Officer's mistrial: Mother of slain man still wants justice
TOM FOREMAN Jr.
Aug. 22, 2015
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Georgia Ferrell says she's still seeking justice after a jury couldn't unanimously decide the fate of a white North Carolina police officer accused in the 2013 shooting death of her son, an unarmed black motorist.
"I've got to keep fighting," Ferrell said outside a courthouse late Friday afternoon after she heard a judge declare a mistrial in the voluntary manslaughter case of Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer Randall Kerrick. "We must get justice." Protesters, meanwhile, blocked traffic outside the courthouse in a show of anger over the trial's results.
A racially diverse jury of eight women and four men deliberated over four days. All told, it took four votes on the charge of voluntary manslaughter against Kerrick in the death of Jonathan Ferrell, a former Florida A&M football player.
Judge Robert C. Ervin, the grandson of former North Carolina Sen. Sam Ervin, twice asked the jury if continuing their talks would help overcome the impasse.
"Honestly, we have exhausted every possibility," the foreman said after Ervin asked a second time Friday. Hours earlier, the foreman had said the jury was making progress in resolving the 8-4 deadlock.
Defense attorney George Laughrun called for the mistrial, saying jurors were at an impasse after deliberating for a total of 19 hours. Prosecutors, who had pressed Ervin to urge the jury to continue deliberations, now must decide if they want to try Kerrick a second time.
Prosecutor Adren Harris issued a statement saying the state attorney general's office will review the trial transcript and other information and fully consider the options before making any decisions regarding the case.
Laughrun had no comment after the mistrial was declared and jurors walked past reporters without taking questions. Kerrick also left the courtroom without comment.
The Ferrell family has already settled a lawsuit with the city of Charlotte, receiving $2.25 million. Kerrick is suspended from the force without pay.
Outside court, a handful of protesters lay in the middle of the street to protest soon after the mistrial was declared. Several shouted "No justice, no peace" at members of Kerrick's family as they left the courthouse. The demonstrators heard Georgia Ferrell and her son, Willie, speak before they dispersed.
Protests resumed hours later when dozens gathered Friday night to protest near Charlotte's minor league baseball stadium as a game was in progress. Video showed police officers formed a line across a street adjacent to the stadium. Some of the protesters wore masks and shouted at officers, but there were no confrontations at that time.
Later some protesters walked through the city, carrying signs and weaving through traffic as some shouted: "Hands up, don't shoot!" At the urging of protesters, some motorists honked car horns in support. Police officers, some seen grasping batons on video, stopped the protesters at one point from entering a covered transit center.
Earlier, prosecutors had said nonlethal force should have been used to subdue Ferrell in September 2013. Two officers with Kerrick didn't fire their guns. Kerrick's attorneys said the officer feared for his life when he shot and killed Ferrell while responding to a breaking-and-entering call.
Kerrick testified that he repeatedly fired because Ferrell kept charging at him and he didn't think his weapon was even working. He fired 12 shots, hitting Ferrell 10 times.
"Scott Holmes, a professor of law at N.C. Central University in Durham, said the evidence for voluntary manslaughter is "pretty substantial" if it's true that Kerrick fired multiple times after Ferrell fell.
"There are all kinds of things that officers are trained to do short of deadly force," Holmes said.
Philip Stinson, a Bowling Green State University criminologist and a former police officer, said he would have expected a mistrial or an acquittal. "In my research, only a little over 20 percent of the cases where an officer is charged with murder or manslaughter resulting from an on-duty shooting results in a conviction," Stinson said.
Ferrell was killed a little less than a year before an unarmed black man in New York and an unarmed 18-year-old black male in Ferguson, Missouri, died after separate violent encounters with police — cases that cast the nation's attention on police treatment of minorities. Protests and rioting followed Michael Brown's death in Ferguson and a grand jury's refusal to indict the officer.
Protests also followed the deaths of two unarmed black men after encounters with police earlier this year in Baltimore and South Carolina. Officers have been charged in both of those cases.
Associated Press writers Jonathan Drew, Mitch Weiss, Seanna Adcox and Emery Dalesio contributed to this story.