In a rare break from the secrecy surrounding grand jury deliberations, court officials revealed Tuesday that a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer was indicted this week on a 14-4 vote.
That grand jury decision sets the stage for Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Officer Randall Wes Kerrick to be tried on voluntary manslaughter charges, perhaps as soon as the end of this year. If convicted, the 28-year-old Kerrick faces up to 11 years in prison. He is the first Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department officer charged in connection with an on-duty shooting in at least 30 years.
Kerrick was arrested Sept. 14 in connection with the shooting death that day of Jonathan Ferrell, 24. The former college football player, who was unarmed, was hit by 10 shots, which Kerrick fired from a few feet away during a 2:30 a.m. confrontation in a northeast Mecklenburg County neighborhood.
The officers attorneys say the shooting, though tragic, was justified. Police officials say Kerrick, who had three years of CMPD experience at the time, used excessive force.
Grand jury deliberations are secret and no transcripts are kept of what the members say or do. Court officials revealed the results of the Monday indictment vote at the request of the Observer and other media.
The indictment came on prosecutors second try. Last week, a panel of jurors declined to indict Kerrick on voluntary manslaughter. Their vote tally remains unknown. The jurors asked state prosecutors to come back with a lesser charge for them to consider.
Grand juries normally have 18 members, but only 14 were on hand last week. Twelve votes are required for an indictment, meaning that only three jurors could have blocked the indictment of Kerrick.
The next day, N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper announced plans to send the case and the same voluntary manslaughter charge before another grand jury in hopes of getting a full panel of jurors. Coopers office had taken over the prosecution of Kerrick at the request of Mecklenburg District Attorney Andrew Murray.
Its simple math, said Charlotte attorney Charles Monnett, who is representing Ferrells family in a lawsuit against Kerrick, the police department and the city and county. With 18 people voting, he said, 12 votes are easier to get.
Double jeopardy rules, which block someone from being tried twice for the same charge, do not apply until a jury is selected in the actual trial.
Nonetheless, Kerricks defense team attempted to block the second trip to the grand jury, but Mecklenburg Superior Judge Bob Bell ruled Monday morning that state law allows prosecutors more than one try at an indictment.
The new grand jury heard the case later that morning. The resulting 14 votes, which were noted on the official indictment, were two more than prosecutors needed.
Grand jury decisions not to indict are extremely rare. For example, both groups who heard the Kerrick case also reviewed hundreds of others.
Last weeks jurors reviewed 277 cases and handed down indictments in every one but Kerricks.
The second panel heard 276 cases Monday. All ended in indictments.
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