Brett Hankison, cop charged in shooting at Breonna Taylor apartment, wants change of venue

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Brett Hankison, the former Louisville Metro Police detective facing criminal charges for his role in the March 13 shooting at Breonna Taylor’s apartment, will seek to move his trial to another county.

Hankison’s trial on three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment was set for Aug. 31 by Jefferson Circuit Judge Ann Bailey Smith during a Wednesday morning hearing.

Stew Mathews, Hankison’s attorney, told Smith he intends to file the petition requesting the venue change within two weeks.

Smith will hear that motion March 25.

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State law allows jury trials to be moved “if it appears that the defendant or the state cannot have a fair trial in the county where the prosecution is pending.”

And, if the judge feels a fair trial cannot be held in an adjacent county, it can be moved to “the most convenient county in which a fair trial can be had.”

Mathews, a Cincinnati-based attorney who is no stranger to high-profile cases, did not specifically say why he wanted a venue change, though the reason is apparent.

The fatal police shooting of Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman killed in her apartment, became an international news story in 2020 and has dominated local news coverage for months.

Smith noted she was previously an attorney for a trial that had to change venues to Danville because “the media coverage that would have affected adjacent counties to Jefferson.”

The Kentucky Attorney General’s Office, which is prosecuting the case against Hankison, said it would be premature to discuss its response before a motion is filed.

Counties adjacent to Jefferson County are Hardin, Bullitt, Spencer, Shelby and Oldham, all of which are significantly smaller and whiter than Louisville.

Whereas Jefferson County is about 24 percent Black, according to the Census, four of its five neighbors are less than 8 percent Black. Hardin County, the most populous neighboring county, is less than one-sixth the size of Jefferson County and about 13 percent Black.

Neal Robertson, a Black man and a regular at the Taylor protests in 2020, said he sees the motion as an effort to find a largely white jury.

“Because the chances of Black people being on that jury pool is slim to none, because where we gonna find them at?” he said. “My thoughts are: keep his a– right in Jefferson County, let them go pick a jury pool from Jefferson County and take the chances from there, from a Black perspective.”

An LMPD officer has stood trial in Jefferson County before. Former Officer McKenzie Mattingly was tried for murder for the 2004 shooting of 19-year-old Michael Newby and ultimately acquitted by a jury.

Hankison was a part of a group of seven plain-clothes officers assigned to serve a search warrant at Taylor’s apartment around 12:40 a.m. March 13. After officers used a battering ram to forcibly enter the apartment, Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired one round, striking Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly in the thigh.

In turn, Mattingly fired six shots, Detective Myles Cosgrove fired 16 and Brett Hankison fired 10. Taylor was struck six times and died in the hallway of her apartment.

Hankison was fired in June because his rounds were shot through “a patio door and window which were covered with material that completely prevented you from verifying any person as an immediate threat.”

In September, a Jefferson County grand jury indicted Hankison on three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment for bullets that traveled into an apartment adjacent to Taylor’s.

Hankison is the only officer to face criminal charges connected to the shooting, though Cosgrove and the detective who sought the search warrant, Joshua Jaynes, were also fired in January.

*story by The Courier Journal