Breonna Taylor tragically lost her life due to a police drug-raid that went wrong six months ago. Protestors, activists, political leaders, and celebrities have been calling for “justice” and reminding us to “say her name.” They demanded that the police officers involved in her death be charged.
Yesterday, a Kentucky grand jury delivered justice, but it was not the outcome that so many had been calling for.
Justice is not retribution, but investigating the facts and pursuing prosecution of wrongdoing if warranted. We may be disappointed by a decision, but that doesn’t make it illegitimate and it should not be a license for violent retribution.
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced that a grand jury declined to file charges against the three police officers who shot Ms. Taylor while serving a warrant.
Based on the evidence presented to them which included an eyewitness, the jury thought two of the officers were justified in returning fire that killed the 26-year-old emergency room technician. Her current boyfriend had initially fired on them thinking that they were trying to break in to do harm.
The case seemed to hinge on whether the police announced themselves before entering. For months it had been reported that they did not identify themselves and they used a no-knock warrant, which allows them to enter without announcement, but the AG confirmed that they did announce themselves. Taylor’s boyfriend maintained that they did not and why he shot at the door hitting an officer. Returning fire was considered self-defense.
One officer was charged however with wantonly shooting into a neighbor’s apartment where a pregnant woman and her five-year-old were sleeping.
Was this justice or not?
Benjamin Crump, attorney for the Taylor Family was quick to denounce the announcement:
NOTHING for the murder of Breonna Taylor.
This is outrageous and offensive! If Brett Hankison’s behavior was wanton endangerment to people in neighboring apartments, then it should have been wanton endangerment in Breonna Taylor’s apartment too. In fact, it should have been ruled wanton murder!
Sadiqa Reynolds, president of the Louisville Urban League, said:
Justice looks different for different people in this country….What we got today is what Black people normally get.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, chanted “Breonna Taylor. Breonna Taylor. Breonna Taylor.” While her peer in the Senate, Minority Leader Charles Schumer, responded:
This is wrong. Breonna Taylor’s life mattered. She deserves justice. Her family deserves justice. Unjust laws produce unjust outcomes. This must end.
On the campaign trail, Senator Kamala Harris, confronted the result directly saying,
… there is no question that Breonna Taylor and her family deserve justice yesterday, today and tomorrow.
Celebrities weighed in too on why this was not justice.
But, AG Cameron pre-empted these expected responses with a prescient reminder about justice, the law, and tragedy:
This is a tragedy, and sometimes the criminal law is not adequate to respond to a tragedy, and I fully acknowledge that.
“But the grand jury was given all of the evidence, and presented with all of the information, and ultimately made the determination that Detective Hankison was the one to be indicted.”
The way forward
Breonna Taylor’s mother and family are undoubtedly at a loss for what happened. It was a tragic incident that everyone wishes could be undone, like so many tragic incidents that occur.
Americans want to have faith in the justice system and that depends on investigating the facts of each case to find the truth and then allowing the legal process to advance.
That does not mean condoning misconduct, coverups, and corruption by anyone in our justice and legal system.
We must realize that the facts and process may not always lead to the outcome people want, but it does not mean the outcome is unjust.
Our response should not be to blow up the whole system but to reform what is broken and respect what works.
As AG Cameron stated,
Our reaction to the truth today says what kind of society we want to be. Do we really want the truth, or do we want a truth that fits our narrative?