Breonna Taylor Case Shows Flaws in Laws
By Nsenga Burton
Black America is still reeling from the grand jury’s failure to indict the killers of Breonna Taylor. Taylor, 26, was gunned down in her apartment in the early morning hours of March 13, by Louisville, Ky., police officers serving a no-knock warrant to the wrong address.
Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, led months of protests calling for justice. After a viral social media campaign (#SayHerName and #JusticeForBreonna) championed by everyone from Black Lives Matter activists to the Tampa Bay Rays Major League Baseball team to media mogul Oprah Winfrey, an arrest was finally made in the case in September. A grand jury was convened by Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, a Black Republican. The grand jury indicted Brett Hankison, a former detective, on three counts of “wanton endangerment.” The wanton endangerment charge was not for Taylor’s brutal killing, but because bullets fired by Hankison landed in Taylor’s neighbor’s apartment, threatening their lives.
Once again, there would be no justice for yet another Black person killed by police. At this point should Black Americans even expect justice when victimized by the police?
Ricky L. Jones, chair of the Pan-African Studies Department at the University of Louisville, says the justice system failed society and Breonna Taylor. “The failure to indict the police officers for her murder speaks to what Black people across the country have always known – the system doesn’t work especially when Black folk are involved and come up against interests of the state,” said Jones, a political scientist who taught Cameron when Cameron was an undergraduate student at the university.
Jones was not surprised that there were no indictments for killing Taylor but was surprised at the wanton endangerment charges. “That was like adding salt to the wound,” he said.
Lonita Baker, one of the Taylor family attorneys, said the failure to bring charges against the police officers for Taylor’s killing is a “travesty.”
“I’m a former prosecutor, and the thing that really disturbs me is that Daniel Cameron did not give the grand jury a chance to give the family justice. It was he who made the decision for the jurors, not the jurors themselves,” Baker said.
Baker also believes the system is too intermingled. She said an independent prosecutor should have been brought in for the Taylor case.
“It is very difficult to go after someone you rely on to make your cases,” Baker said. “In the case of Cameron who is elected, he campaigned on being the voice and advocate for police, and that is not his role.”
Baker recommends changing the laws to make police officers accountable for unjust practices. Voters should also make better decisions in choosing elected officials like Cameron, she noted. Large settlements like the $12 million she helped procure for the Taylor family may bring about change as well, because cities don’t want to keep paying out large sums, said Baker.
“Taylor’s family is still crushed by the outcome of the criminal case. They would rather have their daughter back,” Baker said.
“We can’t give up,” she added. “It’s a marathon. We’re still fighting for justice for Breonna. We’re going to have to continue to fight for future victims. Unfortunately, there will be more until we change the laws.”
Jones agrees with Baker’s frustration with the justice system.
“At some point, you’re going to make a choice in this country on whether you’re going to fight or retreat. It’s hard to fight, but it’s necessary,” Jones said. “We have to make the world more just, more decent and safer for our children. If we’re not willing to do that, then why are we here?”