether Breonna Taylor received justice, Supreme Court nominations and handling of COVID-19.

Neither candidate actually answered whether they believe Breonna Taylor received justice. This is problematic because two white politicians can easily avoid talking about this, as it doesn’t directly affect them. Avoiding the actual question doesn’t do much to show that they care about this particular topic, so each politician needs to do better with their answer.

Both candidates denied wanting to defund the police and condemned the acts of looting and violent protests.

“We have to follow the laws that were written,” McConnell said. McGrath responded saying that she believes “leaders have to take a step back and recognize that we need change in this country.”

Sen. McConnell doesn’t want to bring change to a system that he doesn’t lose against.

Election Day is Nov. 3 and all eligible students, faculty and staff are encouraged to register to vote. 

Absentee ballots must be mailed by Nov. 3 at 6:00 p.m. Early voting started Oct. 13.

Don’t miss out on Election Day. Do your part as a voter.

Graphic by Alexis Simon // The Louisville Cardinal

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After Louisville Police Shooting Deaths, Cases Quietly Closed Tuesday, Oct 20 2020 


Screengrab of footage from LMPD Officer Brendan Kaiser’s body camera. Kaiser shot and killed Isaac Jackson in his parent’s home on April 25, 2018

It was Isaac Jackson’s parents who called the police who shot and killed him.

The 42-year-old, known to everyone as Uncle Isaac, is remembered as a funny, charming guy who loved to sing in the church choir and got a music scholarship to college. But a car accident several years ago led to seizures, his siblings say, which led to mental health issues and a string of arrests.

The night of April 25, 2018, Isaac showed up at his parents house, on drugs, acting erratically. They said they’d kicked him out the night before for causing a disturbance, and now he was back.

Isaac broke in and started smashing things. He fought with his father. He stabbed his brother, A.J., in the arm. His mother hid in the bathroom and called the Louisville Metro Police Department once, and then a second time when she felt they weren’t responding fast enough.

Isaac started striking matches, threatening to burn down the house with his family inside. The police arrived and the family fled the house, worried for their brother and the officers. Isaac’s sister Annetta Jackson showed up.

Courtesy Sonya Brown

Isaac Jackson

Then they heard gunshots.

They knew Isaac didn’t have a gun, but the police wouldn’t tell them what happened, or who was shot. Annetta wanted to comfort their elderly mother, who was outside barefoot, but LMPD separated the family. They put A.J. and Annetta into separate squad cars.

“I’d ask questions, you know like, ‘What’s going on? Can you tell us anything?’” Annetta remembered. “And nothing was being said.”

Terrified, she tried to get in touch with her other sister, but she said police took her phone away. She was baffled by the way the police were treating them.

Inside a neighboring squad car, while being treated for his stab wound, A.J. overheard the police radio: His brother had been shot.

Fatal shootings at the hands of LMPD officers have gotten national attention this summer in the wake of the killing of Breonna Taylor. Celebrities, politicians and protesters across the country have demanded information about LMPD’s investigation into the officers who shot and killed the 26-year-old emergency room technician. Taylor’s family got a sit-down with the Kentucky Attorney General to discuss the case, and his office released periodic updates about the status of the investigation.

But that’s the exception. Usually, when LMPD kills someone, families are left entirely in the dark about how the police are handling the case, an investigation by Newsy and the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting found.

Reporters attempted to contact family members for all 19 people shot and killed by LMPD since 2015. Representatives and family members of 11 people killed by LMPD spoke with Newsy/KyCIR and shared stories of various ways LMPD and the Jefferson County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office have failed to keep them informed.

Some said they were never contacted by officials when their loved one had been killed, or weren’t told it was the police that killed them. Many have been waiting years for the police to finish their investigation, with no idea that LMPD had already closed the case and the Commonwealth’s Attorney had decided not to file charges against the officers.

“That’s awful,” said Greg Simms, an attorney currently suing LMPD on behalf of one of these families. “You’ve got people who are victims of crimes or potential victims of crimes, and this government agency doesn’t let them know that they’re not pursuing it. Of course they should do that. They should let them know.”

The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office said in most cases they trust LMPD to notify the family of any decisions. A spokesperson for LMPD said they “do their best” to communicate with families.

