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Jury set in trial of former Louisville officer involved in raid on Breonna Taylor's apartment

Assistant Attorney General Barbara Whaley questions a group of jurors ahead of the criminal trial of former Louisville police officer Brett Hankison.
Law&Crime Network
Assistant Attorney General Barbara Whaley questions a group of jurors ahead of the criminal trial of former Louisville police officer Brett Hankison.

A jury has been seated and will decide whether former Louisville police detective Brett Hankison will face jail time for his actions during the deadly, middle-of-the-night raid on Breonna Taylor’s home in March 2020.

After hours of questioning jurors, prosecutors and Hankison’s lawyer agreed Tuesday on a final group of 15 jurors. Three of the people in the jury pool will serve as alternates, but they won’t be told who they are until the jury is ready to deliberate. All 15 jurors will attend every day of the trial, which could last for weeks.

Hankison was indicted in September 2020 on three counts of felony wanton endangerment for bullets he fired into a neighboring apartment during the raid on Taylor’s home. He is one of three officers who returned fire after Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, shot once as plainclothes police attempted to enter the apartment. Walker later said he thought they were intruders.

The trial is expected to begin in earnest Wednesday, with prosecutors and Hankison’s defense attorney presenting their opening arguments.

From 48 to 15 jurors

Unlike the initial, four-day process of individually certifying potential jurors earlier this month, lawyers for both sides questioned potential jurors in groups Tuesday. It took roughly seven hours to settle on the final 15.

The jurors were brought into the courtroom in two groups of 24. Attorneys and Circuit Court Judge Ann Bailey Smith selected those 48 jurors from more than 200 people who were asked to fill out a written questionnaire. 

Among the questions asked of potential jurors in that phase was whether they had already formed an opinion about the police officers involved in the Taylor raid, whether they had been exposed to a lot of news coverage and what they think about Hankison, specifically. Lawyers also questioned jurors about their thoughts on the Louisville Metro Police Department and whether they think LMPD discriminates against residents who are part of a racial or ethnic minority group.

They asked the 48 jurors similar questions on Tuesday.

“In this matter, the city of Louisville paid millions of dollars in the Breonna Taylor lawsuit. Does everyone here agree that that is a separate matter, and would not have any affect on your consideration of this criminal case?” Assistant Attorney General Barbara Whaley asked.

Many of the questions were also practical.

“Do you have concerns about sitting and doing this and then sitting down for the hours you have to do for your job?” Hankison’s attorney, Stew Mathews, asked a specific juror who said he couldn’t take off work for the trial.

After jurors left the courtroom, attorneys and Smith, the judge, discussed their responses. A total of seven jurors were dismissed for cause, meaning they were sent home because there were factors that would have prevented them from fully participating in the trial. One was dismissed after not showing up.

At least two jurors were dismissed after saying they were concerned about the financial hardship of being part of a multi-week trial. One juror, a middle-aged white man, said his employer was forcing him to use his personal vacation time for every day he was in jury service.

“I just don’t want to seem like somebody who doesn’t want to do their civic duty, but I would rather not be on [the jury],” the man told the court.

Other jurors were dismissed for a variety of reasons, including health problems. 

Smith’s clerk picked 11 potential jurors at random to be dismissed. Another 14 jurors were dismissed without cause, also known as peremptory challenges. Prosecutors and Hankison’s defense attorney both had a limited number of peremptory challenges, for which they did not have to provide a reason for requesting a potential juror’s dismissal.

As of Tuesday afternoon, eight of the final 15 jurors were at the courthouse. Seven of them were men, one was a woman and most appeared to be white.

The seven jurors selected from the morning session of questions were not on-site when the jury selection was finalized Tuesday afternoon. 

All 15 jurors are expected to return to the downtown Louisville courthouse Wednesday morning for the start of opening arguments.

Former Louisville officer shot during the Taylor raid refuses to testify

Prior to jury selection on Tuesday, attorneys discussed one witness who said he would not testify at the trial.

Former LMPD Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, who was shot in the leg during the deadly raid, told the court through his lawyer that he planned to invoke his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination. At a hearing last week, Mattingly said he did not want to discuss what happened that night because of an ongoing investigation into Louisville police by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Mattingly has given numerous media interviews and wrote a book about his experience the night of the raid, but Smith found that doesn’t bar him from exercising the right to not testify.

Prosecutors requested Smith allow the jury to see video of a deposition Mattingly gave last summer as part of a lawsuit brought against him and other LMPD officers by Walker, Taylor’s boyfriend at the time of the raid.

“...the deposition has a broader scope than the events of the shooting on March 13, 2020, and should be edited to include only the portions relevant to this matter, mirroring questions that would have been asked if Mattingly had testified in person at this trial,” prosecutors argued in court filings.

While Mathews said he believes the deposition contains a lot of material that shouldn’t be shown in Hankison’s criminal case, he agreed to work with prosecutors to edit together snippets for the jury to view. Smith agreed.

Mattingly is one of roughly 30 witnesses prosecutors plan to call, according to court records.

As part of the trial, the 15-member jury is expected to visit the Springfield Drive apartment complex where Taylor lived. That could happen late this week. 

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