Judge to rule on motion to keep evidence in Brett Hankison case sealed next year
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - A Jefferson Circuit Court judge announced during a Tuesday hearing she will wait until next year to rule on a motion in the criminal proceedings against former LMPD detective, Brett Hankison.
Hankison was fired for shooting blindly into Breonna Taylor’s neighbors' apartments in June, then later charged with three counts of wanton endangerment.
Hankison appeared in court alongside his attorney, Stewart Matthews. WAVE 3 News was the only station inside the courtroom Tuesday.
The motion filed earlier this month by both the attorney general’s office and Hankison’s attorney asks the judge to seal the remaining evidence against Hankison to keep it away from the public eye. Both argued releasing it would “taint potential jurors.”
“This may be the only time in this case where the Attorney General and the defense are in agreement on something,” Matthews said.
The Louisville Courier-Journal filed a separate motion asking the judge to try and stop the discovery from being sealed shortly after the motion was filed. Michael Abate, attorney for the Courier, said the public has a right to see all the evidence after inconsistencies about the grand jury proceedings have come to light.
“We’ve had two grand jurors speak out, including on national television, saying that they were not given information the AG publicly said they were given; they were not informed they could bring certain charges that the AG stated in his press conference they could bring,” Abate said. “There is a serious question, serious question about the conduct of public officials in the investigation and the prosecution of this matter. That is why it is all the more compelling in this case than in a normal case, that the public have access to all of the information.”
Barbara Whaley with the Kentucky attorney general's office told the court over the phone that the discovery file is “voluminous,” adding it contains an estimated 80 gigabytes worth of data. Matthews added he has not gotten a chance to go through the entire discovery file because it is so large.
Judge Ann Bailey Smith asked Whaley to give specific examples of evidence within the discovery file that could taint potential jurors. Whaley said there are several interviews with people whose names could not be redacted, in addition to several pieces of evidence from the federal investigation, including interviews and lab reports.
Whaley explained the discovery file also contains Hankison’s personnel file, which she also described as “voluminous.” When Judge Smith asked Whaley if there is any information within his personnel file that could be detrimental to him, Whaley responded, “yes.”
“Potential jurors would not be able to set aside this amount of detail in the public record and be able to magically state they could be fair and impartial with all of this knowledge out there,” Whaley said.
However, Judge Smith told Whaley she found it difficult to accept the attorney general's office’s argument that releasing more evidence could contaminate potential jurors because Cameron’s office has already released a lot of evidence itself.
“It has been publicized. It was publicized by your office. I think it’s a little late to walk that back now,” Judge Smith said to Whaley. “It seems to me that what the attorney general's office is trying to do here is only let out certain information the attorney general wants released.”
The judge did not rule whether the discovery file would be sealed or made public during Tuesday’s hearing.
Hankison’s next pretrial hearing has been set for Jan. 20 at 10:30 a.m.
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