Legally, that’s all they have to do. Under Kentucky law, someone is only considered a victim after a perpetrator is formally charged with a crime, according to a spokesperson for the Kentucky Attorney General. And no LMPD officer has been charged for fatally shooting a civilian since 2004; even when one officer was arrested in the Breonna Taylor case, the only charges were for shooting into her neighbor’s apartment.

A.J. Jackson and Sonya Brown, two of Isaac Jackson’s siblings

The night police killed Isaac Jackson, A.J. and his parents were taken to the police department for several hours. They were interviewed by LMPD’s internal investigators — they don’t remember who — and told they could pick up a police report and claim Isaac’s body.

“After that, they sent us on our way,” A.J. said. “And that’s about it.”

A.J. can understand why the officer shot his brother, whose actions made him a danger to himself and others. But he wonders what might have been different if the police had shown up sooner. His sisters want to know if and how the police tried to de-escalate the situation, and whether LMPD has learned anything from this case.

But everything they know about that night came from LMPD’s 30-minute press conference the day after the incident, where they showed excerpts of body camera footage, including when Isaac Jackson had thrown a knife, striking one office. Then-Police Chief Steve Conrad addressed the shooting, the latest in a string of such incidents.

“We are committed to doing rigorous and thorough investigations in each of these incidents,” Conrad said. “Over the past several years, we have responded to the concerns of the community by committing to transparency.”

But to this day, the Jacksons have heard nothing from LMPD about any investigation.

Some families not notified about death

Tammy Riggs was at work on February 1, 2018, when she got a notification on her phone from a local news station. There had been a police shooting, and the TV station was streaming live video from the scene.

“I went on and was watching it,” she said. “I watched it for hours and I didn’t know it was my son.”

That afternoon, as officers walked toward a car during a traffic stop in the Buechel neighborhood, one of the passengers shot at the officers. An officer returned fire, killing the shooter at the scene and striking Billy Ray Riggs, who was sitting in the back seat.

Tammy Riggs said no one from LMPD or the hospital ever told her her son had been shot, or that he was on life support. Eventually, her daughter found out from Facebook.

“He’s been in jail before…they know who he was. All they had to do was look on his jail records and see what address he used. All they said was, ‘We’ve been looking for you,’ she said.

“[They] wasn’t looking hard enough,” she said.

Courtesy Tammy Riggs

Billy Ray Riggs

LMPD’s standard operating procedure says the hospital should notify the next-of-kin “whenever possible.” Carolyn Callahan, a spokesperson for University of Louisville Health, said they couldn’t comment on specific cases, but said they notify next of kin as the situation requires.

When Tammy Riggs eventually got to see her son, about 24 hours after he was shot and he was already on life support. A police officer was standing outside his door.

“He was a prisoner, lying there half dead,” Tammy said.

When the family finally decided to take the 38-year-old father off of life support, they were dealt another devastating blow. They’d wanted to donate his organs, but learned that he’d been on life support too long to make them viable.

Ever since, Tammy has wondered what might have been different if she’d been notified swiftly about her son’s condition.

“It really should be, quite honestly, everyone’s responsibility, and certainly can’t be no one’s responsibility,” said Meg Garvin, executive director of the National Crime Victim Law Institute. “Someone should be telling the family, you have a loved one who’s injured. And then along the way, someone should be saying, you know, an investigation is happening.”

Families waiting on long-closed cases

At the hospital, Tammy Riggs met with Sgt. Nick Owen, who was then with LMPD’s Public Integrity Unit, before she was allowed to see her son. She said Owen probably told her something about the next steps in the case, but she doesn’t remember anything other than sheer panic. LMPD did not respond to a request to interview Owen.

She said that was the last time LMPD reached out to her. She said she called the Public Integrity Unit once, sometime that summer, hoping to get her son’s possessions.

Carrie Cochran

Tammy Riggs

“I would like to have the little stuff he had,” she said. “He carried around a little bitty pocket knife with his name on it that I bought him in Gatlinburg, and I’m sure he had that.”

She said she was told she could get his possessions back after the case was closed. So she carries Owen’s business card in her work jacket, waiting for the day he would call her and tell her the case is closed.

