SOMETHING ROTS IN LAW ENFORCEMENT AND IT'S THE SEARCH WARRANT: THE BREONNA TAYLOR CASE

Blanche Bong Cook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

When police rammed the door of Breonna Taylor's home and shot her five times in a hail of thirty-two bullets, they lacked legal justification for being there. The affidavit supporting the warrant was perjurious, stale, vague, and lacking in particularity. The killing of Breonna Taylor, however, is not just a story about the illegality of the warrant. It is also about the legality of the circumstances that facilitated her killing. Police officers lying to obtain warrants and magistrates rubber-stamping facially defective warrants are the stories of individual failings. This Article examines a weightier structural problem: How the Supreme Court fashioned legal doctrine that created the conditions that led to Breonna Taylor's death. This Article transcends the narrative of bad-apple cops. It is the first to present a structural framework for analyzing how Court rulings about the acquisition and execution of search warrants inequitably distribute premature death in marginalized communities. When the Court refused to apply the exclusionary rule to evidence obtained in violation of the knock-and-announce requirement, it incentivized police to ignore the rule. The result has been carelessness in the acquisition of warrants and callousness in their execution. When the Court gave police immunity for violating the rule, it sealed Breonna Taylor's fate. Police refusal to knock and announce and to engage in a substantial waiting period before ramming the door is untenable in an age of increased Stand Your Ground Laws and unbridled gun ownership. The proper protocols for police home invasion demand the Supreme Court's review. The spectacle of Breonna Taylor's killing, along with so many others, inflicted a cultural trauma on the public, particularly marginalized communities. The illegal warrant that set Breonna Taylor's death in motion, therefore, demands a public vetting, preferably in an adversarial setting where one party does not monopolize both the facts and the narratives surrounding those facts. The repeated failure to hold police accountable for their killings will destroy the criminal justice system as we know it. The next Breonna Taylor is both foreseeable and preventable.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-85
Number of pages85
JournalBoston University Law Review
Volume102
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Boston University Law Review. All rights reserved.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law

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