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BRE­ONNA TAY­LOR CASE TESTS KEN­TUCKY’S LE­GAL CHIEF

Daniel Cameron, whose fu­ture in Repub­li­can pol­i­tics looked bright, is now un­der fire.

- By Camp­bell Robert­son Crime · U.S. News · US Politics · Politics · Republican Party Politics · Courts · Law · Taylor · Republican Party (United States) · Kentucky · Mitch McConnell · Donald Trump · U.S. Supreme Court · Louisville · Washington · Democratic Party (United States) · American Civil Liberties Union · Muhammad Ali · Daniel Cameron · Elizabethtown, KY · University of Louisville · Louisville · Matt Bevin · Andy Beshear · Waddell, Arizona

As the first Repub­li­can at­tor­ney gen­eral in Ken­tucky in more than 70 years, and the first black at­tor­ney gen­eral in the state’s his­tory, Daniel Cameron has a fu­ture in Repub­li­can pol­i­tics that has seemed lim­it­less. A charis­matic or­a­tor and a black mem­ber of an over­whelm­ingly white GOP, Mr Cameron, 34, is still widely seen in Ken­tucky as the first choice to suc­ceed Se­na­tor Mitch McCon­nell, his po­lit­i­cal men­tor. Oth­ers sug­gest he run for gover­nor in 2023. Two weeks af­ter Mr Cameron de­liv­ered a prime-time ad­dress at the Repub­li­can Na­tional Con­ven­tion last month, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump in­cluded his name on a list of pos­si­ble nom­i­nees for the Supreme Court.

But first, there is his cur­rent job. This week that meant stand­ing at a lectern and an­nounc­ing, af­ter more than 100 days of boil­ing im­pa­tience across the coun­try, the con­clu­sion of a state grand jury in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the fa­tal shoot­ing of 26-year-old Bre­onna Tay­lor. The de­ci­sion — that two po­lice of­fi­cers who shot Tay­lor would not be charged, while a third of­fi­cer would be charged with wan­ton en­dan­ger­ment for jeop­ar­dis­ing the lives of Tay­lor’s neigh­bours — led to an ex­plo­sion of grief and fury. Chant­ing crowds marched in cities na­tion­wide and protests erupted across Louisville, where two po­lice of­fi­cers were shot.

“I cer­tainly un­der­stand the pain that has been brought about by the tragic loss of Ms Tay­lor,” Mr Cameron said in his an­nounce­ment on Wed­nes­day. “I un­der­stand that as an at­tor­ney gen­eral,” he said, then went on, ap­par­ently chok­ing up at one point: “I un­der­stand that as a black man, how painful this is. Which is why it was so in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant to make sure that we did ev­ery­thing that we pos­si­bly could.”

Mr Cameron’s mea­sured speech il­lu­mi­nated his po­lit­i­cal gifts. But it also kicked off what is likely to be a long and in­tense de­bate over the process that led to the grand jury de­ci­sion it­self. And that, more than the speech, is what may mat­ter most to Mr Cameron’s po­lit­i­cal fu­ture.

“The pre­sen­ta­tion yes­ter­day, if you didn’t have the ad­van­tage of be­ing legally trained or ex­pe­ri­enced or know­ing the facts of the case, there’s no rea­son for a per­son to have doubted what he said,” said Marc S Mur­phy, a for­mer com­mon­wealth’s at­tor­ney for Louisville who once worked with Mr Cameron at the same law firm.

Crit­ics have charged that Mr Cameron was mis­lead­ing when de­scrib­ing the case in his re­marks, and Mr Mur­phy ques­tioned whether Mr Cameron brought as ro­bust a case against the of­fi­cers as pos­si­ble to the grand jury. “There’s a lot of things that aren’t trans­par­ent about this,” he said.

Mr Cameron grew up in El­iz­a­beth­town, a small city in the mid­dle of the state, where his par­ents ran a cof­fee shop and his mother taught at a com­mu­nity col­lege. He went on to the Univer­sity of Louisville, where he played on the Orange Bowl-win­ning foot­ball team and was named a McCon­nell Scholar, two achieve­ments that guar­an­teed spe­cial at­ten­tion from Ken­tucky’s se­nior se­na­tor.

Af­ter law school and be­tween stints as a ju­di­cial clerk and pri­vate-sec­tor at­tor­ney, Mr Cameron worked as Mr McCon­nell’s le­gal coun­sel in Washington. Mr McCon­nell had shep­herded the po­lit­i­cal ca­reers of past pro­teges with mixed re­sults. But Mr Cameron’s role in the Repub­li­can Party could be sym­bol­i­cally im­por­tant, as he him­self noted in his re­cent con­ven­tion speech.

