Grand juror’s motion in Breonna Taylor case a ‘stunning development’
Kentucky AG Daniel Cameron is expected to release the recording of the grand jury presentation on Wednesday
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - A grand jury is all about secrecy, so how will an anonymous grand juror’s motion to release the transcripts in the Breonna Taylor case affect future grand juries?
Legal experts told WAVE 3 News on Tuesday that the action by the grand juror is not just unusual; it’s something they’ve never seen before.
The motion filed late Monday implies Attorney General Daniel Cameron, in some way, misled the public about what happened in the grand jury room.
The grand juror’s attorney, Kevin Glogower, clarified Tuesday what his client is looking for.
“To release any recordings, transcripts, or reports of the grand jury,” he said.
WAVE 3 News asked University of Louisville Law Professor Sam Marcosson what his reaction was to the motion.
“My reaction was pretty much to be stunned,” he said.
The case surrounding the March 13 LMPD shooting death of Taylor has no shortage of surprising developments, including Cameron reversing course after the motion was made late Monday, agreeing to the release.
“Daniel Cameron said in his press conference that he and his staff concluded, and the grand jury agreed, that the officers (Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and Det. Myles Cosgrove) who returned fire, (after being fired upon by Taylor’s boyfriend Kenneth Walker) that is Cosgrove and Mattingly, did not act recklessly, when they fired into that apartment,” Marcosson said. “Apparently, the grand juror does not believe the grand jury agreed to that.”
Marcosson said prosecutors in general run the show when it comes to what evidence is presented to a grand jury. And while jurors can suggest other charges or reject the prosecutors' recommendation, that rarely happens. He said the disconnect between Cameron and the grand juror could possibly be explained, and said given the tension over this case, the attorney general should answer exactly how he and his staff handled the proceeding.
“What recommendations they made, what evidence they put before the grand jury and whether they acted as a screen, if they screened out certain charges that they simply decided themselves were not going to be considered, not on the table, they need to own that and take responsibility for that,” Marcosson said. “Maybe the public will believe that was a good judgment.”
Marcosson said the pending indictment and FBI investigation are concerns, as is the anonymity of other grand jurors in the case, and future grand jurors who may fear their involvement could be disclosed. He said Cameron should have the judge give final approval on what is allowed to be released.
“The judge is going to have to make a very careful, sensitive assessment of the release of information and the impact it might have,” he said.
Marcosson said there’s also a danger in a partial release, because not showing the public everything can be misleading.
WAVE 3 News legal expert Leland Hulbert, a former prosecutor and current defense attorney, believes this case is making people take a step back and question how the grand jury system works.
“What this case is doing for Kentucky is it’s opening people’s eyes to the grand jury process,” Hulbert said. “I think what this whole process now is doing is asking is that the way it should be? Why is it so secretive? Why is the defendant so limited in presenting his own case? And I’m not sure there are great arguments for keeping it so secretive.”
Hulbert said keeping the identities of the grand jurors secret is important, but believes releasing what is told to the grand jury, in any case, might be a good idea moving forward.
“What people don’t really understand is the grand jury is recorded just to the part where the police introduce the case, and then they may ask if there are any questions and then the recording stops,” Hulbert explained. “Well, there can be dialogue after that recording stops.”
He said grand jurors can ask other questions or recommendations by the prosecutor can happen off-tape, so even with released recordings, there may be things discussed or answered that are not recorded. He said this case is giving the public a chance to question the system.
“I think it’s good that it’s being out in the open and I think the more people can talk about this process, the more likely we are to make fair changes,” Hulbert said.
What’s next? Cameron is expected to release the recording of the grand jury presentation on Wednesday, and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said he will release the investigative file that LMPD’s Public Integrity Unit turned over to Cameron’s office.
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