Louisville – What Law Did the Police Break?

by Jack

If you stroll down the main street of Louisville today, you might get the idea a hurricane was coming.   The Mayor has just declared a state of emergency, windows are boarded up with sheets of plywood and barricades have been pre-deployed.  There’s a lot of visible police activity and the streets are unusually quiet, devoid of vehicles and pedestrians.

There’s no storm coming, just a grand jury verdict.  The mayor and city officials seem to think no criminal charges will be forthcoming against the police in the shooting death of Breonna Taylor case.  Doesn’t seem like a surprise to me, in fact I think its just the opposite.  I would be very surprised if they did recommend charges.

“Louisville, KY — A Grand Jury is expected to come back with a verdict soon about whether to bring charges against three police officers involved in the death of Breonna Taylor on March 13th, 2020.  The city is preparing for the nearly inevitable fallout, regardless of what the grand jury decides..

The city had reached a $12 million dollar settlement with Taylor’s family last week — the largest settlement in the city’s history.

Now the city is steeling itself for an announcement from Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron after his office took over the case from the Louisville Metropolitan Police Department’s Public Integrity Unit.  After the Attorney General’s office received those finding, they presented the case to a grand jury to see if criminal charges are warranted.

The grand jury could release their findings at any time.”    The officers in question are shown below.

LeBron James wants them charged. So does Beyoncé.  And so do 10 million other people who have signed a petition at change.org demanding justice for Breonna Taylor — and that Louisville Metro Police Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, Officer Myles Cosgrove and ex-Officer Brett Hankison be charged with killing her.

But in interviews and emails, seven experienced Louisville defense lawyers who are not involved in the case — and who have an average of 37 years each in practice — say the officers should not be charged with murder or manslaughter because they had a legal right to defend themselves once her boyfriend shot at them.   Three of the attorneys are Black.

“It is unfortunate that this young lady was killed,” said Aubrey Williams, a former president of Louisville’s NAACP chapter who has spent much of his 40-year career fighting police in court.

“But for the life of me I don’t see them indicting or convicting.”

Jan Waddell, another defense lawyer who is Black and has likewise frequently tangled with police, also said Mattingly and Cosgrove are likely immune from prosecution because Kentucky law allowed them to return fire in self-defense when Mattingly was hit in the leg with a bullet fired by Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who said he didn’t know the intruders were police and thought the couple was being robbed.

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3 Responses to Louisville – What Law Did the Police Break?

  1. Lone Star says:

    Y’all remember how we panicked when we couldn’t find any toilet paper?

    What are we going to do when we can’t find a cop?

  2. Steve says:

    Jack, I understand you were a police officer. Can you tell me if you catch someone in the act of stealing or vandalizing your property and you try to make a citizens arrest but they run are you allowed to shoot the with a tazer to make them stop? Or if they ignore you and continue with the theft or vandalism can you incapacitate them?

    • Post Scripts says:

      Steve, thank you for the question, that’s good one too! In the most strict legal terms, the law allows you to use the force necessary to overcome resistance in order to effect an arrest. It’s been that way for decades. That goes for both police and non-sworn persons. But…times are changing. Recent case law in CA says the use of tasers to overcome resistance has it’s limits, but unfortunately there’s a lot of confusion at this time.

      You cited a [property] crime and the use of a taser. Okay, where you draw the line is a little bit clearer. A taser is a great tool, its 100% legal to own and is much less lethal than a handgun. But, its also now considered a [deadly weapon] when deployed by police in CA. Seems there have been a few occasions where people have died after being tased. Those rare incidents have raised the bar in CA to making a taser just short of the sort of restraint you might use with a handgun, except you’re using something 99% less lethal. I know… doesn’t make a lot of sense, but few of the new laws in CA do anymore. So, in the case of a property crime and you tased the offender to catch him as he’s running away, you could be charged with using excessive force against the thief. This isn’t something carved in stone, I’m just saying you could be charged, not that you would be. But, lets change this a bit and say you are being threatened with great bodily harm, so you whip out the ol taser and make the bad guy do the chicken dance. That’s fair enough, can’t see you being in trouble over that one…at this moment!

      CA is making it increasingly difficult for police and civilians to use force, this includes a taser, especially when its to protect property. I would say in most theft cases, do not use a taser if the thief is running away, only use it if you feel personally threatened as noted above. I hate to say it, but it’s just too darn easy to wind up in court as a defendant these days. You might be on solid legal ground in criminal court, but you could still be sued in civil court. So, you have to weigh the value of the property you are protecting against the potential risks of using the taser. Police are told they can’t use a taser to stop a fleeing suspect, there must be something else involved to warrant the taser being deployed. The way CA is going they are going to make it real difficult for you to use your taser to take down a criminal, but for now there’s not enough clarity one way or the other.

      Misc: California Penal Code Sec 17230 defines a stun gun in the following way: “As used in this part, stun gun means any item, except a less lethal weapon, used or intended to be used as either an offensive or defensive weapon that is capable of temporarily immobilizing a person by the infliction of an electrical charge.” While stun guns and taser guns are not the same weapon, a taser gun fits in to the definition prescribed by California State Law of a stun gun. Laws relevant to stun guns apply equally to taser guns. A non-felon, over the age of 18 may own a taser in CA. A person over 16 can carry with his parents permission…in CA! This probably won’t last long. Currently, you do not need a concealed carry permit for a taser either.

      DISCLAIMER: I’m not an attorney and this should not be construed as legal advice. You are urged to do your own due diligence.

      I hope this helped and I am sorry I could not give you a straight up yes or no answer on this, but right now there just isn’t one. Ask 3 cops and you will likely get 3 differently opinions.

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