But according to a letter obtained by Newsy/KyCIR through an open records request, her son’s case is closed. It was closed August 24, 2018, more than two years ago.

“I haven’t been notified about anything at all,” Tammy said after reviewing the letter. “Probably now they don’t even know where [his stuff] is at, because I’m sure the clothes they didn’t keep. So the little stuff, who knows where it’s at?”

Riggs is not alone in this. More than half of the families and family representatives interviewed had no idea LMPD had closed the investigation into their loved one’s death.

Courtesy Greg Simms

D’Juantez Mitchell

D’Juantez Mitchell was killed by Louisville police in May 2019. The case was closed without charges for the officers in February.

Greg Simms, a lawyer for the family, said neither he nor the family knew the case was closed until a reporter told them.

Simms said he didn’t wait for that investigation to proceed with a lawsuit against LMPD. But he noted that the statute of limitations on wrongful death lawsuits is one year. In some cases, he said, delaying the investigation or not telling a family the case is closed could mean families are unable to get a lawyer to take their case in time.

“It’s upsetting that they wouldn’t come out and tell the public. It’s upsetting that they wouldn’t notify the family,” he said.

De’Mon’Jhea Jordan’s family got a lawyer and filed a wrongful death lawsuit against LMPD for shooting and killing the 21-year-old in April 2018. They have been anxiously awaiting the outcome of LMPD’s investigation; they even held a press conference in June demanding answers.

They had no idea that LMPD had closed its internal criminal investigation, and the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office cleared all the officers of wrongdoing in January 2019.

Courtesy Natalie Malone

De’Mon’Jhea Jordan

“They give you what they want you to have,” Jordan’s father, Larry Jordan, said. “They don’t want to give you the rest of it. If you’re so convinced that this truly happened, where’s the rest of the evidence? Let us see it for ourselves. But they’ve never done that.”

If these families looked to LMPD’s own database of police shootings for answers, they’d be out of luck. LMPD posts that database online in a show of transparency, but nine of the open cases listed in that database are actually closed.

Two of the cases have been closed for more than two years and have already been reviewed by the Citizens Commission on Police Accountability, Louisville’s citizen review board. The board found the investigation into the police shooting of Billy Ray Riggs to be “adequate and complete.” They issued no recommendations to the department.

Under Ky. law, these families aren’t victims

Jefferson County Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine said in an emailed statement that “communicating a decision not to prosecute…is particularly emotional.”

When the Commonwealth Attorney’s office is contacted by a family or their lawyer during the investigation, he said his office will make sure they tell the family once it’s concluded. Otherwise, his office leaves that task to LMPD’s Public Integrity Unit, which he feels “has some rapport with the families and is in a better position to communicate this difficult message.”

LMPD spokesperson Lamont Washington said communication “varies on a case to case basis,” and that “given the nature of police involvement in these types of incidents, we continue to evaluate how we communicate with victim’s families.”

They wouldn’t say if they kept any of the families informed about the status of the investigation, but two weeks later, they gave us a different response: our “current practice” is for the victim services staff to offer these families “information and support.”

Wine said he is “certainly willing to review how other jurisdictions notify families in cases such as these and make changes in our processes if it seems appropriate.”

But LMPD and the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office are not required to do anything to keep these families informed about the investigation and where it stands.

Kentucky’s Crime Victims Bill of Rights requires law enforcement and prosecutors to keep victims — or their family, if they’re deceased — updated about the status of their criminal case.

But in Kentucky, you’re only legally considered a victim once charges are filed, according to a spokesperson for the Kentucky Attorney General. That doesn’t apply to the families of the 19 people killed by LMPD since 2015, because no officer was ever charged for any of those deaths.

Meg Garvin, from the National Crime Victim Law Institute, thinks that’s too narrow of a definition to serve people who may never get their day in court.

“It doesn’t matter the type of crime, we can … presume victim status and afford rights of dignity, fairness and respect to any person who alleges a criminal incident,” Garvin said. “That’s the ideal.”

Take the Breonna Taylor case as an example. Because LMPD Officer Brett Hankison was charged with three counts of wanton endangerment for shooting into Taylor’s neighbor’s apartment, the neighbors would qualify for crime victims rights under the law.

