NC Attorney General will not retry Randall Kerrick case
CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The North Carolina Attorney General says he plans to "submit a dismissal of the charge" against CMPD officer Randall "Wes" Kerrick in the deadly shooting of an unarmed man in 2013.
From Raleigh, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper said Friday that a team of 6 prosecutors made the decision to not retry the case, because they believe a "retrial will not yield a different result."
Cooper explained that the case went through a grand jury, Kerrick was indicted, and the case went before a jury, "the day in court was provided by everyone."
In a letter to Mecklenburg County District Attorney Andrew Murray, the North Carolina Attorney General's Office said it planned to dismiss the charges against Kerrick after a judge declared a mistrial in the case last Friday.
Kerrick shot and killed Jonathan Ferrell in September 2013 while investigating a call in Charlotte. He was arrested a short time later and charged with voluntary manslaughter in the case.
Last week, the trial against Kerrick ended in a mistrial after the jury, who deliberated for four days, became a hung jury with a vote of 8-4 in the case. Sources told WBTV the jury was leaning more heavily towards a "Not Guilty" verdict.
"As you know, a true bill of indictment on the charge of voluntary manslaughter was returned January 27, 2014 after a previous, incomplete grand jury had declined to return an indictment," Senior Deputy Attorney General Robert C. Montgomery wrote. "The case proceeded to trial in July 2015 and concluded August 21, 2015."
"After three days of deliberation the jury foreman in the criminal proceeding declared the jury had reached an unbreakable impasse, and The Honorable Judge Robert C. Ervin declared a mistrial," Montgomery continued. "Upon speaking with jurors, it is our understanding that the jury had deadlocked by a vote of eight jurors for acquittal and four jurors for conviction on the charge of voluntary manslaughter."
Mecklenburg County District Attorney replies
About two hours after the NCAGO's announcement, the Mecklenburg County District Attorney's Office released a statement about the case.
"The DA's Office was notified today that the North Carolina Attorney General's Office will not retry Randall Kerrick," the statement reads. "Within days of the incident in 2013, Mecklenburg County District Attorney Andrew Murray requested that the Attorney General's Office prosecute the case against Mr. Kerrick because of a professional conflict, and that office has had complete independence in making all decisions related to the case since that time."
The DA's office says it is working with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and community groups to engage in open conversations about the criminal justice system.
"Charlotte has been uniquely proactive in these efforts, and as we move forward, we must continue to seek justice, build trust and strive toward a fair and equal system," the statement continued. "This office is committed to working with all members of the community to ensure that the justice system works to the benefit of everyone."
Ferrell's family reacts
Ferrell's brother, Willie Ferrell, posted on Twitter shortly after the AG's decision was made public Friday morning.
He tweeted out a Bible verse, Romans 12:12, "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer."
Ferrell's family also spoke out publicly last Friday, several hours after the mistrial was declared in the case.
"As my brother is dead in the grave, I am fighting," Willie Ferrell said Friday. "Jonathan was an innocent bystander."
His mother, Georgia Ferrell, said she was prepared to sit through a second trial, if a decision had been made.
She said she was relying on another power, saying "God has control of everything."
Groups call for peace, prayer
The announcement from the AG's office sparked response from groups supporting the Ferrell family and Randall Kerrick.
Civil rights activist John Barnette said he plans to hold a press conference Monday afternoon to discuss the case.
"We stay numb to these decisions. We were numb in Sanford ,Florida, we were numb in Ferguson," civil rights activist John Barnette said last week after the mistrial. "We were already prepared for that, personally I was already prepared for the worst."
The founder of Million Youth March Of Charlotte, Mario S. Black, released a statement calling for peace following the decision.
"After learning the the AG office is dismissing all charges now is the time for the Charlotte community to embrace the family of Jonathan Ferrell as well as time for us to uplift the Ferrell Family," said Mario S. Black, Founder Of Million Youth March Of Charlotte. They are now faced with the decision to not retry Officer Kerrick. No one is hurting more than they are at this time."
"It is our hope that we, the Charlotte community, would take pride in our community by not resulting in violence," Black continued. "But that we turn this into a positive and keeping Jonathan Ferrell legacy alive here in the city of Charlotte. We are praying for our city and and praying for the Ferrell family."
Reflecting on the protests in uptown Charlotte
Immediately after the mistrial was declared, protesters took to the streets in Charlotte and protests continued sporadically through the weekend.
The protests began last Friday afternoon after the judge made the ruling, with protesters laying in the streets outside of the courthouse. The group continued to move and block traffic for the evening commute.
Around 9 p.m. protesters marched to the gate of the BB&T Ballpark, where the Charlotte Knights were playing a game that had been postponed from Thursday night due to inclement weather.
MOBILE USERS: Click here for photos of the protests
There were reports of protesters throwing rocks and taunting people and police inside the gates. As protesters moved around the park, gates were locked and fans were not allowed to exit.
According to officials, a CMPD officer and a security guard were assaulted during the incident.
