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‘A gross miscarriage of justice’: Illinois leaders react to decision in Breonna Taylor case

CHICAGO, Ill. – Anger. Sadness. Disbelief. Many across the country are coping with a long-awaited announcement surrounding the death of Breonna Taylor.

“The grand jury’s charge of a single officer does not address the loss of her life, not nearly,” said Gov. JB Pritzker. “This is, to put it lightly, a gross miscarriage of justice.”

Pritzker spoke in Chicago just hours after the Jefferson County grand jury recommended three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment for former Louisville police officer Brett Hankinson.

The charge only addressed Hankinson’s shots that went into a nearby apartment the night of Breonna Taylor’s murder. Hankinson paid a $15,000 bond Wednesday night for release from the Shelby County Detention Center. The other officers involved in the shooting face no charges.

“For more than 190 days, we have joined the world in waiting for justice for Breonna Taylor and some semblance that our lives matter,” Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton said. “But today, justice was denied.”

Stratton is a mother of four Black daughters.

“She was 26 years old, the same age as my Cassidy,” Stratton added, before taking a pause. “My heart ached for her mother and her loved ones then, and my heart aches for them now as they are traumatized once again by a hollow decision. I literally cannot fathom the pain that her mother must feel right now.”

She explained the grand jury’s decision further illustrates how Black people are frequently “dehumanized and disenfranchised” by the U.S. criminal justice system.

“Today’s decision is yet one more example of why Black women often don’t feel protected,” Stratton said.

Full accountability

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul also addressed the controversial decision Wednesday afternoon. Echoing statements of many throughout the day, Raoul said Taylor should still be alive.

“There must be full accountability that is based upon appropriate application of the specific facts surrounding her death,” Raoul stated.

The Attorney General also highlighted the need for police reforms in order to prevent future tragedies like Taylor’s murder. He also touched upon the right for people to protest following the jury’s decision.

“It is understandable that people in Illinois and across the nation want to gather to express their grief and discontent and to call for change. They have a constitutional right to do so peacefully,” Raoul added. However, he explained this action isn’t a “license” to commit acts of violence or destruction in Illinois.

Illinois Legislative Black Caucus Chair Kimberly Lightford said it is impossible to weight the injustices against Black people.

“The pain, anger and frustration of this grand jury decision runs deep in every fiber of my being because it is a personal attack on my humanity as a Black woman and on all the Black women I hold dear to me. Breonna Taylor deserved to live, as do all of us,” Lightford stated.

The Senate Majority Leader also asked Illinoisans to grieve without destruction, as many businesses are still recovering from civil unrest following the murder of George Floyd.

“We need to continue our fight in unity and power,” Lightford explained. “Do not concede any points to those against our movement when they are just waiting to find a reason to continue justifying their racism and cruelty.”

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Mike Miletich

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