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Federal charges in Breonna Taylor case prompt fresh questions about the state investigation

People gather at Breonna Taylors make shift memorial in Injustice Square Park in downtown Louisville.
Jason Armond
/
Los Angeles Times via Getty Imag
People gather at Breonna Taylors make shift memorial in Injustice Square Park in downtown Louisville.

The announcement of new federal charges connected to the 2020 death of Breonna Taylor is reigniting a debate about how the state investigation into the incident was handled.

The Department of Justice unveiled a series of charges Thursday, alleging that LMPD officers falsified the affidavit used to justify the raid on Taylor’s home.

"That false affidavit set in motion events that led to Ms. Taylor's death when other LMPD officers executed that warrant."
Assistant U.S. Attorney General Kristen Clarke

While the DOJ is also charging previously acquitted officer Brett Hankison with the use of excessive force, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland focused primarily on the warrant – an aspect Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron has noted was not part of the state investigation.

"The scope of our investigation did not include the obtainment of that warrant by LMPD's Criminal Interdiction Division."
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron

Facing renewed criticism of his work on the case, Cameron released a statement reiterating that his office’s primary task was to investigate whether officers involved in the raid were criminally responsible for Taylor’s death. He went on to urge readers not to conflate the state and federal investigations, adding, “there are those who want to use this moment to divide Kentuckians.”

But critics say Cameron’s case should have gone further. UofL law professor Sam Marcosson told the Lexington Herald–Leader perjury and conspiracy charges should have been on the table in the state case as well.

Asked about the state probe, General Garland avoiding wading into the controversy.

"The Justice Department brings charges, including charges where they've been brought before, when we believe substantial federal interests have not been vindicated and need to be vindicated," Garland said. "This case charges violations of federal offenses, obviously the state did not, and that explains our determination in this case."

Advocates for Taylor say the federal charges represent long-overdue justice for the woman whose death played a pivotal role in galvanizing a nationwide movement.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.