Judge, attorneys debate jury proceedings in Brett Hankison case

Hankison's attorney motioned to close off individual voir dire to the media, for fear it could prevent the jury from coming to a fair and impartial verdict.
Published: Jan. 26, 2022 at 6:03 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - As former LMPD officer Brett Hankison prepares to stand trial, there are still questions about how public the proceedings will be.

Judge Ann Bailey Smith held a conference call with Hankison’s attorney and attorneys from the Commonwealth on Wednesday morning, discussing the possibility of closing individual voir dire, or preliminary witness or juror examination, to the media.

Smith told the attorneys she did not believe the process should be closed completely, but did say there could be some restrictions put in place.

“We cannot close down individual voir dire,” Judge Ann Bailey Smith said.

In this case, the potential jurors would be questioned individually, so as to narrow down the jury pool.

Smith told the attorneys she was concerned the presence of TV news cameras could influence what the jurors say.

”I think that the fact that it is being done individually can be intimidating for some, for many, of the jurors,” Smith said to Hankison’s attorney. “And also seeing people sitting in the audience, seeing a camera in the audience, I think you’re right. I think it may have some effect on how open they are with their responses.”

The conference call comes after Hankison’s attorney, Stew Mathews, made a motion last week to close voir dire completely.

”My goal in filing this motion is not to start a war with the media,” Mathews said. “Rather, my goal is to do everything in my power to ensure that Brett Hankison can be tried by a jury that’s fair.”

Hankison has waited nearly a year and a half to stand trial.

He was indicted by a grand jury in September of 2020 on three counts of wanton endangerment, accused of shooting blindly several times from outside Breonna Taylor’s apartment. Several of the shots Hankison fired landed in the neighboring apartments.

>>> COMPLETE COVERAGE: The Breonna Taylor case

Mathews told the judge the backstory and the subsequent news coverage have already shaped what people in Jefferson County think of his client.

”Given the backstory of this indictment and then all that occurred in Louisville and Jefferson County in the aftermath, I would wager that there are very few citizens of Jefferson County, that is prospective jurors, who have not heard about the case, have not discussed it, have not formed an opinion or expressed an opinion or stated an opinion somewhere along the line,” Mathews said.

The judge told the attorneys she would likely have a ruling on the motion by Wednesday afternoon.

WAVE News called the Division 13 clerk and was told the judge had not made a decision yet.

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