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Jury questioning to begin in case related to Breonna Taylor

Questioning of potential jurors begins Tuesday for the trial of a former Kentucky police officer involved in a botched raid that killed Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Louisville emergency medical technician.

Brett Hankison has pleaded not guilty to three counts of wanton endangerment for allegedly firing wildly into the apartments of Taylor’s neighbors during the March 2020 raid. Taylor, a Black woman, was shot multiple times. No drugs were found, and the warrant was later found to be flawed.

No officers were charged for causing Taylor’s death, despite protests nationwide, with many demonstrators demanding that the officers involved stand trial for murder. That set the outcome apart from two other killings of Black people at the hands of white people in 2020 that put race relations in the national spotlight: the death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police, and the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, who was chased by three men while running through a Georgia neighborhood.

Arbery’s pursuers were sentenced to life in prison for murder last month, and their federal hate crimes trial is set to begin next week. Former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin was sentenced to 22.5 years for murder and manslaughter, and his fellow officers are now being tried in state court.

In the Taylor case, Kentucky’s Republican Attorney General, Daniel Cameron determined that the officers fired into the woman’s apartment in self-defense after her boyfriend shot at them first as they broke into her apartment. Cameron, who is Black, acknowledged that Taylor’s death was heartbreaking, but he did not give a grand jury the option of charging anyone with killing her.

Hankison, who faces one to five years in prison on each of the wanton endangerment counts, is the only officer facing any criminal charges from the raid.

The process, which began last Friday, is expected to take weeks. Potential jurors will be asked questions to determine if they can serve as fair and impartial jurors. The pool of Jefferson County residents will be whittled down to 12 jurors, plus alternates.

Jefferson Circuit Judge Ann Bailey Smith denied a request by Hankison’s attorney to move the trial out of Louisville, where he argued that publicity surrounding the case would make it hard to seat an impartial jury.

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Hudspeth Blackburn is a corps member for The Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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