Taylor’s family would not, even though she’s the one who is dead.

In practice, law enforcement and prosecutors often make victims’ services available before charges are filed. But they don’t have to, and according to families of those killed by LMPD, when it comes to police shootings in Louisville, they don’t.

State Sen. Whitney Westerfield is the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a former prosecutor. He said he was stunned to learn that families are not being told that these cases are closed.

“It shouldn’t take an act of the General Assembly to fix that, I wouldn’t think,” he said. “I don’t understand what’s stopping you from just picking up the phone or sending out a form letter or something. You ought to do more than that, but that’s easy to do. That’s a pretty low bar.”

Metro Council President David James saw this system firsthand when he started working with the family of Shelby Gazaway. Gazaway was shot and killed by LMPD in November 2019.

His family only found out that the officers who killed their son had been returned to active duty when a local TV station contacted them; they were doing a story about one of the officers, Patrick Norton, shooting someone else in June.

Provided by Gazaway family

Shelby Gazaway

Gazaway’s parents had been trying for months to get their son’s cell phone and car back from LMPD, and eventually, James said he had to personally intervene.

“It’s ridiculous,” said James, a former LMPD detective. “It’s unacceptable.”

The Louisville Metro Council passed a resolution in August that encourages more transparency from LMPD. But beyond that, James doesn’t think there’s much the council can do other than take the call when a family needs them to intervene on their behalf.

But he acknowledges that’s an imperfect system that puts too much burden on the families of those killed by police.

“They want answers and they deserve those answers,” James said. “Those answers should be given to those families as soon as the police department knows anything about it. And that’s not what happens.”

According to Wine, his office directly communicated their decision to the families of three people killed by LMPD since 2015, including William Allen Young, Jr.

Young was shot and killed by LMPD in February 2017. Like in every other police shooting in Louisville during that time period, Wine’s office determined that the officers used the appropriate amount of force and no criminal charges were necessary.

Wine sent Young’s mother a personal note, hand-signed, expressing his condolences the day before his office sent the determination letter to LMPD. The letter says it is his “professional responsibility” to tell her that he has decided not to file charges, and it directs her on how to obtain records about her son’s death.

“I did not want you to find out through a third-party that there would be no criminal charges filed or Grand Jury investigation conducted in this matter,” Wine wrote.

Eleanor Klibanoff is an investigative reporter with the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting. She can be reached at eklibanoff@kycir.org

Carrie Cochran is a visual journalist at Newsy/Scripps. She can be reached at carrie.cochran@scripps.com

Maren Machles is an investigative journalist at Newsy/Scripps. She can be reached at maren.machles@scripps.com.

Karen Rodriguez is an investigative journalist at Newsy/Scripps. She can be reached at karenrodriguez@newsy.com.

Maia Rosenfeld is a data reporter at Newsy/Scripps she can be reached at maia.rosenfeld@scripps.com

The post After Louisville Police Shooting Deaths, Cases Quietly Closed appeared first on Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.

Ashanti Scott speaks about her arrest and Breonna Taylor’s death Friday, Oct 9 2020 

 By Tate Luckey —

3 counts of “wanton endangerment” were the only charges filed in the case of Breonna Taylor’s death that occurred earlier this year on March 13. When a Kentucky grand jury and Attorney General Daniel Cameron confirmed on Sept. 23 that those were in fact the only charges for officer Brett Hankison, a reasonably upset city took to the streets to protest for justice.

The city countered by reimplementing a 9 p.m. curfew from Sept. 24 to Sept. 26, with those not abiding the curfew being taken into police custody. 

Among those arrested on Sept. 24 were University of Louisville McConnell scholar and sophomore Ashanti Scott and her mother, state representative Attica Scott. They were held until Friday morning, along with local activist Shameka Parrish-Wright. 

“We had been driving by one of the marches that happened, and then LMPD cut us off. We got out of the car because we thought we’d be arrested for still being in our car during curfew. We had walked to this church that Rep. Lisa Willner was a part of because they held sanctuary there,” Ashanti Scott said, speaking about the First Unitarian Church, which offered protesters sanctuary that night.

