CHARLOTTE, N.C. (CN) – Before entrusting them with the fate of the white police officer who killed a black man in 2013, defense counsel told a jury Tuesday, “you ought to be offended that prosecutors are trying to play the race card.”
The 2013 confrontation erupted when Jonathan Ferrell, a former football player for Florida A&M, banged on the door of a house outside Charlotte, seeking help after wrecking his car.
Alone in the home with an infant child, the owner thought 24-year-old Ferrell was trying to break in and called the police.
When officers with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police department arrived at the scene, Ferrell ran toward them.
One officer used a Taser gun on Ferrell, and officer Randall “Wes” Kerrick drew his gun.
After a struggle on the ground, Kerrick fired 12 shots, 10 of which hit Ferrell.
Kerrick had to be treated for injuries to his jaw.
Defense attorney George Laughrun told jurors in his closing arguments Tuesday that the case turns on Ferrell’s choice to run at the officers.
“Ferrell kept charging,” Laughrun said. “He was amped up, he was pacing. He was trying to get at officer Kerrick.”
WBTV quoted the victim’s mother, Georgia Ferrell, as saying it was hard to hear cruel things said about her son.
Ferrell, who traveled from her home in Florida with her younger son, Willie, to watch the trial, reportedly said she is ready to accept whatever the court decides.
Two weeks of testimony in the police officer’s manslaughter trial this month included evidence that Ferrell’s blood was on Kerrick’s clothing.
Kerrick testified that Ferrell threatened him, and one of his fellow officers claimed to have seen Ferrell trying to crawl up Kerrick’s legs.
The 12-person jury is mostly white, though two jurors are Latino and three are black. Eight of the jurors are women, and four are men.
If convicted, Kerrick faces three to 11 years in prison.
In his closing arguments, prosecutor Adren Harris said Ferrell was never a danger to anyone. “Jonathan never makes any threats, never shows any weapon,” Harris said. “All they’re trying to do is demonize this young man.”
When the officers arrived at the scene, they had already decided that Ferrell committed a crime, Harris said. “They were there to Tase and arrest first and ask questions later,” he said.
Kerrick simply panicked at the sight of the imposing college football star, the prosecutor added.
“He had a litany of non-deadly options at his disposal and he didn’t use it,” Harris said.
Telling the jury that Kerrick failed to use his training, Harris said the officer “abandoned everything he learned when he fired those shots.”
Defense attorney Laughrun disputed that claim, saying CMPD officer training is “all over the place.”
One expert witness testified for example that, when one officer pulls a Taser, the other officer is required to use lesser force.
Another witness said that an officer is to draw his gun after another officer uses a Taser.
Laughren said it was Ferrellthat failed to properly handle the situation.
“You have to respond to the lawful presence of a police officer,” Laughrun said. “You do not run, especially when that officer is investigating a first-degree burglary.”
Noting that the officer’s DNA was found under Ferrell’s fingernails, Laughrun said that happened “because he hit Kerrick in the mouth.”
Kerrick’s actions were consistent with his training and were reasonable, the defense attorney said.
“He doesn’t have to know that this person is impaired,” he said. “He didn’t know that this person had blown through a Taser. He has a right to a reasonable reaction to that, and that’s what he did.”
Prosecutor Teresa Postell told the jurors that the defense attorneys were trying to distract them with details Kerrick couldn’t have known when deciding to shoot Ferrell. “The only issue that’s really in dispute is excessive force,” Postell said. The defendant shot Jonathan Ferrell 10 times, and that’s excessive force. That’s voluntary manslaughter.”
Judge Robert Ervin gave the jurors instructions about the law at the end of the closing arguments, and they began deliberating after lunch but did not have a verdict by the close of court Tuesday. Deliberations resume Wednesday morning.
- Pharmacy Exec Charged|in Fake Drug Scheme
- ‘Warcraft’ Makers Can’t Enter Copyright Fray