CMPD Chief Kerr Putney held a press conference Saturday afternoon to address the protests from the night before. Putney said the public would see "lots and lots" of officers around uptown on foot, bike, motorcycle and in vehicles. He said they were there to make sure the public stayed safe.
Another man was arrested Saturday night when a second round of protests broke out in Charlotte. He was also accused of assaulting a police officer.
None of the officers assaulted during the weekend were seriously injured.
WBTV's Sarah Blake Morgan walked with protesters, Saturday, as they walked from the Bank of America stadium to Marshall Park, back to the stadium and back to the park. In total, she estimates the group marched nearly eight miles.
Jurors speak out
Shortly after the mistrial was declared, WBTV spoke with Moses Wilson, the only black man to be selected to serve on the jury. The retired constable and former security worker was among the four jurors that voted to convict Kerrick.
"There is no fun in this. There is no happiness in any decision that's made in this," he said. "There's relief on one side and desolation on the other. I knew that when I walked in there. It's not an easy thing."
MOBILE USERS: Click here for Wilson's full interview
Wilson said he recognizes that many outside observers have criticized the lack of racial diversity among the jury pool but, he said, he did not feel that race was a deciding factor in any of the jurors' votes. He did criticize Kerrick's defense team for presenting its case through a racially-charged lens.
"The defense put Jonathan Ferrell on trial," Wilson said. "They presented [the jury] with a stereotypical view of a black man."
Wilson said he felt that Ferrell made some mistakes on the night of his death and that those mistakes led to tragic consequences.
"He made a lot of mistakes that night. Those that ended up taking part in his killing made a lot of mistakes that night. Those mistakes came together and created something that you can't undo."
Bruce Raffe, the jury's foreman, said deliberations were not easy.
According to the foreman, the jury voted a total of four times. The jury voted 7 to 5 on Tuesday, 8 to 4 on Thursday and 8 to 4 two different times on Friday.
Raffe was one of eight who voted not guilty and said for him, the dashcam video was the biggest piece of evidence.
"I think when it got right down to it that dashcam video was the most detailed and visible piece of evidence that we saw that could really, I think, that most of us that were in the not guilty version identified with," Raffe said. "What the dashcam showed was an aggressive nature and what looked like to me kind of an aggravated attack towards Officer Kerrick. And, doing what he did, he was trying to save his life. I think he justifiably was trying to save his life."
MOBILE USERS: Click here for Raffe's full interview
Raffe said jurors didn't know what Ferrell's mindset was. They could only see his actions. They heard the 12 shots Kerrick fired.
During deliberations, jury requested to view again the evidence about deadly force and use of force continuum. Raffe said reading the policies was key for him.
"We all shook hands when it was over. I commend all of my jury members for speaking their points of view and taking time to deliberate how they felt," Raffe said. "Even as foreman, nobody's decision was higher than another's. And if we could do whatever we could from this point on to figure out what it may take - evidence wise or transcript wise - to get back in there to do what we could, I'm sure we would. But it just got to the point where we could not go any further based on where we were so."
Did politics play a part?
There has been speculation that politics could play in the ultimate decision – Attorney General Roy Cooper is running for governor on the Democratic ticket and risks alienating African-American voters if the case isn't retried, according WBTV's partner The Charlotte Observer. Ferrell's family has called for a retrial. So has U.S. Rep. Alma Adams of the 12th District.
Earlier this week, several Charlotte attorneys discounted such speculation, saying they expected Cooper to do what's right for the community as a whole.
"Roy Cooper is the Attorney General who after the disaster of the Duke lacrosse case went out of his way to stand up and declare the wrongly accused defendants were innocent," said defense attorney Tony Scheer, a former Mecklenburg prosecutor. "I'm not saying another dismissal is right in the Kerrick case; I just think he will try very hard to do the right thing again."
Mecklenburg County District Attorney Andrew Murray, a Republican, would normally have tried the case. He asked Cooper's office to take over because of a conflict of interest.
Before Murray was sworn in as district attorney in January 2011, he worked for 10 years in the same law firm as Kerrick's defense attorneys, George Laughrun and Michael Greene.
Montgomery says the AG's Office weighed the comments of the jurors, the evidence available to the State and the office's background in criminal trials when it debated a possible retrial in the Kerrick case.
"It is our prosecutors' unanimous belief a retrial will not yield a different result," Montgomery wrote.
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper took questions from reporters Friday afternoon in Raleigh where he said, "I think everyone in this process worked very hard."
He also said the state would learn from this case, "The loss of Jonathan Ferrell is a tragedy." More training for officers could be in the future of law enforcement officers.
"I think it's important to work for improvement and better training in law enforcement," Cooper said.
Kerrick in the clear
In saying that the state will not be going back to court, Cooper also said that this is the end of the road for Randall Kerrick in this case.
"It is a closed matter in criminal courts," The North Caroina Attorney General said. "If new evidence were to come forward, then charges could be reinstituted but we have no indication that that is the case."
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