In other news: Why the Breonna Taylor grand jury did not indict

  • Susan Estrich

    Susan Estrich

By Susan Estrich
Posted10/4/2020 1:00 AM

The answer is simple: Daniel Cameron, the attorney general of Kentucky.

Brief recap: Police officers used a battering ram to enter Breonna Taylor's apartment after midnight looking for drugs. Her boyfriend shot once. Police officers shot dozens of times. Six of their shots killed Taylor. No drugs were found; it was her ex-boyfriend (who didn't even live there) who supposedly had drugs.


The Taylor grand jury indicted one officer for wanton endangerment, a minimal charge, and returned no charges against the other officers.

Cameron, who presented the case to the grand jury, said that the grand jury was "an independent body," that he presented a "thorough and complete case" and "If they wanted to make an assessment about different charges, they could have done that."

Not so.

Grand juries are not independent bodies. They do not hear a thorough and complete case, and the only charges they ever hear are the ones the prosecutor decides they should consider.

Runaway grand juries are the stuff of the movies. In real life, grand juries are used by prosecutors to force witnesses to testify without their lawyers, and to get precisely the charges they want against the individuals they want.

The only evidence the grand jury hears is the evidence the prosecutor chooses to defend. If there are witnesses who might not help his case, he doesn't call them. The only charges the grand jury is asked to consider are the ones -- in this case, the slap on the hand for one officer -- that the prosecutor decides to present. The grand jury didn't decide to let the officers get away with murder; that was Cameron's call, as he acknowledges himself, and even the release of the evidence presented doesn't tell you much about the deliberations themselves, where the grand jury gave the prosecutor what he had asked for. Ask any defense lawyer and most prosecutors and they would say a good prosecutor can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich.

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This is not about the grand jury. It is only about Daniel Cameron.

He is the first African American to serve as attorney general of Kentucky and the first Republican to hold the position since 1948.

He is 34 years old.

He has never practiced law.

His only job before becoming attorney general was as an aide to Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, whose stringent right-wing conservatism has contributed to the ugly polarization of the Senate.

Four years doing politics for Mitch McConnell.

In some states, when even an experienced attorney general faces a case of national prominence, he might bring in a special counsel, or even a special prosecutor, to take the lead in the case. Cameron had zero experience; there are countless terrific lawyers in Kentucky, of all political stripes, who might have taught him a little bit of law before he so blatantly swung the grand jury and then tried to use it, as one grand juror has already claimed, "as a shield to deflect accountability and responsibility" for the charging decisions.

In explaining his decision not to seek charges against the officers for killing Taylor, Cameron said that because Taylor's boyfriend fired one shot, police officers were justified in firing off dozens of rounds, including shots fired into an upstairs apartment where people were home and the six shots that killed Breonna Taylor.


Any first-year law student in the country could tell you he is wrong. The right to use deadly force in self-defense is limited to situations where you are facing an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to you or another. The boyfriend shot once; if all the evidence were presented, there would be a real question as to whether he even realized it was the police who were breaking in with a battering ram. No one was hurt. He didn't shoot again.

What should happen next is the feds stepping in and securing indictments against the officers for violating the civil rights of Breonna Taylor. An investigation should be conducted about how and why Daniel Cameron failed in his duty to the people of Kentucky. And Mitch McConnell should be defeated.

© 2020, Creators

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