“We were walking towards the front of the library, along Broadway, but to try and avoid confrontation with the police we turned and tried to go around the church. When we came to the back police yelled ‘Surround them! Get on the ground!’ and we were detained.”

According to both her account and Rep. Scott’s Instagram Live footage, they were then held down with zip ties around their hands. 

“One of the others we were detained with asked the officer if they were going to read us our rights. They said no, and so I was never read our charges,” Scott said. “I didn’t even know our charges until later on while in jail. When we finally did know, even the officer that showed Ms. Shameka her charges said ‘this was crazy,’” she said.

Unable to see their bond, they were eventually released at 8:30 a.m. the next day. Their release papers showed that they had a riot 1 felony, unlawful assembly misdemeanor, and failure to disperse misdemeanor.

After Attorney Mike O’Connell and Thomas Wise initially refused to drop said charges, the Scott’s started a #dropthecharges campaign that gathered moderate interest on platforms like Twitter from various U of L groups and local officials/activists.

“I don’t think they’re necessarily being indifferent. I think it’s a strategy by LMPD. My mom has introduced Breonna’s Law (an ordinance banning no-knock warrants unless in the situation of child endangerment), and I think it’s just a way to silence her,” Scott explained.

Scott said she wasn’t surprised by the decision of the Taylor case.

“I feel like just charging him with wanton endangerment, for shooting into the apartments, it was crazy to me that that happened,” she said. “[Hankison] spent less time in jail than what I did. I think the Breonna Taylor case is the most corrupt case we’re seeing involving the murder of an innocent black woman and someone actively trying to cover it up.”

Scott, who went to middle school with Taylor’s sister, explained that she thinks the severity of this case, in particular, is likely caused by Mayor Fischer’s gentrification plan for Taylor’s neighborhood and was compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic/support of healthcare heroes. She initially only found out about Taylor’s death from her family’s social media. 

As of Oct. 6, the charges against the Scott’s and Parrish-Wright were dropped by O’Connell due to a “lack of evidence.” And while Ashanti was disappointed by the university’s response to the Breonna Taylor case and the Black Lives Matter movement beyond a few emails, she did have some sage advice for those getting involved.

“This movement involves a lot of young kids who are angry, and justifiably so. We just have to be able to work with them. If you can’t protest, the Kentucky Alliance Against Political Oppression is a great organization to donate to, as well as the Louisville chapter of the Bail Project. There’s also a lot of petitions still circulating.”

Photos Courtesy of Ashanti Scott 

The post Ashanti Scott speaks about her arrest and Breonna Taylor’s death appeared first on The Louisville Cardinal.

Despite the grand jury’s ruling, this is far from over Thursday, Oct 8 2020 

By Catherine Brown-

A grand jury convened to determine whether LMPD officers Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove would be under indictment for the murder of Breonna Taylor. On Sept. 23, the jury charged only one officer, Hankison, with three counts of wanton endangerment.

This means that the officer is accused of endangering Taylor’s neighbors when he shot into the surrounding apartment walls. No officer was charged for killing Taylor, an innocent black woman who was asleep in her bedroom.

The protests following her death have made an impact on some policy. Since protests have started, we’ve seen progress in getting justice for Breonna Taylor and for the Black community of Louisville.

Sadiqa Reynolds, president and CEO of the Louisville Urban League, tweeted a list of impacts that protests have made in Louisville.

In this list, she includes the exiting of former Police Chief Robert Schroeder, who was replaced by interim Police Chief Yvette Gentry. Gentry is the first black female police chief for the LMPD, a point which Reynolds notes in her list.

“I know some want total defunding but whatever exists in this country should include us,” Reynolds said.

She also lists that LMPD is receiving a top to bottom review, and body cameras are now mandatory for search warrants.

Additionally, social programs are being implemented for the west end. These programs will build 100 homes in the west end for Black homeowners. Reynolds says corporations are even donating gifts to support rebuilding in the area. Social workers are also becoming involved in family resettlement.

These are just a few of the progressions made for the local community.

Kentucky State Representative Attica Scott and her daughter Ashanti, a political science major at U of L, were arrested after demonstrating in a Breonna Taylor protest on Sept. 24. Scott recently introduced “Breonna’s Law,” which seeks to ban no-knock warrants in Kentucky.

