Authorities in Kentucky have still not arrested the police officers who murdered Breonna Taylor on March 13. Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who is now in charge of the case, had time to speak at the Republican National Convention last week, but he has not found the time to bring to justice the three cops who shot Taylor in her own apartment.
What have the authorities been doing for the past five and a half months?
Earlier this week, we learned the answer: The authorities have been busy harassing the Black men who knew Taylor, while trying to name Taylor, posthumously, as a criminal defendant. Instead of building a case against the police officers who killed her, it would appear that Kentucky prosecutors have been doing everything they can to build a case against Taylor, in a desperate yet classic attempt to blame a Black person for “forcing” the cops to kill them.
The prosecutors in Kentucky have one goal: to secure an acquittal for the police officers who shot Taylor should public pressure somehow force them to bring charges against those officers. State law enforcement in Kentucky is trying to lose the case against the officers before it even starts.
Now the two men who have been hounded by the authorities while Taylor’s killers march around free are starting to speak out through their attorneys and legal action. On Tuesday, attorneys filed a civil lawsuit on behalf of Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, against Louisville police, the city, and other officials. The suit is comprehensive: It alleges serious police misconduct and intimidation, gives new details on Taylor’s murder, and seeks to protect Walker from future harassment through a novel use of Kentucky’s “stand your ground” law.
Walker was in Taylor’s apartment the night police barged in and shot her. He fired one shot at the people he thought were home invaders. Ever since, the cops have used that shot—fired from Walker’s registered, legally owned gun—as justification for opening fire and unloading 35 bullets into Taylor’s apartment, eight of which landed in her. Walker was arrested at the scene and charged with attempted murder of a police officer.
Walker has always maintained his innocence, claiming that the cops did not identify themselves as police officers before breaking into the apartment and that he acted in self-defense. While the cops have produced no witnesses or evidence that they properly identified themselves, Walker’s story is backed up by his call to 911, made in the moments after the shooting, in which it’s clear he has no idea who just shot up the apartment. “I don’t know what happened…somebody kicked in the door and shot my girlfriend,” Walker can be heard telling the dispatcher in audio released by Taylor’s lawyers.
While the attempted murder charges against Walker were dropped in May, the AG’s office dropped the charges “without prejudice,” meaning that prosecutors could charge Walker again should they choose. Walker’s lawsuit seeks to get a declaratory judgement preventing his future prosecution—and this is where Kentucky’s “stand your ground” statute boomerangs into police officers. Here’s how it’s explained in Walker’s complaint:
Kentucky’s “stand your ground” law, KRS 503.085, protects all Kentuckians who seek to protect themselves or loved ones in self-defense. Kentuckians have no duty to retreat or submit to force. “It is the tradition that a Kentuckian never runs. He does not have to.” [The statute] recognizes Kentuckians are “immune” from state officials or police “arresting, detaining in custody, and charging or prosecuting” any person who acted in self-defense. KRS 503.085(1)(emphasis added).
I’ve always thought that statutes which render a person “immune to prosecution” if they merely claim they were shooting their gun at a person in a legally defensible way were nonsensical. I think KRS 503.085 is a poorly written law. But that’s the law white people in Kentucky wanted; now, let’s see if they are willing to enforce it when a Black man claims protection under it.
But Walker’s case doesn’t stop there. In addition to the delicious legal jujitsu of using this white supremacist law against the forces of white supremacy, Walker’s complaint also focuses on the behavior of the cops once the shooting stopped. I am drawn to the allegations of police intimidation that Walker has suffered from the moment cops finished murdering his girlfriend. In his lawsuit, Walker claims that cops on the scene expressed disappointment when they found that Walker had not been shot. He claims the cops threatened to sic their dogs on him while they were marching him out of the apartment. And prosecutors charged Walker initially with murder of a police officer, a factual impossibility (because Jon Mattingly, the one officer who was wounded, was very much alive the whole time) that prosecutors must have been well aware of.
All of those tactics are part of a very big problem. They represent attempts by the police to make innocent people accept responsibility for things they did not do or implicate other innocent people in crimes. Killing a cop can get you a death sentence in Kentucky. A person might falsely plead to all sorts of things to avoid such a charge, especially when the police have already established that they are sorry they didn’t kill you during the initial confrontation and have threatened to let their dogs maul you like they’re a bunch of Ramsay Boltons with badges.
Unfortunately, Walker isn’t the only acquaintance of Breonna Taylor who has been subjected to this kind of witness intimidation after her death. Jamarcus Glover, Taylor’s ex-boyfriend, who is ostensibly the person the police were actually going after on the night they murdered Taylor, missed a court appearance this week. As that began to make news, his lawyers released documents showing the lengths to which prosecutors have gone to get Glover to implicate Taylor in crimes she did not commit.
Glover’s lawyers claim that he was offered a plea deal on drug charges if he signed an affidavit indicating that Taylor was one of his accomplices in his “organized crime syndicate.” Glover refused. The documents also show that Taylor was a named codefendant in the case against Glover.
The local prosecutor, Tom Wine, denies that such a plea deal was “offered” to Glover, but he admits that the concession was part of a “draft” plea sheet ahead of plea negotiations. Wine also said that Taylor’s name was removed “out of respect for Ms. Taylor.” Notice the wording there: Wine isn’t saying that the allegations about Taylor aren’t true; he’s saying he didn’t include them in the official plea negotiation “out of respect.”
Everything that is happening to the men who knew Taylor is happening because prosecutors do not want to hold Taylor’s murderers accountable. This is what the system does when it does not want to secure a conviction. Prosecutors themselves try to poison the jury pool against their own case, creating avenues of doubt before any trial process gets going. They try to impugn the character of people who will have to be witnesses for the prosecution. They try to avoid doing forensic research so that they have no “hard” evidence to present to the jury, should it come to that. And they try, desperately, to get anybody to speak out against the victim so the defense can use those statements against the prosecution at trial.
The cops shot Taylor under the cover of darkness, but prosecutors are trying to lose the case in broad daylight.