“My mind is my own,” said Mr Cameron, af­ter de­scrib­ing him­self as a “proud Repub­li­can” and a sup­porter of Mr Trump. “And you can’t tell me how to vote be­cause of the colour of my skin.”

For Ken­tucky Repub­li­cans, the sig­nif­i­cance can­not be over­stated. “It’s hard to look past what Daniel rep­re­sents for our party here,” said Scott Jen­nings, who has acted as a po­lit­i­cal ad­viser to Mr McCon­nell and Mr Cameron. “McCon­nell un­der­stood the his­toric im­pli­ca­tions.”

In 2019, with the en­cour­age­ment of Mr McCon­nell, Mr Cameron ran for at­tor­ney gen­eral. His cam­paign em­pha­sised his role in se­lect­ing con­ser­va­tive judges, Mr McCon­nell’s sig­na­ture is­sue. He was also en­dorsed by the state’s fra­ter­nal or­der of po­lice, say­ing “to the men and women in blue, I pledge to be your ad­vo­cate and your voice every day.” He won hand­ily.

His first year has been full, from han­dling widely crit­i­cised par­dons is­sued by his fel­low Repub­li­can, for­mer gover­nor Matt Bevin, to fight­ing hard to strike down coro­n­avirus preven­tion mea­sures from the cur­rent gover­nor, Andy Bes­hear, a Demo­crat.

But in May, when the county pros­e­cu­tor in Louisville re­cused him­self from the case of Tay­lor’s shoot­ing, Mr

Cameron sud­denly had his most con­se­quen­tial job yet. A be­lief took hold among crit­ics that he had not pur­sued the case as ag­gres­sively as he could. Some have ar­gued that he could have been more trans­par­ent through­out the process, given the im­por­tance of the case and the ex­tra­or­di­nary ten­sion sur­round­ing it.

“I think that’s a shame and a missed op­por­tu­nity here,” said Heather Gatnarek, a staff at­tor­ney for the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union of Ken­tucky. “I think the en­tire com­mu­nity of Louisville and be­yond is hurt­ing, reel­ing, and look­ing for some in­for­ma­tion in or­der to trust what has been hap­pen­ing.”

Mr Cameron faced sus­tained pres­sure as months passed and protests en­dured in Louisville. The case cat­a­pulted to na­tional at­ten­tion, with ma­jor celebri­ties de­mand­ing ac­tion. Scores were ar­rested af­ter protest­ing in Mr Cameron’s front yard, and pho­tos of his en­gage­ment party in June, with no one yet charged, drew a storm of out­rage.

Ac­tivists have ar­gued that, as a black man, he has an added re­spon­si­bil­ity.

“Let me tell you some­thing, brother,” Sean Ali Wad­dell Jr, an ac­tivist and a rel­a­tive of Muham­mad Ali, said at a rally over the sum­mer. “Don’t you be on the wrong side of his­tory.”

Mr Mur­phy, who said he had been daz­zled by Mr Cameron’s in­tel­li­gence and af­fa­bil­ity when they worked to­gether, said he had been “sur­prised and disappoint­ed” with Mr Cameron as at­tor­ney gen­eral.

Also an ed­i­to­rial car­toon­ist for The Louisville Courier-Jour­nal in ad­di­tion to be­ing a lawyer, Mr Mur­phy hes­i­tated be­fore fil­ing his car­toon to his editor on Thurs­day morn­ing. But he sent it any­way. In it, a sil­hou­ette of the at­tor­ney gen­eral stood be­fore the me­mo­rial to Tay­lor that had grown in down­town Louisville. He held a gas can­is­ter in one hand. A lit match had just been flicked out of the other.

“Let me tell you some­thing, brother. Don’t you be on the wrong side of his­tory.

AN AC­TIVIST AND A REL­A­TIVE OF MUHAM­MAD ALI, SEAN ALI WAD­DELL JR

 ??  ?? WITH A HEAVY HEART: Ken­tucky at­tor­ney gen­eral Daniel Cameron an­nounc­ing that a grand jury has in­dicted for­mer Louisville po­lice of­fi­cer Brett Hanki­son with wan­ton en­dan­ger­ment for his ac­tions on the night of the shoot­ing that killed Bre­onna Tay­lor.
WITH A HEAVY HEART: Ken­tucky at­tor­ney gen­eral Daniel Cameron an­nounc­ing that a grand jury has in­dicted for­mer Louisville po­lice of­fi­cer Brett Hanki­son with wan­ton en­dan­ger­ment for his ac­tions on the night of the shoot­ing that killed Bre­onna Tay­lor.

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