Friday, December 8

Brett Hankison wanton endangerment trial | Louisville professors analyze first day of testimony

University of Louisville law and political science professors shared key takeaways, as the former LMPD detective is in court facing charges of wanton endangerment.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — University of Louisville professors believe key takeaways from day one of testimony in former LMPD Detective Brett Hankison’s trial include a clear narrative presented by both the prosecution and defense, along with strong words shared by a man said to be impacted by gunfire the night Breonna Taylor’s apartment was raided.

“You can generally take even from an opening statement a picture of where each side wants to take the case — what story they’re trying to tell the jury,” said UofL Constitutional and Criminal Law Professor Sam Marcosson. “I think we saw that today.”

Cody Etherton, one of three people who lived in the apartment right next to Breonna Taylor’s, painted the picture to the jury of when bullets came through their adjoining wall and into his family’s living space. He said from his view, bullets whizzed past his head and put his life and those of his pregnant girlfriend and her five-year-old child in danger. 

“Debris started going past my head and my face,” Etherton said, who described the whole night as ‘chaos.’ “I remember seeing red dots crossing me where I was standing.”

Marcosson said from his judgment and early analysis, the prosecution started out the way they likely intended.

RELATED: Who is former Louisville officer Brett Hankison?

“It appears Mr. Etherton told that story in a way that certainly had the potential to put those jurors into that night — what it felt like that night to be in that apartment,” Marcosson said. “That [appeared to be] successful.”

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The prosecution’s Assistant Attorney General Barbara Whaley began by reminding the jury that this trial is not about Breonna Taylor, but the three people in that neighboring apartment.

Attorney Stew Mathews, on Brett Hankison’s defense team, said they won’t dispute facts, but rather what caused the former LMPD detective to fire his weapon.

Brett Hankison is charged with three counts of wanton endangerment for the shots that entered the neighbor’s apartment. He was fired from the police department a few months later.

LMPD Sergeant Jason Vance, one of six witnesses to testify Wednesday, said by his count, five bullets were fired from Hankison’s gun that went through Taylor’s sliding glass door.

Meanwhile, we asked UofL Political Science Professor Dewey Clayton what to make of a jury pool of 10 men and just five women, and White jurors far outnumbering people of color.

“Studies show women and minorities tend to be more sympathetic toward defendants, but the script has been flipped this time, so it’s a sort of a different type of situation,” said Clayton, alluding to the fact that in this case the defendant is former law enforcement.

Clayton says based on high-profile cases and verdicts he’s seen nationwide in the last year, he believes gender is starting to play less of a factor in major verdicts.

He says he has faith that that will also hold true for this jury in Hankison’s case.

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