The two were participating in the protest and were seeking sanctuary at the First Unitarian Church, a church in downtown Louisville that was open after curfew. Houses of worship were exempt from the curfew policy.

Scott said she was arrested at 8:58 p.m., curfew started at 9 p.m.

“There was never a need for no-knock search warrants like the one used in Breonna’s case, and while this type of warrant is now banned here in Metro Louisville and appears to have little use elsewhere, I want to make sure statewide law keeps it from ever coming back. In addition, I want to make sure a judge specifically approves any use of violent entry when a warrant is carried out, and I want all law enforcement officers to have to wear body cameras and be required to use them when serving any warrant.”

In the law, she states videos would have to be made available when complaints are filed. Those that violate these requirements will face suspension or even termination. She always wants law enforcement officers to undergo a drug and alcohol screening after a deadly incident or firing a weapon while on duty.

We have quite a long way to go until justice is ever met though. Hankison was only in jail for a little more than half an hour. Due to the double jeopardy defense, he will not be brought back to trial for re-sentencing on the same charge as before. But the public understands that the murder of a black woman not only in Louisville, but anywhere in the world, will not be tolerated nor will we forget the crime.

Breonna deserves justice. Don’t stop saying her name and continue fighting.

File Graphic // The Louisville Cardinal

The post Despite the grand jury’s ruling, this is far from over appeared first on The Louisville Cardinal.

LMPD’s Breonna Taylor File Offers Most Comprehensive Record Of Shooting Thus Far Wednesday, Oct 7 2020 


Nearly 5,600 pages of documents. Hours of video and audio recordings. Ballistics reports. Social media posts from Breonna Taylor’s family’s lawyers. 

The disclosure of these and other materials that made up the police’s investigation into their officers’ fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor provides the most comprehensive official report to date of the incident that captured the nation’s attention this year.

City officials published the Public Integrity Unit’s investigative file online Wednesday, less than a week after Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron made public the recordings of more than two days of grand jury proceedings, under a judge’s order.


LMPD Investigative File Sheds Light On Breonna Taylor Warrant Wednesday, Oct 7 2020 


Wednesday’s release of the internal investigation of the police killing of Breonna Taylor has resurfaced one of the key unsolved questions of the whole case: Why were the police at her apartment in the first place?

The officer who applied for the search warrant that led to Taylor’s death was Det. Joshua Jaynes, of the Louisville Metro Police Department. In an affidavit for that search warrant, Jaynes said he “verified through a US Postal Inspector that Jamarcus Glover has been receiving packages at 3003 Springfield Drive #4.”

But Jaynes later admitted to LMPD investigators that neither he nor another LMPD officer verified that directly with a postal inspector. Interviews released as part of the PIU file show confusion and concern from people directly involved with obtaining the warrant, who have cast doubt on the narrative offered by Jaynes himself. 


Attorney General Asks Judge To Deny Grand Juror’s Request To Speak Publicly Wednesday, Oct 7 2020 


Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron asked a judge to deny a grand juror’s request to break secrecy and speak publicly about the proceedings that led to the indictment of one former police officer in the Breonna Taylor case.

An anonymous juror asked a Jefferson County judge to order the release of transcripts and free jurors of their requirement not to speak about the case presented to them by the attorney general’s office. In a motion filed Wednesday, Cameron asked the judge to dismiss the request, and said he and the Commonwealth’s Attorneys’ Association have “grave concerns” about ensuring the secrecy of these proceedings.

“[A] request by a single member of a grand jury, or even the grand jury itself, cannot be permitted to overcome the important public interest of the Commonwealth in maintaining the proper functioning of the criminal justice system in general and the grand jury process in particular,” Cameron’s motion said.


Mayor’s Office Releases Internal Investigation File In Breonna Taylor Case Wednesday, Oct 7 2020 


City officials on Wednesday released the Public Integrity Unit’s investigative file into the LMPD killing of Breonna Taylor in March.

Mayor Greg Fischer’s office released the file in a press release, saying releasing the documents as quickly as possible to the public was important.

“Much of the information in these files was included in records from the Grand Jury proceedings that were released last week,” Fischer’s statement said.


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