Officer Randall Kerrick, left, with his lawyer, George Laughrun, after Judge Robert Ervin of Superior Court declared a mistrial in his voluntary manslaughter trial last Friday in Charlotte, N.C.
DURHAM, N.C. — North Carolina will not retry a white police officer who killed an unarmed black man who had just survived a car crash, state officials said Friday. The officer’s trial ended in a hung jury.
Officer Randall Kerrick killed 24-year-old Jonathan Ferrell at 2:45 a.m. on Sept. 14, 2013, shooting at him 12 times and hitting him 10 times on a dark street in a Charlotte subdivision. Officer Kerrick was charged with voluntary manslaughter. His trial ended this month in a mistrial, with four jurors wanting to convict and eight to acquit.
“In consideration of the jurors’ comments, the evidence available to the state and our background in criminal trials, it is our prosecutors’ unanimous belief a retrial will not yield a different result,” a North Carolina senior deputy attorney general, Robert C. Montgomery, wrote to the district attorney for Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.
Mr. Montgomery said that the charges against Officer Kerrick would be dismissed.
Mr. Ferrell’s mother, Georgia, said by telephone from her home in Tallahassee, Fla., that state prosecutors had called her around 9:30 a.m. on Friday to tell her they doubted they could win a second trial.
“I think it’s just an excuse because they don’t want to try him anymore,” Ms. Ferrell said. “I think that the fact that he’s a cop killing a black man is just another random thing. They feel they have done enough. It’s not their child. It’s just a black child.”
Mr. Ferrell was driving his fiancée’s car home when he ran off the road. The airbag deployed and he lost his cellphone. He walked barefoot to a nearby home and knocked on the door. But the homeowner, Sarah McCartney, who is white, feared he was a robber, set off her burglar alarm and called 911.
On encountering Mr. Ferrell, one of the three police officers who responded to the scene immediately aimed his Taser, a dashboard camera video showed. Mr. Ferrell began to run as the Taser fired.
Officer Kerrick, who turned off his own dashboard camera upon arriving at the scene, cannot be seen in the video. He testified that he had had no choice and had shot in self-defense, believing that Mr. Ferrell wanted to take his gun.
The defense characterized Mr. Ferrell, who had no criminal record, as a would-be burglar who had tried to break down Ms. McCartney’s door and was looking for another house to rob when the police arrived. Mr. Ferrell’s family members were furious over that portrayal and are frustrated with prosecutors who, they said, did not do an adequate job.
After the hung jury was announced, a small group of protesters staged a “die-in” protest, lying down in the street next to the courthouse, then walked to the courthouse door chanting, “Stop killing us!” and “Black lives matter!”
Later that night, demonstrators were met with a heavy response by police officers in riot gear outside the city’s minor-league baseball stadium. Two of the protesters were arrested and accused of throwing rocks at the police.
At a news conference on Friday, the state attorney general, Roy Cooper, tried to address both the criticism that his office had not done enough to secure a conviction and lingering anger from conservatives and police advocates over the decision to prosecute Officer Kerrick at all.
“It was the right thing to bring this case before the jury and seek a conviction,” Mr. Cooper said. “But now we need to listen to what the jury said.”
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said in a statement Friday afternoon that it would conduct an internal investigation to “determine if all department policies and procedures were followed by Randall Kerrick.” It noted that such an investigation was standard procedure.
Officer Kerrick remained on unpaid administrative leave, the department’s spokesman, Robert Tufano, added.
The Ferrell family has already won a $2.25 million settlement in a wrongful-death lawsuit against the city, which they say they have used to pay expenses to travel from Florida to attend the trial. They also say they will use the money to establish a foundation in Mr. Ferrell’s name.
Family members said they would continue to fight for Officer Kerrick to be held accountable. Ms. Ferrell said she would go “on top of the White House — wherever I have to go to scream until someone understands my loss, our loss.”
“We can do everything in our power to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” she said. “And we are not going to stop trying to get a retrial.”
Deputy Attorney General Arden Harris said lawyers defending Officer Randall Kerrick “wanted to demonize” the man he killed, Jonathan Ferrell.
The lawyer for a white Charlotte police officer charged with voluntary manslaughter concluded his defense on Tuesday by shifting accusations onto the black former college football player who died in the 2013 shooting, portraying the unarmed victim as a would-be burglar who dared the police to kill him.
