What started out almost two years ago has now come to an end with a mistrial in the matter of State v. Randall Kerrick, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer who shot and killed Jonathan Ferrell after the college football player had been in a one-car accident.
With the uproar in Ferguson, Missouri caused by the acquittal of a white officer in the now infamous shooting of Michael Brown over a year ago, citizens have taken to the streets in protest of their own police departments and the use of force they often exceed.
The picture below shows Jonathan Ferrell’s brother, Willie Ferrell, holding a sign in protest of his brother’s death resulting from Charlotte-Mecklenburg officer Randall Kerrick shooting him 10 times in the early morning hours of September 14, 2013. Ferrell was not armed.
Fast forward to May, 2015, when the city of Charlotte makes headlines with what we now know as the state’s first ever settlement in a wrongful death suit before a verdict in the voluntary manslaughter trial.
Georgia Ferrell filed a lawsuit against the county, city, police department and several officers, including then-Police Chief Rodney Monroe. To avoid embarrassment, riots and possible scrutiny towards the police department’s use of force policy and Taser tactics, the city paid the Ferrell Family $2.25 million. Both the state and the defense filed a motion to have this hold no weight in the criminal case.
Move through time just a little more and we see story after story, evidence after evidence being presented in Charlotte’s first trial charging an on-duty officer in 30 years. Did we do it right? Was it overdone? Was it underdone? These are some of the questions that were answered today while being in the nation’s crosshairs.
After recent riots in Ferguson and Baltimore, the south really put on a show with Charleston, South Carolina and Charlotte, North Carolina both having high-profile police shooting deaths of unarmed black males with officers being arrested. No riots, both officers immediately suspended without pay in lieu of evidence.
However this is far from the unordinary when it comes to police shootings. Lets recap, black male, unarmed, white officer, excessive force and the infamous “I feared for my life” tactic that is law in the state of North Carolina as it is in many other U.S. states.
All an officer has to do is believe that he or she is in danger of serious injury or death or believe that a third party is in danger of serious injury or death.
Now I’m no expert, but let’s put the evidence to the test in our own “jury experience”… one man, not reaching for anything, three officers including the defendant, which means three guns, 48 bullets (plus extra mags), three cans of pepper spray, three batons, three Tasers, six arms and three radios to call for reinforcements. Where is the reasonable belief to injury or death here?
This didn’t stop the defense from mowing over the police department’s directives and probably destroying a few careers on the stand with CMPD brass vs. CMPD brass. At one point, the state had Captain Mike Campagna on stand saying that Kerrick violated many of the department’s directives and policies regarding use Of force and use Of firearms, while the defense called a few sergeants to the stand to completely rebut what the captain had just explained.
Hogwash the state called the defense, saying that Captain Campagna, a 20-plus year veteran on the police force who actually wrote those same policies and directives for the department, wouldn’t contradict himself especially after testifying to the same facts in more than 500 cases.
In the defenses closing statements, they said things like:
“The state only says the suspect’s name Jonathan to pull at your heart strings and play the sympathy card.”
While calling the “defendant” by his name the entire time an:
“shame on the state for playing the race card.”
The above a reference to a Martin Luther King Jr. quote stated by the prosecution team. At times, he was objected upon and accused of downright lying and putting words into previous witnesses’ mouths. By the looks of the jury and everyone in the courtroom, no one bought it.
At the end of the day, it all boils down to just three things said prosecutor Postell. She posted a piece of paper on the projector as she was delivering the states rebuttal closing statements.
The paper said:
“For you to find the defendant guilty of voluntary manslaughter, the state must prove three things beyond a reasonable doubt.
First, That the defendant killed Jonathan Ferrell by an intentional and unlawful act.
Second, That the defendants act was a predominant cause of Jonathan Ferrell’s death. A predominant cause is a real cause, a cause without which his death would not have occurred.
And Third, That the defendant did not act in self-defense or in defense of others or through acting in self-defense or in defense of other, the defendant used excessive force.”
Closing arguments from both sides lasted until 12:15 pm. Judge Robert Ervin asked the Jury if they would like to break for lunch or have the deliberation instructions read to them and then lunch. An anxious Jury almost immediately said “now your honor”.
The jury deliberated for about 15 minutes before coming forth with their first question. They wanted a better legal definition and clarification of voluntary manslaughter. Judge Ervin read aloud the definition two times and said he prefers to answer questions than to send written law back with jury, which makes for a fairer trial.
However, after almost four days of deliberation and three votes among the jury, they decided a deadlock was all they could come up with. The state asked for more deliberation time, the defense asked for mistrial, and Judge Ervin sided with defense and declared a mistrial.
This isn’t the end for the state. It does have the right to retry the case. And that is likely what it will do.