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Jury selection to begin in case connected to police raid that killed Breonna Taylor

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Jury selection begins this morning in Louisville, Ky., in the trial of former police officer Brett Hankison. Hankison was one of the officers who fired his gun while serving a no-knock warrant at the apartment of Breonna Taylor in March of 2020. We all know the name Breonna Taylor because of what happened next. Her boyfriend had fired once at police, thinking they were intruders. The police shot back 32 times, and Taylor was killed in her hallway.

Roberto Roldan of WFPL in Louisville has been reporting on the case. Good morning, Roberto.

ROBERTO ROLDAN, BYLINE: Morning.

FADEL: Brett Hankison's trial is connected to Breonna Taylor, right? But he's not being charged for her killing. Can you explain that?

ROLDAN: Yeah. So it's important to note that no Louisville police officer has been directly charged with Taylor's killing. Two other officers who were involved in the search warrant were fired. Hankison was the first to be terminated. Hankison fired 10 bullets that night, and while none of them struck Taylor, some of them did end up in a neighboring apartment that was occupied at the time. His termination letter from the Louisville Metro Police Department said Hankison fired through a covered window and couldn't see who he was shooting at. So he was indicted by a grand jury last year on three counts of wanton endangerment, which is a felony. In Kentucky, wanton endangerment means a person is behaving with extreme indifference to human life. So Hankison is being charged for endangering the people in the neighboring apartment, not Taylor.

FADEL: Now, Taylor's killing sparked months of protests in Louisville, across the nation. What does that mean for selecting the jury?

ROLDAN: Well, so the process is really just getting started. About 250 potential jurors arrived at the downtown courthouse on Friday to fill out a written questionnaire. Prosecutors and Hankison's lawyer are going to spend the next three weeks questioning each person individually, roughly 21 jurors each day. But prior to jury selection, Hankison's lawyer, Stew Matthews, requested a change of venue because he doesn't think Hankison can get a fair and impartial jury. When I spoke to him recently, he cited the protests and the media coverage around it as one of the reasons why.

STEW MATHEWS: I think everybody in Jefferson County and beyond is aware of this case, and I wouldn't be surprised if most people haven't formed an opinion one way or another.

ROLDAN: The judge ultimately denied his request, but she did leave open the possibility of considering it again after they see what kind of jury they can put together.

FADEL: So it sounds like jury selection is going to be a long process like we saw in Minneapolis, like we saw in the case of the killers of Ahmaud Arbery. When should we expect the actual trial to get underway?

ROLDAN: Well, right now we're expecting that to happen at the end of the month, probably around February 22. That's when they should be done with questioning jurors individually, and then they have to whittle that long list down to 12. Once that's done, we should see lawyers start to make their arguments and witnesses getting called. We know from court documents that the other two officers who fired their weapons, Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove, are going to testify. We're also expecting to hear from other officers who were at Taylor's apartment that night and the Louisville Police Department's firearms trainer.

FADEL: And what has Breonna Taylor's family and the community in Louisville been saying about the trial?

ROLDAN: We haven't seen much in the way of protests yet, but I expect that's going to change as we get closer to the trial. We did hear from civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is one of the lawyers representing Taylor's family, and he said essentially that these charges of wanton endangerment should be the lowest charges, not the highest. And he said that the trial will be a reminder of the lack of justice for Breonna Taylor.

FADEL: That's Roberto Roldan of member station WFPL in Louisville. Thank you.

ROLDAN: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.