Defense seeks change of venue after CMPD officer pleads not guilty in fatal shooting

Defense seeks change of venue after CMPD officer pleads not guilty in fatal shooting
Jonathan Farrell
Jonathan Farrell

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The paperwork for a not guilty plea on behalf Officer Randal Kerrick is in the court system. Kerrick is charged with voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death of 24-year-old Jonathan Ferrell back in 2013. Ferrell was unarmed.

Officer-involved shootings have been the top news recently and top of mind for many people. Kerrick's legal team filed many motions along with the not guilty plea Friday, including a change of venue. His lawyers argue he cannot get a fair trial in Mecklenburg County.

There were multiple copies of media coverage of the case to support their argument. WBTV asked regular folks and an experts alike about the challenge of finding twelve impartial jurors.

No evidence in Officer Randall Kerrick's case has been presented in a courtroom, but people on the street have opinions about his case.

"If I was able to be on it, I would be able to find him guilty," said Beryl McCarver. "Look how he shot him. He just shot him. It's like it's open season on black men."

Beryl McCarver was sitting at a bus stop with her sister Brenda McCarver.

"I think too many people know so many things about the case. It would be hard for me to sit on that jury," Brenda McCarver said.

The McCarver sisters are being honest. But lawyer Monroe Whitesides, who is not a part of the Kerrick case, said potential jurors in court don't answer so honestly.

"You'll never get a juror to say, 'I can't be fair' because they don't want to appear unfair. That's why you have to ask very probing questions," Whitesides said.

And it's not just this case jurors will have on their minds. Since Jonathan Ferrell's death there have been several officer-involved shootings.

"This is being shown on the national news. So, now you're not going to find a jury that's just going to say not guilty," Brenda McCarver said.

Could Kerrick's lawyers find people with weaker opinions outside of Mecklenburg County if a judge granted a change of venue?

"I don't think the judge will allow a change of venue because you have to show that the public is so prejudice against the defendant that he can't get a fair trial," Whitesides said.

Even the McCarver sisters say they would try to be fair.

"If they find any other reason that he's justified for shooting him of course I would be fair. I'm not just saying this because he's a black man. I'm saying this because he's a human being," Beryl McCarver said.

"I would like to see what evidence he's going to present that says this man is not guilty. You're going to have to have some strong solid evidence," Brenda McCarver said.

Whitesides explained a change of venue is very rare. Even in the Boston Marathon case, the trial was still held in Boston despite all of the media coverage.

Whitesides said a judge would likely wait until jury selection had begun before ruling on a change of venue. The judge would likely need to see if there were people who could not keep an open mind and make a decision based on what is presented in court before ruling in favor of the defense's motion.

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