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Brett Hankison Trial: Judge says she’ll try to seat jury in Jefferson County

Published: Mar. 25, 2021 at 6:23 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Jefferson County Judge Ann Bailey Smith on Thursday rejected former LMPD Det. Brett Hankison’s request to have his case moved out of the county.

Hankison, the only officer charged in connection with the botched 2020 raid that left Breonna Taylor dead in her apartment, claimed there’s been too much negative publicity for him to get a fair trial.

Hankison’s attorney, Cincinnati-based Stew Matthews, said at Thursday’s hearing that media coverage, social media and banners and billboards in support of Taylor were just a few examples of publicity that would make a fair trial difficult.

“I think there’s subliminal pressure, if not direct pressure, on all of those people and fear of what could happen should they sit on this jury and should they render a verdict that a large segment of the population wants,” Mathews said.

But Smith said she will be very picky with jury selection, and immediately exclude those who have already formed an opinion about the case before the trial even starts. She added that she once moved a Jefferson County case to Boyle County, and the publicity followed. Smith also said more publicity may come as Hankison’s trial nears.

“At this point in time, I do think that the prudent thing to do is to try and get a jury seated here in Jefferson County,” Smith said. “And if we discover we cannot, then we will move this case to another county.”

WAVE 3 News reporter Nick Picht captured video of Hankison walking into Thursday’s hearing in downtown Louisville.

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Before the hearing ended, attorneys on both sides asked Smith if she would take the jurors, once they are finalized, to the shooting scene at Taylor’s apartment, which has been preserved since last year. She said she wasn’t ready to make a decision on that request.

“I haver had a couple of cases where we have gone to the scene, but not with the kind of publicity that was attached to this case and the security concerns that may be there,” Smith said. “It’s not the kind of thing that we can go do at a last minute. So, I think that’s something we’ll have to talk about a little bit more as well, and I can get with our sheriff’s department and talk with them about any concerns that I haven’t even thought of.”

Matthews answered a few questions from reporters immediately after the hearing, saying he wasn’t necessarily disappointed by Smith’s ruling. He also explained why he petitioned to bring the jurors to Taylor’s apartment.

“I think if it becomes very apparent that we cannot seat a jury, the judge will move the trial,” Mathews said. “No. This is pretty much what I expected would happen.”

“I think visiting the scene is a whole lot better than seeing a video of it or photographs of it,” he said. “You see something with your very own eyes, it’s much easier to understand what the testimony is about.”

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Hankison has been charged with three counts of wanton endangerment for shooting into a neighbor’s apartment during the Taylor raid. His next court date is scheduled for April 23; his trial is set to begin Aug. 31.

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