LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Department of Justice said it is considering all of its options after the federal trial of a former Louisville police detective ended in a mistrial Thursday.
The jury could not agree on whether Brett Hankison violated the civil rights of Breonna Taylor, her boyfriend and her neighbors after more than three days of deliberations.
Raquel Wilson, an assistant law professor at the University of Kentucky’s J. David Rosenberg College of Law who has served as a federal public defender, said mistrials are not common in federal court, but they do happen.
Now that a judge has declared a mistrial, attorneys for the government will first have to reassess, she said.
“They have to read transcripts,” said Wilson. “They have to review ... where the witnesses are at this point and who they would recall and what they can do better. So a retrial is clearly an option. No trial is an option. A middle option, I suppose you could say, would be offering some sort of plea deal.”
It would be hard to see what incentive Hankison would have to take a plea deal, said Wilson, given that he was acquitted in state court in a wanton endangerment trial and the jury failed to reach a verdict in the federal trial.
Jurors were asked to decide whether Hankison deprived Breonna Taylor, her boyfriend and her neighbors of their constitutional rights the night of a raid in which police shot and killed Taylor.
While the defense argued Hankison’s gunfire did not hit anyone, prosecutors said he used unreasonable force and fired blindly into a covered door and window, even though he knew it was wrong and against his training.
Hankison testified that he could not see anyone at the moment he fired, but saw muzzle flashes, knew that a fellow officer had been shot and fired to stop the threat.
“This certainly is a case of the utmost importance for the community, not just Louisville, but the national community, and, in fact, the international community,” said Wilson. “This is the classic case in which the world is watching, and so it would be very hard for the government to walk away from a case like this.”
Hankison’s defense attorney, Stew Mathews, said Friday that the defense team was unable to comment as Hankison remains under federal indictment.
Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings scheduled a virtual status conference for Dec. 13 to determine whether a retrial will be sought.