Mistrial declared in Kerrick trial
Charlotte, NC - Judge Robert C. Ervin has declared a mistrial in the voluntary manslaughter case of Charlotte police officer Randall Kerrick after the jury became deadlocked. In a conversation with the judge Friday afternoon, the jury said further deliberations would not change their minds.
Around 3 p.m., the foreman said the jury's discussions have been "productive." The foreman said an initial vote taken the first day of deliberations was 7-5. The second vote, taken Thursday, was 8-4, and that was the same outcome when the jury voted again prior to entering the courtroom. The judge asked the jury not to specify whether the majority vote was for a guilty or not guilty verdict.
A source tells FOX 46 the jury was 8-4 in favor of acquittal.
CMPD Police Chief Kerr Putney says Randall Kerrick remains on unpaid leave until the process is finalized.
Prosecutors and defense lawyers wrapped up their arguments Tuesday after more than two weeks of testimony. The trial began August 3.
Defense attorney George Laughrun presented the jury with a slide show Tuesday. He used the same TV screen that was used to show dashcam video that recorded the final moments before Kerrick shot Ferrell. The slides ranged from a list of Kerrick's character traits to a picture of Lady Liberty.
Prosecutor Teresa Postell countered Laughrun's claim that the state had failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Kerrick used excessive force in shooting Ferrell, arguing that Kerrick changed his story about Ferrell reaching behind his back prior to charging at him.
Judge Richard C. Ervin gave instructions to the jury of eight women and four men Tuesday around Noon. Deliberations began at 2:40 p.m. after a lunch break.
The Charlotte chapter of the NAACP called the racial breakdown of the jury a disappointment. Two women and three men are white, two women are Hispanic and two women and one man are black. The NAACP said in July the jury lacked the diversity seen in the Mecklenburg County population.
One of the first witnesses the jury heard from was Sarah McCartney, the East Charlotte woman who called 911 after Ferrell began banging on her door the night of the shooting.
"There was a man trying to break into my front door,” McCartney can be heard saying on the 911 call.
McCartney was home alone with her infant child when Ferrell came to the door. Prosecutors said Ferrell came to the home after having car trouble but the defense argued Ferrell may have be high on marijuana or another substance.
Officer Randall Kerrick was the second officer to respond to the reported home burglary. Officer Thornell Little was first on the scene followed by Kerrick and Officer Adam Neal. Dashcam video recorded by a camera in Neal’s car shows Ferrell running towards the officers.
Prior to the arrival of Officer Neal and his dashcam, Little testified he saw Ferrell pacing and hitting his thighs with his hands while walking down the street. Little said Ferrell walked toward him and shouted, "Shoot me, shoot me!" Moments later, Ferrell appears on Neal’s dashcam just as Little fired his taser. The taser missed Ferrell as Ferrell began to run towards Kerrick.
Ferrell quickly moves off camera as he advances towards the officers. "Get on the ground” can be heard three times on the dashcam’s audio before twelve shots are fired. Next, somebody says "don't move," three times.
Conflicting testimony questioned whether Kerrick’s decision to use deadly force was in accordance with departmental training. While a witness for the defense argued Kerrick’s actions were in accordance with typical police procedures, Captain Mike Campagna, who oversees training guidelines for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and testified on behalf of the prosecution, said departmental guidelines call for the use of non-lethal use of force in such scenarios.
In a recorded interview with investigators shown in court, Kerrick said he fired his weapon twelve times because he feared for his life.
“The only other option would have been for me to turn around and run, and he was coming at me, and he was not letting up," Kerrick said in the video interview.
Kerrick became emotional when he testified in his own defense.
"He was going to attack me. He was going to assault me. He was going to take my gun from me,” Kerrick said in court.
Kerrick testified that he did not remember how many times he fired his service weapon at Ferrell. Kerrick told the jury that he thought his gun was not working because Ferrell kept coming at him.
"I thought I was going to die because I could do nothing that would stop him," Kerrick said.
Experts testified that DNA and blood samples most likely from Ferrell were found on Kerrick’s uniform and gun. The defense argued Ferrell knocked Kerrick to the ground and tried to reach for his gun. Neither side was able to conclusively say whether Ferrell was able to knock Kerrick to the ground and it remains unclear what position the two were in when the actual shooting occurred.
THE CITY'S RESPONSE
Before the trial began the City of Charlotte has already awarded the Ferrell family a $2.25 million settlement. The city of Charlotte said an investigation showed Kerrick did not have a right to shoot Ferrell, violating North Carolina law G.S. 14-18. Kerrick has been on unpaid administrative leave since he bonded out of jail. Kerrick’s future with the department has not yet been announced.
Appearing on Good Day Charlotte in July, Ferrell’s mother Georgia said she did not hate Kerrick.
"I have no animosity or hate for anyone - especially Randall Kerrick," Georgia Ferrell said while appearing on Fox 46 News. "I don't hate him. I love him. I'm not about hate."
Shortly after the mistrial was declared, protesters gathered outside the Charlotte-Mecklenburg courthouse, chanting, "Justice for Jonathan."
Ferrell was killed a little less than a year before an unarmed black man in New York and an unarmed 18-year-old black male in Ferguson, Missouri, died in separate violent encounters with police - cases that shined a national spotlight on how police treat minorities and sparked calls for widespread reforms. Protests and rioting followed Michael Brown's death in Ferguson and a grand jury's refusal to indict the officer. The unrest resumed this week as protesters marked the one-year anniversary of Brown's death.
Protests also followed the deaths of two unarmed black men after encounters with police earlier this year in Baltimore and South Carolina. Officers have been charged in both of those cases. Kerrick's trial, while packing the courthouse, has drawn little outside attention. Unlike in some other cases, the officer was arrested and charged about 12 hours after the shooting.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department contends they are ready for any possible disturbances that may arise as a result of the trial.
“While we obviously cannot discuss specific steps of the security plan, our goal is to ensure that all constitutional freedoms are protected,” the department said in a statement to Fox 46 News. “We believe our community stands with us in this fundamental principle."
Thus far rallies and protests related to the trial have been peaceful.
Fox 46 News' Robin Kanady, Jenna Caiazzo and Liz Egan contributed to this report along with the Associated Press