Mistrial Declared in Trial of Ex-Officer Accused in Breonna Taylor Civil Rights Case, Jury Left Deadlocked

Brett Hankison had faced life in prison, but jurors could not come to an agreement on his guilt.

The federal trial of Brett Hankison, the former Louisville, Ky., police officer facing civil rights charges over the death of Breonna Taylor, has ended in a mistrial. The development comes after three days of jury deliberation, leaving much unanswered in a case that ignited protests over police violence involving Black people.The Louisville Courier-Journalreports jurors deliberated for three full days, which resulted in a deadlock over the fate of Hankison. He was already acquitted in March 2022 on state charges of wanton endangerment in the case.

The jury, consisting of five White men, one Black man, and six White women, had asked for a copy of the court transcript, but that request was denied. U.S. Federal Court Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings instead told them to rely on their memory of testimony.Although the trial has been in session since Oct. 31, the jury was unable to come to a decision about Hankison’s guilt or innocence and told the judge as much. “We are at an impasse at deciding this case,” a note sent to the judge on Thursday (Nov. 16) read, according to WKYC.

“What is the process if we cannot come to a unanimous decision?” The judge issued an Allen Charge, which instructs the jury to review the evidence again and try even harder to reach a verdict in the hope that a mistrial can be averted.

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Hankison, 47,  had been accused of unconstitutionally using excessive force on March 13, 2020, when he fired 10 shots into the apartment where Taylor, 25, was asleep with her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, at 12:40 a.m. Louisville police officers were executing what turned out to be a botched drug raid in pursuit of Taylor’s former boyfriend, Jamarcus Glover, who was already in custody. When officers rushed the door, shots rang out, fatally striking Taylor, who worked as an EMT.

Walker has said repeatedly that he had not heard anyone identify themselves as police and thought they were intruders. He grabbed his legally registered firearm and fired, wounding another officer on the scene, John Mattingly, in the leg.According to investigators, none of Hankison’s rounds struck anyone inside, but the wanton endangerment charges came from firing rounds through Taylor's bedroom, which went into a neighboring apartment.

Hankison, along with Myles Cosgrove, Joshua Jaynes, and Kyle Meany, were fired after the incident. Another officer, Kelly Goodlett resigned. Mattingly, however, remained employed by the Louisville Metropolitan Police Department until he retired in 2021.

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A grand jury failed to charge the officers involved in her death, with the exception of Hankison on the wanton endangerment charge for which he was later acquitted.

It is unclear if prosecutors will seek to retry Hankison on the federal charges. If he had been convicted, Hankison faced a maximum sentence of up to life imprisonment.

The U.S. Justice Department has also levied federal charges against Jaynes, along with Meany and Goodlett for putting people in danger and their actions that "resulted in Ms. Taylor's death."

Goodlett pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to violate Taylor’s civil rights by assisting in falsifying an affidavit for the home search. The other two officers are awaiting trial.

Along with George Floyd in May 2020 and Ahmaud Arbery in February 2020, Taylor’s death was one of several that took place in that year alone that ignited a global firestorm of protests, placing the Black Lives Matter movement at center stage and police reform in front of legislators and the White House.Despite the efforts of activists and Democratic politicians, legislation like the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act has yet to be passed to address the issue, an issue that continues to run rampant today.

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