The Breonna Taylor Case: The Dangers of a Reactive Society

Happy Friday, everybody. I’m here this week and I want to talk to you about what’s been a pretty touchy subject lately, and that’s the Breonna Taylor Case. However, I want to take it from a slightly different angle. So the Breonna Taylor Case really illustrates something that all good defense lawyers fear when they practice, especially when they go to trial. So when the Breonna Taylor Case first happened and she was killed as a result of the police executing a search warrant at what turned out to be the wrong house, there was this assumption that everybody took as true, that the warrant being executed was a no-knock warrant, and there were various reasons why people assume that. The affidavit attached to the warrant was leaked that showed that the warrant applied for was of the no-knock variety. There were witnesses there that said that when the search warrant was executed the police did not knock and announce their presence.

And it should be known that no-knock warrants are authorized in most states in most jurisdictions, they are something that the police can do and different law enforcement agencies can do If the situation mandates that it’s either required for officer’s safety or for the preservation of evidence and what have you. So then shortly after that, there was the lawsuit of the Taylor family, which was settled for a disclosed amount of somewhere in the neighborhood of $12 million. And as a result of that there, the city of Louisville banned the use of no-knock warrants in the future. So that, again, gave further credence to the idea that this was a no-knock warrant that was executed.

However, this week, the news broke that the officers involved in the shooting of Ms. Taylor would not be indicted, would not be formally charged with a criminal offense. When the chief of police came forward in his press conference and was giving justification for that decision, part of that justification was that the claim is that the officers did in fact knock and announce their presence, which ran counter to what had been understood up to that point. Now, the point of this video is not to give you my opinion on what I think did or did not happen. In fact, it’s quite the opposite because honestly, I don’t know, I was not there. There are only a handful of people that could honestly and with accuracy tell you exactly what happened on that night.

The point of this video is this, when the story first broke you had people rushing to this reaction to generate these takes on the situation based on facts that they were assuming to be true based almost solely on what something somebody had said, whether a statement from a witness or a statement from an officer or a statement from a family member. And then likewise, when this story broke this week, you had people on the exact side of the story, again, rushing to this reaction of, well, now the media needs to apologize for all of these false narratives that they’ve been pushing. Because actually, they did knock and announced themselves, again, they’re just assuming that to be true based on nothing but this claim made by the police chief.

And so again, what this really draws into sharp focus is something that, like I said, really scares defense attorneys. And that is the public’s willingness and sometimes desire to rush to a very specific judgment at the very early stages of a story. And where this really manifests itself is when I’m trying a case and I’m defending somebody who’s been accused of a crime. I spend so much time in jury selection trying to talk to the jury panel about avoiding that temptation. Avoiding the desire to just latch onto the first thing that they hear and immediately make a judgment on what they think happened, who they think was right, and who they think was wrong.

Because when the jury is selected, the jury is seated in that jury box, the very first person that they’re going to hear speak is the prosecutor when they give their opening statement. And if we do in the jury box, what the public has done with the Breonna Taylor Case, as soon as that prosecutor gets done talking that all 12 members of that jury will have already made up their mind. I haven’t said a word, no actual evidence has been presented, no story has been told, no witnesses have spoken. They have heard one thing and they rushed to judgment. And that’s something that, like I said, it’s human nature for all of us to do.

We have these emotions that are built into our psyche and as soon as we hear something, we run a react. It’s been made worse through the prevalence of social media and the 24 hour news cycle, because everybody wants to be the first to offer their take on a situation. They want to issue these hot takes there, this is my opinion, let me throw out what happened. But why we do that, when we do that, we damage the story as a whole. We damage the memory of the people that may have lost their lives because we’re rushing to a judgment based on a lack of information, rather than an abundance of information. And so I challenge you as you move forward, and again, I’m not offering any opinion one way or another on who was justified or what happened.

There are a 1,000 other sources that you can go to for those types of opinions. This video is about one thing and one thing only, it’s to try as a people or as a person, as an individual to fight back that temptation when you see a headline, when you see a quote, when you see a claim. Fight the temptation to immediately rush to a judgment of what you think happened and who you think was right, and who you think was wrong. And that goes regardless of what side of the political aisle you’re on. It goes regardless of what the source of that claim is. I don’t care if you saw it on CNN or Fox News, you should always take a headline, you should always take a quote. You should always take an allegation or a claim with a giant grain of salt, because all that is, is simply that. Simply a claim, simply an allegation.

And when we rush to judgment, we do ourselves, we do those involved, and we do our system as a whole a very, very big disservice. And so I challenge all of you as you look at these cases, as you look at things going on in the world today, always remind yourself, really, really force yourself to stop, take a beat, gather as much information as you can, and then by all means, make a logical conclusion on what your opinion should be. You are fully entitled to form an opinion, but I challenge you to make sure that opinion is based on logic, facts, and research, not on emotion, regardless of which way you lean and regardless of which narrative you feel like you should follow.

Take that time, make sure you get it right, because if you don’t you’re doing everybody just a big disservice. As always, I’m happy to discuss this or anything else in person. You know the phone number, you know the website. Please give me a call, shoot me an email. I’m happy to chat with you one-on-one or answer any general questions you have about criminal law or trying criminal cases, because I have plenty of those as well. Hope you all have a great weekend and I look forward to talking to you all next week.

Author Bio

James P. Whalen

James P. Whalen is the managing attorney and founder of Whalen Law Office, a Texas criminal defense firm offering personalized legal representation for various federal criminal charges. With a commitment to providing comfort and guidance during challenging times, Mr. Whalen serves as both an attorney and counselor to his clients, helping them navigate their cases while striving to restore normalcy to their lives.

In an inherently unbalanced criminal justice system, Mr. Whalen takes on cases with unwavering dedication. With decades of legal experience, he offers representation across various criminal charges, including white-collar crimes, violent crimes, drug charges, and more. Mr. Whalen’s numerous accolades, including Super Lawyer recognition and board certification in Criminal Appellate Law and Criminal Law, reflect his unwavering commitment to ethical and high-quality legal representation.

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