Prosecutors and defense attorneys inched closer to finishing jury selection Tuesday in the trial of a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer charged in the fatal shooting of an unarmed man in 2013.
Views about law enforcement and race dominated the proceedings.
Lawyers selected the 12th juror, a 67-year-old African-American man, but did not fill any of the four remaining alternates seats. Attorneys must choose alternates in case any jurors cannot serve.
The trial involves Randall “Wes” Kerrick, a white 29-year-old CMPD officer charged with voluntary manslaughter in the death of Jonathan Ferrell, a 24-year-old black man.
Prosecutors accuse Kerrick of using excessive force against Ferrell after responding to a reported break-in in Northeast Mecklenburg County. Kerrick has pleaded not guilty, and his attorneys argue he acted in self defense.
Superior Court Judge Robert Ervin excused four people, including some who said they already had made up their minds about the defendant’s guilt or innocence.
Two potential jurors were excused after saying they had negative perceptions of police. One was an African-American man who said he had a felony conviction on his record and often is stopped by police and asked for identification.
He wrote on a juror questionnaire that he believes if the case had involved a black police officer, that officer already would be in prison.
“Well being black, we guilty till proven not guilty,” he wrote.
The 12th juror represents the only black man selected for the jury so far. The other jurors include four white men, three white women, two Latina women and two black women.
A former constable and military veteran, the 12th juror said he could weigh the evidence impartially but wondered why Kerrick shot Ferrell 10 times.
“That was a question in my mind,” he said. “That bothered me.”
Under North Carolina law, the prosecution and defense each get four additional strikes during the selection of alternate jurors to eliminate a juror from consideration.
Strikes are significant because attorneys can use them to influence the makeup of the jury.
Attorneys also can ask the judge to eliminate potential jurors for cause, which means the person’s occupation, views, knowledge of the case or other issues could prevent a fair trial.
Tuesday, defense attorneys successfully requested Ervin excuse an African-American woman who said she had negative feelings toward police. She said that her brother-in-law was shot by police in California.
She said she had a hard time “understanding how you shoot someone who’s unarmed and call it self defense.”