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Jury questioning delayed in Brett Hankison criminal trial

Some judges are releasing young people facing charges to protect them from the spread of COVID-19.
Airman 1st Class Joseph Barron
A gavel rests inside the court room of the 100th Air Refueling Wing base legal office at RAF Mildenhall, England, May 28, 2019. The attorneys in the legal office offer commanders legal advice and also provide services like notaries, power of attorneys, wills and legal assistance to Team Mildenhall. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joseph Barron)

Potential jurors in the trial of former Louisville police officer Brett Hankison arrived at the downtown courthouse Tuesday morning only to be sent back home. 

Hankison was one of the officers involved in the fatal March 2020 raid on Breonna Taylor’s home, and the only one to face criminal charges stemming from his actions that night. Hankison was indicted by a grand jury in 2020 on three counts of felony wanton endangerment for bullets he fired into a neighboring apartment. 

Tuesday was supposed to be the first day prosecutors and Hankison’s lawyer would question jurors individually to try to weed out anyone who can’t be unbiased. Instead, Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Ann Bailey Smith told them jury selection is being delayed.

“Mr. Hankison had to unexpectedly have some minor surgery done and so he is not able to be here today,” Smith told a handful of jurors who had been called into the courtroom. “It is his right to be here during all parts of the trial, so we are going to have to reschedule.”

Smith said attorneys are hopeful jury questioning can begin on Thursday morning, but warned that an ice storm expected to roll into the Louisville area later this week could cause further delays. 

Neither Smith nor Hankison’s lawyer, Stew Matthews of Cincinnati, provided any additional details about Hankison’s surgery. 

It’s unclear how this delay will affect the overall timeline. The trial was expected to start in earnest on Feb. 22, with lawyers whittling down the list of jurors from roughly 250 to a final 12. Arguments and witnesses being called to the stand would immediately follow that.

The two other former officers who fired their guns while attempting to serve a search warrant at Taylor’s apartment, Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove, are expected to testify, according to court documents.

Correction: A previous version of the headline misspelled Brett Hankison's name.

Roberto Roldan is the City Politics and Government Reporter for WFPL. Email Roberto at rroldan@lpm.org.