Judge denies motion for venue change in Kerrick trial

Judge denies motion for venue change in Kerrick trial
Randall Kerrick
Randall Kerrick
Jonathan Ferrell
Jonathan Ferrell

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Judge Robert Ervin ruled Friday that Randall Kerrick's voluntary manslaughter case will remain in Charlotte. Attorneys for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police officer charged with involuntary manslaughter after allegedly shooting and killing an unarmed man in 2013 asked the judge to consider several motions that will shape the July trial.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officer Randall Kerrick is accused of shooting Jonathan Ferrell ten times during an incident in September 2013.

Kerrick was not in court Friday. His lawyers said it was his choice not to attend, which the judge said is allowed.

Wednesday, lawyers George Laughrun and Michael Green filed an additional motion to throw out the case, saying Ferrell's blood evidence was destroyed. They argued in court documents the blood would reveal if Ferrell consumed any drugs or alcohol before the fatal encounter. But Friday morning during the hearing, the defense lawyers said they were informed by the lab that there may be more blood that can be tested.

The lawyers for the state, Steve Arbogast and Adrian Harris, special prosecutors with the NC Attorney General's office, said Ferrell's blood was not destroyed. Kerrick's defense team agreed to put the motion to dismiss based on the blood evidence on hold to see if additional testing is possible.

The first motion heard by the judge was to not refer to Ferrell as a victim. The judge agreed to refer to him as "Mr. Ferrell" or the "deceased" throughout the trial.

The defense then argued that the jury should be allowed to visit the actual site where Jonathan Ferrell died. They argued he was trying to break into homes and that the jury needs to see where his car crashed in relation to the nearby homes. George Laughrun also says Ferrell asked to be shot.

"The testimony is judge from Officer Little, three statements and a deposition, Jonathan Ferrell said, 'shoot me, shoot me.' That's what the testimony is going to show from this officer, who happens to be an African-American officer, your honor," Laughrun said.

Arbogast argued they would not litigate the case during this hearing.

"All he did was knock on the door, he didn't kick the door in, he didn't go to the window and break in, he didn't go to back door. He knocked. When she opened the door and slams it in his face he kicked the door. He didn't try to break in and then he left and turned away," said Arbogast.

The judge decided not to rule at this point on whether the jury will visit the location or just see photos and diagrams.

The defense also requested a change of venue, suggesting Iredell or Gaston counties for a fair trial.

"The tale that we've been hearing, which has been shaped by CMPD and after by the media 'is unarmed black man likely looking for help,'" Michael Green said.

Arbogast said the dash cam video has not been released so the jury pool has not been tainted.

"I don't see where I can go to get away from the publicity," Judge Ervin said. The motion to move the case out of Mecklenburg County was denied, but the judge is leaving the door open to the possibility of selecting jurors from another county if necessary during jury selection.

One-on-one questioning of potential jurors was granted by the judge, to determine the jurors' knowledge in the case. Typically one-on-one questioning is reserved for capital cases, and Arbogast argued he did not want Kerrick, the defendant, to receive special treatment.

The last motion the judge is still considering is whether to dismiss the case due to the resubmission of the indictment to a second grand jury. The defense argued that asking another grand jury to come back with an indictment after the first grand jury didn't indict is selective prosecution. Both sides agreed this is rare and the two parties are still gathering information for the judge to review it. The judge has no deadline to rule on the other motions.

Community activists were in court for the hearing, and reacted to it. They believe the trial will move forward.

"They wanted to move this court hearing. The truth of the matter is Trayvon Martin was shot in the heart and they did not move his trial.

Michael Brown was shot five times and one in the eyeball they did not move his trial out of Ferguson. So we have no reason what-so-ever to move this trial. It needs to stay here in Charlotte because this is where it happened," said John Barnett outside the courthouse.

Barnett said he is happy the case will stay in Charlotte and thought the judge was fair in his rulings.

Chris Chesnut, a lawyer representing the Ferrell family, said he is disappointed with the defense.

"They are just stretching the truth. These are blatant lies and mischaracterizations not only of Jonathan Ferrell but frankly they're calling the entire Charlotte Mecklenburg police department liars," Chesnut said. He also responded to the defense's claim that Ferrell said "shoot me."

"We stand by the dash cam video they don't want released," Chesnut said, "If they're going to make these allegations then why not release the truth."

Kerrick's trial is set for July and stems from events that happened in September 2013. Jonathan Ferrell, an unarmed Charlotte man who had wrecked his car in the Reedy Creek community in northwest Charlotte, knocked on the front door of a house apparently seeking help. The woman inside when Ferrell knocked frantically called 911 to report a home invasion.

Kerrick and three other officers responded to the suspicious activity call and encountered Ferrell.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police say Kerrick fired his gun 12 times, hitting Ferrell ten times. He was charged with voluntary manslaughter after the shooting. He is currently on unpaid administrative leave.

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