Retrial Announced for Former Louisville Police Officer in Breonna Taylor Civil Rights Case

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Less than a month after a jury failed to reach a verdict in the case of former Louisville Metro Police Detective Brett Hankison, accused of violating the civil rights of Breonna Taylor and four others in the fatal March 2020 police raid, federal prosecutors have announced their intention to retry the case.

During a recent status hearing, prosecutor Michael Songer expressed a preference for an expedited retrial, though potential changes in Hankison’s defense counsel, with attorney Stewart Mathews announcing his retirement, may impact the timeline.

The defense team is considering the addition of a new attorney or a complete replacement. The court suggested a tentative trial date for October 2024, subject to adjustment, with another status hearing scheduled for late January.

In the tragic events of the Breonna Taylor case, the 26-year-old emergency room technician lost her life when plainclothes Louisville police officers executed a search warrant as part of a flawed narcotics investigation on March 13, 2020, at 12:40 a.m.

During the operation, three officers—Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, Detective Myles Cosgrove, and Brett Hankison—fired their weapons, with Hankison discharging 10 bullets through a covered sliding-glass door and window. Some shots penetrated a common wall into an adjoining apartment.

Hankison faced charges of violating Taylor’s civil rights, as well as those of her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, and three neighbors in the adjacent apartment.

The defense argued that his actions were appropriate because he believed he was defending the lives of his fellow officers, whereas the government claimed that he willfully used unconstitutional excessive force.

In light of these developments, the defense posed a compelling question: “What would you have done?” The trial recently concluded with a deadlocked jury, leaving the case open for a potential retrial.

Brett Hankison’s court case ended in a mistrial as the federal jury, consisting of 12 jurors, could not unanimously agree on the verdict during the November trial. This outcome sharply contrasted with Hankison’s earlier state trial in March 2022, where he was found not guilty on state charges of wanton endangerment related to the shooting, and those criminal charges were subsequently expunged.

While the state trial’s jurors took a mere three hours to reach a verdict, the federal jury deliberated for over three days. During deliberations, the jury signaled an impasse, prompting the judge to issue an Allen charge encouraging them to achieve a unanimous decision. Despite this, the jury, comprised of one Black man, five white men, and six white women, maintained a split stance. Consequently, the judge declared a mistrial.

The federal trial spanned approximately three weeks and featured testimony from around two dozen witnesses. The mistrial leaves room for the possibility of a retrial in the future.

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