Jury Still Deliberating in N.C. Cop Shooting Trial

     CHARLOTTE, N.C. (CN) – After three days of deliberating, the jury has yet to come to a verdict in the voluntary manslaughter trial of a North Carolina white police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black man after he’d been in a car accident and banged on a house late at night, looking for help.
     Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer Randall “Wes” Kerrick shot 24-year-old Jonathan Ferrell in a neighborhood outside of Charlotte in 2013 after a woman called 911 reporting a possible break-in. Ferrell, who wrecked his fiancé’s car, went to the woman’s house and banged on the front door. The woman who was alone in the house with her infant child thought he was a threat and called the police.
     When officers arrived at the scene, Ferrell ran toward the police and was tased by one officer, but witnesses testified that he kept running. A dash cam video records officers yelling for him to stop before shots were fired. Kerrick shot Ferrell 10 times, though the actual confrontation was not caught on video.
     On the second day of deliberations, the jurors, who appeared less friendly and relaxed than they had been previously, asked to see the dash cam video, along with other pieces of evidence: photos showing the police cars that night and interviews of the officers who were at the scene. The jurors also asked the judge to explain the definition of voluntary manslaughter and self-defense.
     Voluntary manslaughter is the unjustifiable, inexcusable, and intentional killing of a human being. Involuntary manslaughter is the unlawful killing of another person without intent.
     For Kerrick to be found guilty, the jury will have to decide beyond a reasonable doubt that he used excessive force when he killed Ferrell instead of acting out of self-defense. This was the point emphasized by the defense attorneys when they argued that Kerrick believed Ferrell was a threat when he ran toward the police.
     Witnesses testified that Kerrick had been hit in the jaw, and his DNA was found under Ferrell’s fingernails. Investigators also found Ferrell’s blood on Kerrick’s clothing, supporting testimony that they were both on the ground in a ditch and Ferrell was crawling up Kerrick’s legs as the officer fired his gun. Prosecutors argued that Kerrick used excessive force in firing so many rounds.
     The jury is made up of two Latinos, three blacks, and seven whites. Eight are women and four are men.
     Legal experts say that a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter would have been easier for the state to prove, but the jury has only one charge to consider–voluntary manslaughter.
     Today, the jury sent a message to the judge, asking for a report from the crime scene investigator, but it was never submitted into evidence so the judge told the jurors that they would have to rely on their memories from the trial.
     The jury also asked for pictures of Kerrick’s injuries, and they wanted to know if Ferrell was left- or right-handed. The judge told them that no one testified in court as to which was Ferrell’s dominant hand.
     The jury was denied another request when they asked for an essay Kerrick wrote when he applied to the police academy. It was never submitted as evidence.
     Finally, the jury asked for the transcript of the testimony of an officer who had instructed Kerrick in a previous case to pull his gun after another officer had used his Taser. The judge, however, could not give them the transcript because it had not been completed.
     As the jury has been deliberating, family members who have remained in the courtroom appear calm, talking among themselves. Kerrick has been sitting with his attorneys, either talking to them or looking at a computer and papers in front of him. Occasionally, he would rub his head, but would remain facing forward, never glancing around the room.
     If convicted, Kerrick faces three to 11 years in prison.
     The jury will continue deliberations Friday at 9:30 a.m.

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