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WFAE's coverage of the case of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer Randall Kerrick charged with voluntary manslaughter in the death of Jonathan Ferrell. The court case ended in a mistrial.

Ferrell Family Wants Another Trial; Police Group Vows Support For Kerrick

FerrellFamily.JPG
Charlotte Observer

It was a day of uncertainty Friday. Would the Randall Kerrick jury reach a verdict?

No. The jury deadlocked at 8-4. A mistrial was declared.

Then, more uncertainty. How would people react?

Sadness and frustration from the family of shooting victim Jonathan Ferrell.

Supporters of Kerrick were certainly relieved he wasn’t convicted.

Churches opened their doors. They became venues for people to peacefully voice their anger and frustrations.

Peaceful protesters took to the streets early on, and later in the night they became more aggressive.

All of this is part of our coverage Saturday morning.

It was shortly after 4 p.m. Friday when the jury was brought back into the courtroom. Superior Court Judge Robert Ervin wanted to see if they were making any progress, needed further discussion or wanted to take a break from the trial over the weekend and return Monday for a fresh start. They didn’t.

The foreman told the judge the vote was still the same as the last two votes, 8-4. He said jurors had exhausted all discussion and there was no possibility they would reach a unanimous verdict. Judge Ervin asked for a show of hands of how many jurors agreed with the foreman. The 11 other jurors raised their hands.

Judge Ervin declared a mistrial.

“There’s no reasonable probability the jury will reach a verdict in this case. Based on the foreperson’s response and the jurors, the court will declare a mistrial and the case will remain open for future procedures,” he said.

Those inside the courtroom quietly filed out. Outside the courthouse, it was a different story.

“No justice, no peace. Unarmed, don't shoot," a group of protesters shouted.

About 20 protesters stretched out on their stomachs on the street outside the courthouse, some chanting with their hands behind their backs, imitating pictures shown in court of Ferrell after he’d been killed.

At times they blocked both ends of the courthouse, backing up traffic and causing the police to set up blockades with their bicycles.

Rev. Raymond Johnson of Marion, SC, joined the protesters. He spent several days in the courtroom.

“The system didn’t work for us today. The evidence was there. It hurts. We gotta protest until the DA takes the case forward with another jury,” he said.

That was the sentiment of Ferrell’s mother, Georgia, and brother, Willie. They were not in the courtroom for the mistrial ruling. In a press conference outside the courthouse, the Ferrells and their attorney, Christopher Chestnut, urged the Attorney General’s office to continue with the case.

"I feel we got to keep fighting. We must get justice. Jonathan was an innocent bystander, looking for help and killed. We got to stop them from killing our children,” Georgia Ferrell said.

“When I was younger we promised to always defend each other, so he’s dead and I’m defending him day in and out,” Willie added.

Shortly after the family spoke to the public, just a block away at City Hall, CMPD Chief Kerr Putney said he has no regrets about the department charging Kerrick with voluntary manslaughter two years ago.

“I think we have a professional force that’s very competent that have mastered the art of criminal investigation. I think they did a very good job and I think our charges were appropriate.”

Putney added that it’s not up to him to determine if Kerrick, currently on unpaid administrative leave, can return to the force.

“It’s up to the courts to decide what happens criminally. And then we have an administrative process that will follow suit. It’s way too early for me to determine any of that so I can’t really speak to that at this point,” Putney said.

Prosecutors in the case have not said if they will pursue another trial. They did ask the judge to give them a breakdown on the jurors’ votes to help them determine their next move.

Kerrick’s defense team did not speak after the judge declared a mistrial.  Members of the local Fraternal Order of Police were in the courtroom throughout the trial to support Kerrick. President of the North Carolina FOP, Randy Hagle,  had this to say:

We’re a little disappointed because we don’t think the evidence supported what the state was contending.  We think it was quite the opposite," said Randy Hagler, president of the North Carolina FOP.

He said CMPD moved with charges too fast, and that Kerrick was just trying to defend himself on the job. 

"The situation that was in front of him forced him to react.  And we would support and stand by any officer that made a decision that resulted like this.  I mean that’s what we do.  That’s what cops do.  They stand by each other," Hagler added.

Hagler says the FOP will continue to stand by Kerrick as he awaits Attorney General Roy Cooper's decision whether to retry the case.