The law and Breonna Taylor
There is no doubt that over the last few months, the case of Breonna Taylor has gained a lot of attention, and rightfully so. There has been public outcry, protests, and campaigns to demolish the systemic racism that is present in the United States, as well as the Black Lives Matters Movement. Individuals all over the US have been calling for equal treatment and justice as the flaws of the American justice system have been exposed over the past few months.
Breonna Taylor was a 26 year old, unarmed African American woman in Louisville, Kentucky, who was fatally shot by ex-officer Brett Hankison. This happened as three officers forcefully entered her apartment as part of an investigation on drug dealing operations. Taylor’s boyfriend was in the apartment with her as the officers entered, however, he had thought they were intruders and fired a warning shot, which hit one of the officers. The officers shot 32 times in return, with bullets hitting Taylor six times, ultimately killing her.
Outcry has occurred as a result of Breonna Taylor’s killing, and the public has rallied Americans together in the name of justice. Mass media campaigns, including through social media and the hashtag, #JusticeForBreonnaTaylor, has gained momentum, reaching millions of people on platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok, reaching mostly youth. The Black Lives Matters movement has also seen a resurgence in the year 2020, as tens of thousands of people marched in their respective cities, demanding for equal treatment.
So how does the law play into Breonna Taylor’s story? The grand jury of Kentucky has indicted the officer who killed Taylor, Bret Hankinson, with three counts of first degree wanton endangerment. This essentially means that, under Kentucky law, he has been punished for “wantonly engaging in conduct which creates a substantial danger of death or serious physical injury to another person”. He did not get charged for killing Taylor as the jury concluded that none of the 10 shots he fired were known to actually hit her. In fact, Hankinson was never actually charged with any offenses against Taylor, as the three counts of wanton endangerment were for the bullets that went through a wall, threatening the safety of people in neighbouring apartments: a pregnant woman, her husband, and their 5 year old child, who were not harmed. Hankinson faces up to five years in prison, and a fine for each conviction; the judge set his bail at $15,000. The legal aftermath has been messy as the decision made by the grand jury has been controversial, and has left many calling for a harsher sentence on Hankinson and justice for Breonna Taylor.
Since this ruling, the public has been calling for a retrial and a demandment for a new prosecutor to be appointed to the case. Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron has been accused of abusing his constitutional and ethical duties as he didn’t present applicable homicide charges to the grand jury. People say that he tried to manipulate the system to achieve a particular result, as he didn’t want to face any political consequences. In addition to this, protests have consistently happened in the USA, and shows no signs of stopping as a call for social change is happening.