By Del. Jon S. Cardin
My wife and I go to sleep every night without the fear of being woken up by the sound of a battering ram knocking down our door. I know that my family will not be shot to death in their sleep. Yet countless brown and black Americans lay awake at night fearing intruders, often not their neighbors or strangers, but law enforcement. In fact, the events of March 13, 2020, in Louisville, Ky., both rocked our nation and reminded us of the tale of two cities. We live in a country where half our citizens are scared of those who are sworn to protect them, and it is time to open our eyes to it and make this right.
Breonna Taylor was an innocent, unsuspecting young woman and dedicated public servant. Her life was tragically cut short because of haste and rash judgment by the police who beat down her door while trying to find a person who was never going to be anywhere near that residence. If we want to breed trust, we cannot allow carelessness to pervade law enforcement nor give them the right to enter a home with a no-knock warrant, pounding down the doors in the middle of the night — until they are sure they have the right place and the right person.
Any legal gun owner would have and should have reacted the same way Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, did. He legally availed himself of his constitutional right to defend himself and his loved one by firing shots at those he believed were intruders and burglars.
There are many aspects of this series of events that are wrong and unjust, but let’s not forget that if it weren’t for a warrant being approved, Breonna Taylor would still be alive today. Some of the “evidence” provided to receive a warrant to enter Taylor’s home was based on hunches and speculation. In preliminary investigations involving Taylor’s mail delivery man and regarding “suspicious” packages, it was revealed that there was no evidence of wrongdoing attached to the said residence. Furthermore, the suspect/target, Taylor’s ex-boyfriend, who was a suspected drug dealer, was arrested that same night at a different location and no evidence from Taylor’s raid was used or at all helpful in the arrest.
If the intention was to find the ex-boyfriend, Jamarcus Glover, in her home through this warrant, it demonstrates laziness and apathy to facts, and the evidence provided was sketchy at best. Glover even stated to officers that she was not involved in any of his illegal activities. And yet, based on the judicial warrant requirement, what the police gave the judge was sufficient for her to execute a warrant and perpetuate the events that ended with a fatal shooting of an innocent girl.
There are so many systematic changes that need to be made for people of color to be safe in our county — a generational task that is being worked on daily. HB 329 is a small step in the right direction. For no-knock warrants to seize a person, this bill establishes a higher standard of clear and convincing evidence to be shown to a judge (as opposed to what is required now — a reasonable suspicion) to enter someone’s home. Therefore, there must be a clear connection between the suspect and the residence in question and a clear and convincing likelihood that the suspect or knowledge of his whereabouts will be located in the residence.
In the case of Breonna Taylor, if these requirements were in place, a warrant to enter her home would not have been issued. I hope that this bill prevents future tragic and pointless injuries and deaths like this from occurring.
Jon S. Cardin represents District 11 in Baltimore County in the Maryland House of Delegates.