No Manslaughter Retrial of NC Police Officer

     CHARLOTTE, N.C. (CN) – The North Carolina police officer whose manslaughter case ended in a hung jury last week will not be retried, prosecutors said Friday.
     The state Attorney General’s Office announced in a letter to the district attorney that it would not retry Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer Randall “Wes” Kerrick for the death of Jonathan Ferrell, the unarmed 24-year-old he shot to death in 2013.
     “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,” senior deputy attorney general Robert Montgomery wrote.
     Kerrick was charged with voluntary manslaughter when he shot Ferrell 10 times in a neighborhood outside of Charlotte after responding to a 911 call reporting an attempted home break-in.
     Ferrell had wrecked his fiance’s car the night he was killed and had gone to a nearby home for help.
     After hearing banging on the door, the homeowner, a woman who was alone with her infant child, called the police thinking someone was trying to break in.
     When the police arrived at the scene, they found Ferrell not far from the house.
     Instead of complying with the officers’ orders, Ferrell charged the police.
     A camera on the patrol car’s dashboard did not capture the ensuing out-of-frame altercation, but it did record the sound of shouting police officers and gunshots.
     Witnessed testified that both Kerrick and Ferrell were on the ground, and Ferrell was trying to crawl up Kerrick’s legs.
     The officer’s DNA was found under Ferrell’s fingernails, and the dead man’s blood was found on Kerrick’s boots and clothing.
     Kerrick’s defense team said the officer fired his gun because he was threatened. Medical workers testified that Kerrick had injuries to his jaw and a cut lip.
     Since another officer had fired a Taser at Ferrell and missed before Kerrick fired 12 shots at the man, prosecutors argued that he used excessive force.
     The jury could not decide last week if Kerrick killed Ferrell out of self-defense or if he willfully shot him. Eight of the jurors found the officer innocent, while four said he wasn’t. Two Latinos, three blacks and seven whites made up the jury.
     Of those jurors who thought Kerrick was innocent, one was black, one Latino, and six white, jury foreman Bruce Raffe told the Charlotte Observer.
     After the mistrial, it was up to the Attorney General’s Office to decide if Kerrick would face another jury of his peers. Based on comments from the jury, evidence available to the state and other criminal trials, the prosecutors made an unanimous decision that a retrial would not yield a different result.
     “While our prosecutors tried to seek a conviction, it appears a majority of the jurors did not believe the criminal conviction was the appropriate verdict,” Montgomery wrote. “Meeting the standard of proof of beyond a reasonable doubt could not be achieved.”
     Ferrell’s family noted at a press conference after last week’s mistrial that they wanted “justice for Jonathan” and would be petitioning for a retrial.
     Ferrell’s brother, Willie, backed several online petitions.
     Georgia Ferrell, the mother, noted Friday that prosecutors called to tell her the case would not be retried.
     She responded by saying the family wouldn’t give up and neither should the community. “Continue to march, continue to show them that we mean business, that we will not roll over and play dead,” Ferrell’s mother told WSOC TV.
     Kerrick has been on suspension from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, which declined to comment on whether Kerrick would return to his duties at the department or whether he would receive back pay.
     It is unclear what more options are available to the Ferrell family, which received $2.5 million in a civil settlement with the city of Charlotte.
     The founder of True Healing Under God, John Barnett, said the community and the family need closure and that his organization plans to petition the Attorney General’s Office to reopen the case.
     After announcing plans for a communitywide march in Charlotte on Sept. 14, Barnett urged national civil rights leaders, such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, to add their voice to the demand for justice.
     A poll by Public Policy Polling found after the mistrial that 59 percent of Democrats said Kerrick should face another jury, while 77 percent of Republicans said he shouldn’t.
     After the mistrial last Friday, a small group of protestors took to the streets, chanting “justice for Jonathan” and “black lives matter.” The protest dissipated later that night without much incident.
     One concerned citizen who had attended the trial said the city needed closure.
     “There’s just no resolution,” Connor Wright of Charlotte said. “We need that. We all do.”

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