Breonna Taylor case: Dispute arises over grand jury secrecy

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El fiscal general de Kentucky Daniel Cameron habla sobre el caso Breonna Taylor, en Frankfort, Kentucky, el 23 de septiembre de 2020. (AP Foto/Timothy D. Easley)

LOUISVILLE – A lawyer for a grand juror involved in weighing charges in the case of Breonna Taylor, the Black woman killed in a police raid gone wrong, urged a judge to let the anonymous juror to speak out publicly, accusing Kentucky's attorney general of throwing the panel “under the bus" in his public comments.

Kevin Glogower, the lawyer for the anonymous grand juror who sued to speak out publicly, told Jefferson County Circuit Judge Annie O'Connell on Thursday that the goal was not to publicize evidence that hasn't become public or “to be part of a global discussion in race relations."

“It’s more about the discussions that were held directly with the prosecutors," Glogower said. “That is not contained in the recording.”

Glogower warned that future grand jurors wouldn’t want to serve if the prosecutor can “throw them under the bus, as happened here.” He did not elaborate.

The dispute over grand jury secrecy arose Wednesday, the same day police files were released showing contacts between Taylor and a man she dated previously who was suspected of drug dealing. The release of those files raised new questions about what led narcotics investigators to raid Taylor's home in March, resulting in the woman's death in a burst of police gunfire. None of the white officers was directly charged with Taylor's death by the grand jury last month, triggering renewed street protests.

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron filed a motion Wednesday asking the judge to dismiss the request by the grand juror. He said in a statement that grand jury proceedings are kept confidential by legal precedent to protect the safety and anonymity of all involved — grand jurors, witnesses and others.

Cameron had previously said he had no concerns with grand jurors speaking publicly, and he agreed to the release of audiotapes of testimony presented to the grand jury last week. But those recordings did not include any discussion of potential criminal action on the part of the officers who shot Taylor.

Ben Crump, a lawyer for Taylor's family, issued a statement late Thursday in which he called Cameron's motion a “slap in the face" and “yet another attempt to conceal the corruption of his office.”

“If he has nothing to hide, and he did everything right as he claims, then he should have no problem letting the grand jurors speak to the public," Crump said. "They deserve to have that voice, and Breonna’s family deserves answers.”

Victor Maddox, an attorney who represented the state in court proceedings, warned “nothing would undermine the public interest more than for this Court to throw out the entire body of law of grand jury secrecy" by allowing the anonymous juror to speak out.

As the 90-minute oral arguments continued, Glogower repeated that his client wishes to remain anonymous and hoped “there could be a way that maybe everybody is a little bit more happy with how it gets handled.” He asked for permission for the juror to release an anonymous written statement that “takes care of some of the concerns the attorney general’s office has.”

The grand juror's lawsuit accuses Cameron of “using the grand jury to deflect accountability and responsibility for (the indictment) decisions," and seeks permission to speak out publicly about the case. Under Kentucky law, grand jurors can be held in contempt of court for discussing a case.

Cameron determined before the grand jury proceedings that the officers had acted in self-defense. He has acknowledged that he did not recommend murder charges to the grand jury.

This is not the first time a grand juror has sued for the right to speak publicly. In August, a federal court ruled against a grand juror who was seeking to discuss details of the investigation into the 2014 fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

At the conclusion of the hearing, Judge Annie O’Connell vowed to rule on the case “as soon as possible.”