12 jurors seated in Kerrick trial, alternates still needed

12 jurors selected
Jonathan Ferrell
Jonathan Ferrell

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The task of seating 12 jurors has finished in the trial of a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer charged with voluntary manslaughter for shooting an unarmed man. Now remains the job of finding four alternate jurors, who would be able to fill in, if needed.

The last juror approved by the State and defense is a 67-year-old African American male. He's a retired Vietnam veteran and worked professionally in the courts and for a security firm.

He is the only African American male on the jury of 12, made up of four men and eight women.

When asked about other police shootings nationwide of unarmed men, including Ferguson, Missouri, the man replied that, "Ferguson is the result of many things happening."

"I don't live in Ferguson," he said, and added that if the same system was in place in Charlotte, as in Ferguson, people nationwide would be talking about Charlotte more.

He also admitted shooting a man while serving overseas. It's a part of his life experience which shows he's been in high-stress, dangerous situations. It could play toward the defense or the prosecution said Charlotte attorney James Exum, who has observed jury selection.

"I'm watching it closely. I've got a keen interest as a member of the community and as a lawyer," he said.

Exum said the jury pool does not always reflect the community, in his experience.

The Kerrick trial has three white males, four white females, two black females, one black male, and two Hispanic women.

In Mecklenburg County, Caucasians make up about  60-percent of the population, African-Americans 32-percent, Hispanics make up about 2-percent, and other ethnicities combine to reach the remaining six-percent, according to US Census estimates from 2013.

In the Kerrick trial, African-Americans make up 25-percent of the jury, with the selection of juror number 12.

Names are chosen at random from a database of combined DMV and voter registration records in Mecklenburg County.

"You get as much diversity as you can," Exum said, but he pointed out that not everyone drives a car and not everyone is a registered voter.
Elizabeth Wilhelm, jury services manager, says "I would most liken the process to a lottery drawing."

She said courthouse employees never see the name, age or sex of a potential juror. They are assigned random nine-digit numbers. The order that people are called to be questioned in the courtroom is determined by the computer.

"What we do is reflective of the community," said Wilhelm. "It's different once we go into the courtroom. It's out of our hands," she said talking about the questioning process by attorneys.

Exum said Tuesday's jury selection was a good step in getting everyone closer to hearing the evidence and determining what really happened that night.

"The more diversity, the more fair an outcome you can get in a case like this," he said, including in the court of public opinion.

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