Prosecutors, defense react after Charlotte officer indicted in deadly shooting case

Published: Jul. 10, 2015 at 6:36 PM EDT
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Randall Kerrick
Randall Kerrick
Jonathan Ferrell
Jonathan Ferrell

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A Mecklenburg County Grand Jury has indicted a Charlotte police officer on voluntary manslaughter charges in a deadly shooting.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officer Randall Kerrick was indicted in the September 2013 death of Jonathan Ferrell.

The indictment came down just before 4 pm Monday afternoon.

Earlier Monday, a Mecklenburg County judge denied a motion to block the North Carolina Attorney General's Office from resubmitting charges against Kerrick to the grand jury.

Monday morning, two lawyers from Raleigh came to argue for the Attorney General's office that they have the right to resubmit this case.

Two lawyers for officer Kerrick argued "this ball game" needs to end and say it ended on Friday when the Attorney General's office didn't resubmit this case at that time to the same grand jury.

AG's deputies argued that this motion was about emotion and nothing prevents them from resubmitting the charges to the grand jury.

Investigators say Kerrick shot 24-year-old Jonathan Ferrell on Sept. 14.

The former Florida A&M football player wrecked his car and went to a nearby house and banged on the door, apparently for help. The resident called police.

"We are grateful that the Grand Jury has carefully considered the evidence against Randall Kerrick and returned an indictment for the crime of voluntary manslaughter. Shooting an unarmed man 10 times can never be justified under these circumstances," the Ferrell family said in a statement on Monday.

"We thank Attorney General Roy Cooper and his staff for their professionalism and their efforts in securing an indictment that appropriately reflects the seriousness of this crime."

"We will persevere in our quest for justice for not just Jonathan, but all law abiding citizens," the family continued. "After all, what happened to him that night could happen to any of us."

Last week, a Mecklenburg County Grand Jury refused to indict Kerrick and asked the District Attorney for a lesser charge than voluntary manslaughter. The AG's office responded, saying it planned to resubmit the charges to the grand jury because the entire panel was not there last week.

WBTV has learned there were two additional witnesses before the new grand jury on Monday afternoon. The panel heard from the same two witnesses as last week, but also heard from an additional CMPD employee and an investigators from the SBI.

Kerrick's lawyers say they are concerned about the media coverage in this case. They said the Attorney General making the statement that voluntary manslaughter is the most appropriate charge was a blatant attempt to influence the Grand Jury.

Kerrick's defense team released a statement Tuesday about the second grand jury's decision. It read, "Officer Kerrick and his defense team are disappointed that the second Grand Jury indicted him for Voluntary Manslaughter.  We are equally disappointed that the Attorney General's Office disregarded the voice of the first grand jury which was properly convened on January 21, 2014."

"When the Grand Jury convenes, they only hear from the prosecution.  The Defendant and his attorney are not present.  As such, the Defendant is not given an opportunity to offer testimony and other relevant evidence is not heard.  The Defense also is not given the opportunity to rebut evidence presented by the State."

"The Grand Jury need only find probable cause exists to return with a "true bill" of indictment.  This is a far lower standard than at trial where the State needs to prove an individual's guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt."  Given these facts, the Attorney General's public statements regarding the case, coupled with the recent media attention, it is not surprising that Officer Kerrick was indicted by the second Grand Jury."

"Officer Kerrick and his family have the upmost confidence in the criminal justice system as evidenced by the many years of service that both he and his family have given to this and other communities in the law enforcement field.  Officer Kerrick acted in conformity with the rules and procedures of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department and with state law.  The shooting of Jonathan Ferrell was tragic but justified."

"As this case moves forward, Officer Kerrick and his defense team look forward to having the entire story revealed in a court of law."

The defense team also tried to place a gag order on any of the lawyers involved in this case including Charles Monnett the Charlotte-based lawyer representing the Ferrell family who was in the court room observing.

The judge said he could not place that order at that time.

Monnett said he was not surprised by the judge's ruling to allow this to be resubmitted to the grand jury.

"Although we feel that the charge fails to reflect the gravity of the offense, we applaud the State Attorney General for his actions to ensure justice in this case," a statement from National Action Network North Carolina - Charlotte said.

"Our prayers go out to the Ferrell Family and all the citizens of Charlotte. We continue to stand united to make this city, this state, this nation one where justice is truly equal for all."

Outside of the government center, a rally was held Monday morning in support of Ferrell and his family.

The group included community activist John C. Barnette.

A sign at the rally asked for the police to "Show the Dash Cam" video, referring to video captured on a police cruiser camera which is being held as evidence.  Attorneys for both sides have seen the video and each believes is proves their case.

Kerrick's attorney, George Laughrun spoke to the media after viewing the dash cam video.

"The officers gave several verbal commands to 'get on the ground, get on the ground,' at least three commands," he said. "He continued approaching the officers, advancing toward them."

Laughrun said the video shows Ferrell never put his hands up.

"[His] hands were not up in the air," he recalled. "At one time, one of his hands was behind his back."

When WBTV spoke to the Ferrell family attorney Chris Chestnut, his recount of that dash cam video focused on the sequence of gunfire.

"No, he didn't panic," he said. "He knew what he was doing. He shot, paused, shot again. Paused, shot again -- he killed."

Chestnut also pointed out that Ferrell was clearly outnumbered that night.

"It was three on 1, he said. "It's three on 1. These are trained officers, trained in defensive tactics. Three to 1, no need to shoot."

CMPD's lawyer said the department has refused to release the dashcam video despite numerous requests from reporters and Ferrell's family because it is part the criminal investigation.

The judge held a restraining order preventing police from releasing dashcam video because he was concerned about tainting a possible jury pool.

The Special Prosecutors in the Attorney General's Office will continue to handle this case in the court system.

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