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Did a False Search Warrant Lead to Breonna Taylor’s Death?

By: Emily Hur

Police officers need an approved warrant to raid someone’s property, but they can easily fabricate evidence to validate the search. Prosecutors are currently investigating if this happened to Breonna Taylor.

Taylor died in her apartment in Louisville, Kentucky on March 13, 2020. Police officers shot her after barging into her home. They had a warrant to search for money and drugs from Jamarcus Glover, Taylor’s former boyfriend. However, Joshua Jaynes, a Louisville detective, appears to have lied to obtain the warrant.

Jaynes claims that Glover sent packages to Taylor’s apartment, possibly containing illegal drugs or money. He says that a postal inspector verified the deliveries, and he asked for a no-knock warrant to enter her home before anyone cleared the evidence. The judge believed him and approved the warrant.

Last week, federal prosecutors claimed that Jaynes faked the evidence. The police didn’t know if Glover used Taylor’s apartment for shipments, and lawyers said that Jaynes never met a postal employee. In a separate hearing, prosecutors stated that Jaynes conspired with another detective. They said that the pair created a false story to justify the warrant.

Taylor is not the only victim of this crime. Kathryn Johnston, an elderly African American woman, died in 2006 when Atlanta police officers raided her home. They had a warrant to search for drugs, but failed to knock beforehand. Johnston shot once out of self-defense, but three officers returned fire and instantly killed her. At their trial, the officers confessed to fabricating evidence to obtain a search warrant.

Judges frequently authorize falsified search warrants since police officers are responsible for all the presented evidence. Officers can easily sneak fake statements or information into warrant applications, and judges usually believe them.

“It happens far more often than people think,” Joseph C. Patituce, a defense lawyer and former prosecutor, said. “We are talking about a document that allows police to come into the homes of people, oftentimes minorities, at all times of night and day.”

Thomas Clay, Jaynes’ lawyer, has defended this type of case from both sides. He said that officers might lie under oath because they believe they know the facts, but they cannot support their claims with evidence. “The most extreme example is when they are just dishonest, even though they are under oath,” Clay said.

Jaynes confessed that he did not meet the postal inspector in person, but he said a sergeant confirmed the packages for him. He thought that was enough evidence to validate the warrant.

“It’s tragic when you see police falsify information to obtain a search warrant, and it is also dumb,” Ed Davis, the former Boston police commissioner, said. “Every one of those search warrants can turn into a disaster.”

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