The officer, Randall Kerrick, faces up to 11 years in prison if he is found guilty of using excessive force in the death of the former football player, Jonathan Ferrell, in the early hours of Sept. 14, 2013. Slightly more than two weeks after the trial began, lawyers for both sides made their final appeals to a jury of eight women and four men — of whom seven are white, three African-American and two Hispanic.
Mr. Ferrell, 24, had wrecked his car on a dark stretch of road and walked to a house in eastern Charlotte when the homeowner called 911. Three police officers arrived soon after. Immediately upon seeing Mr. Ferrell in the dark, one officer fired his Taser and missed. Officer Kerrick then opened fire, hitting Mr. Ferrell 10 times and killing him.
The verdict hinges not only on whether jurors decide that Officer Kerrick was acting in self-defense but on whether they think that the officer “believed it to be necessary” to kill Mr. Ferrell in order to protect himself or someone else, Judge Robert C. Ervin told them.
Officer Kerrick’s lead lawyer, George V. Laughrun II, argued in his closing statement that Mr. Ferrell, who had just walked barefoot from the wreckage of his fiancée’s Toyota Camry to a nearby subdivision, intended to commit a crime. He showed jurors the white front door of Sarah McCartney’s house, which had several small dents. Mrs. McCartney, the homeowner, testified that Mr. Ferrell had kicked the door, prompting her to call 911. When the police found Mr. Ferrell walking down a nearby road, Mr. Laughrun said, “it was because he was looking for some other place, some other victim maybe.”
Prosecutors rejected that characterization. “They want to demonize this young man,” said Deputy Attorney General Arden Harris.
“It’s easy to write that person off when you can demonize them and say they were up to no good,” Mr. Harris said. “There’s nothing further from the truth. It’s a bunch of lies.”
Officer Kerrick, who was suspended without pay, testified that he had no choice but to shoot because he thought Mr. Ferrell might try to take his gun. Officer Thornell Little, who was also at the scene, backed up that appraisal in his testimony for the defense, saying he thought that had the officers “gotten to a tussle with him, he would’ve probably, you know, tried to go for one of our guns.”
If that were true, prosecutors argue, Officer Kerrick had many other options besides shooting, including disarming the weapon by dropping the magazine, or fending off Mr. Ferrell by using his nightclub, pepper spray, fists or feet.
Mr. Laughrun highlighted testimony from Officer Adam Neal, who was also on the scene, in which he described Mr. Ferrell, who had drunk beer and smoked marijuana earlier that night, as looking “like he was in a zombie state.”
Despite the case’s racial overtones, particularly in light of the national “Black Lives Matter” movement and protests over police violence against African-Americans, prosecutors made little mention of race during the trial.
Still, Mr. Laughrun pounced on Mr. Harris’s choice to paraphrase the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s maxim that “nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” Using the quotation “was an attempt to play the race card,” Mr. Laughrun told jurors, adding, “You ought to be offended.”
Several jurors shuddered as prosecutors showed photos of Mr. Ferrell’s bullet-torn body, and reminded them that the former Florida A&M University football player had moved to Charlotte from Tallahassee, Fla., to start a life with his fiancée.
When it was his turn, Mr. Laughrun pointed out the family members of Officer Kerrick in the courtroom and called the officer, who joined the force after several years as a dogcatcher, a “warrior” whose job placed him “in a battle every day.” Asking jurors to imagine “their worst day,” he then at least twice compared Officer Kerrick’s trauma of having killed Mr. Ferrell to jurors’ memories of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
Mr. Laughrun even appealed to the family history of Judge Ervin, whose grandfather Senator Sam J. Ervin Jr. chaired the Watergate Committee hearings that led to President Richard M. Nixon’s resignation in 1974. Echoing the famous question asked in the hearings, Mr. Laughrun asked jurors to consider: “What did Randall Wesley Kerrick know, and when did he know it when responding to the call?”
Below is the dash cam video which shows the shooting death of Jonathan Ferrell:
Please stay tuned in to this article as I will be adding video from inside of the courtroom in this trial which has just recently been released which includes the testimony of the officer that the jury heard so that you can see for yourself what the story for each side in this case was/is.