A judge dismissed the case Tuesday against the first person to stand trial after being arrested during Louisville’s racial justice protests last year.
Shajuandi Barrow, 35, was arrested last July at a NuLu protest. The block party-style demonstration on East Main Street was part of a string of protests in response to the police killing of Breonna Taylor. Barrow was one of 76 people arrested, many on the same three charges: unlawful assembly, obstructing a highway and disorderly conduct.
Some observers, including Barrow’s lawyer, thought the case could have implications for other protest-related arrests that are headed to trial. It’s now unclear what impact it might have, since jurors did not have the opportunity to fully consider the case.
At the first day of Barrow’s trial in Jefferson Circuit Court on Monday, the County Attorney’s Office agreed to dismiss the disorderly conduct charge. On Tuesday morning, after jury selection and opening statements, county prosecutors dismissed all the charges because they failed to disclose some video evidence ahead of the trial.
Barrow’s attorney, Ted Shouse, said he has not seen that video.
“I would encourage the County Attorney’s Office to take another hard look at these cases, all of these protest cases, and see exactly what evidence they have before they go forward,” he said.
A spokesperson for the County Attorney’s Office declined to comment on how the case was handled or if it will change their approach to future protest-related cases. Shouse is also representing another person arrested at the same NuLu protest. That case is scheduled for a review in December.
Asked whether he thought the county had inappropriately charged people arrested at racial justice protests, Shouse pointed to the overwhelming number of dismissals.
“I think the dismissal of hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of these cases says something about the level of arrests,” he said. “That’s what I think.”
Protester’s attorney claims police created a ‘generic narrative’
On Monday, prosecutors alleged that protesters constructed barriers along East Main Street, using items including mattresses, fencing and 55-gallon drums filled with water. In Barrow’s arrest report, police said the protest was an unlawful assembly that was causing a disturbance.
“This unlawful assembly caused alarm and annoyance to the businesses in the area,” the report said. “Several 9-1-1 calls were made due to the actions of the crowd.”
But Shouse showed body cam footage to jurors during his opening statement that appeared to show an officer creating a template for charging protesters before any arrests were even made. The officer then told other officers “everybody can copy it.”
Shouse said Tuesday that the “generic narrative,” as the officer described it, was used for many of the arrests that day.
“Based on the body cam footage that I have reviewed, all of the arrests that I’ve seen…are based on this generic narrative that was created,” he said. “And they charged everyone under the same ‘generic narrative’.”
The body camera footage also showed Barrow telling police their narrative about her was incorrect. She told the arresting officer she was there with a relative. Barrow said she saw that relative talking to a police officer and was walking up to them to see what was going on when she was arrested.