​Federal charges in Breonna Taylor case a step in the right direction

Attorney Crump speaks on indictments at NABJ convention

Las Vegas, Nev.—The U.S. Justice Department filed civil rights charges on August 4, accusing Louisville police of violating Breonna Taylor’s rights in the raid that led to her death in 2020. Those charges may signal a positive step toward equal justice for Black women in this country.

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump represented the Taylor family and won a settlement against the city of Louisville. He talked to Black reporters, including the MSR, last week at the 2022 NABJ/NAHJ convention in Las Vegas.

Crump’s appearance came hours after the federal charges were announced. He admitted that he had given up hope that ​charges would be filed against the police officers​ who killed Taylor when entering her home under a faulty drug warrant. It was later learned that she was falsely accused of receiving drug packages. 

Until last week, no officers were charged in the 26-year-old Black woman’s death. 

The federal charges include unlawful conspiracy, use of force, and obstruction of justice. U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said last week that Taylor’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated by the Louisville police officers when they obtained a search warrant without probable cause. Their sworn application for a search warrant included false and misleading statements.

Taylor’s death sparked protests around the country. In October 2020​,​ Crump won a $12 million settlement with the city of Louisville for her family.

City and state officials didn’t charge the officers, but the famed attorney credited Garland, President Joe Biden, and especially Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, who led the investigation​: ​“This sister came from the civil rights community,” the attorney said of Clarke. “I cannot think of a more committed Justice Department to civil rights [since] Robert Kennedy and the Civil Rights Movement. We got to make sure [people] know that the Justice Department fights for justice, equal justice for everybody.

“The Justice Department is reminding people that they do the business of justice,” stressed Crump.

Crump told the Black and Latino reporters at the August 4 press conference that in past cases involving police killings of Black women, the Justice Department seemingly “just sit back and they say, ‘We’ve investigated everything,’” only to later state that no charges would be filed against the police officers.

Black people, especially Black females are “disproportionately” killed by police in this country, said Crump. “When will it be some accountability for killing a Black woman?” he asked. 

When a reporter asked Crump about his emotions after learning of last week’s federal announcement, he said,  “I thought, wow—the federal government is actually going to put a police officer in jail for killing a Black woman.”

The MSR asked Crump will the federal charges have any effect on the settlement he won for Taylor’s family last year, “We won a civil settlement,” he responded.

Finally, Crump predicted: “I think … there’s gonna be an explosive trial in the next 12 to 18 months. We have to see what happens. But I feel very confident.”

The Justice Department’s investigation of the Louisville Police Department, announced last year, is still ongoing, according to federal officials.