The jury in the voluntary manslaughter case against CMPD Officer Randall “Wes” Kerrick ended its first day of deliberations at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Deliberations will resume 9:30 a.m. Wednesday. Kerrick faces up to 11 years if convicted in the on-duty, late-night shooting death of Jonathan Ferrell in 2013.
For a review of the basic facts of the case and links to prior reports, scroll to the bottom.
3:30 p.m.: Jury asks for legal definition of voluntary manslaughter
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Almost immediately after beginning their deliberations, the jury asked the judge for a precise definition of voluntary manslaughter.
Judge Robert Ervin brought the jury into the courtroom and read them the part of the jury instruction that includes the definition. Kerrick is not disputing whether he intentionally pulled the trigger, so for jurors, the question that matters most is whether the officer’s response was excessive.
At the defense’s urging, Ervin also instructed jurors that they could take into account Kerrick’s character traits in his application to become a police officer.
12:25 p.m.: Postell asks jurors, ‘What would a reasonable officer do?’
Postell says jurors need to decide what a reasonable police officer would do in Kerrick’s situation.
She said Kerrick had a variety of other options – less-than-lethal weapons like a Taser and a baton and the ability to use his hands and feet to fight.
She laid the weapons on the table for jurors and had two CMPD detectives stand up to demonstrate.
“It was the defendant and all this and two other officers. ... Neither one of those other two officers even unholstered their firearm,” Postell said. “What would a reasonable person do? Go hands on.”
To conclude, she showed an image of Kerrick’s injuries and a picture of Ferrell’s autopsy photo.
“This is what he did to Jonathan,” she said. “That’s excessive force.”
Closing arguments ended around 12:20 p.m. and Superior Court Judge Robert Ervin asked the jurors whether they wanted to break for lunch or move ahead with receiving instructions about the law. The jury chose to move ahead, and Ervin was explaining the jury’s legal charge.
12:05: Postell says ‘only issue’ is whether Kerrick used excessive force
In closing arguments, prosecutor Teresa Postell told jurors to ignore distractions and to focus on whether Kerrick used excessive force, as the law dictates.
“The only issue that’s really in dispute is excessive force,” Postell said. “Did he use excessive force? ...The defendant shot Jonathan Ferrell 10 times, and that’s excessive force. And that’s voluntary manslaughter.”
She noted that the other elements of voluntary manslaughter are not in dispute: that Kerrick meant to pull the trigger and that his actions caused Ferrell’s death. She also noted that no one is asserting Kerrick set out to kill someone, which would be a murder case.
11:55 p.m.: Postell says Officer Little didn’t tell the truth
In her closing argument, prosecutor Teresa Postell said prosecutors didn’t call Officer Thornell Little because they have to follow the state law about “not calling witnesses that we know are not going to tell the truth.”
Defense attorneys objected and, after a conference with Judge Robert Ervin, Postell said she believes Little is not a credible witness.
She told jurors that defense attorneys were trying to distract them with extraneous details that Kerrick couldn’t have known when deciding whether to shoot Ferrell. That includes the 911 call and CPI security call.
11:40: Defense attorney faults Ferrell’s behavior
Defense attorney George Laughrun said Ferrell and other citizens have an obligation to comply with police officers’ commands.
“You have to respond to the lawful presence of a police officer,” Laughrun said. “You do not run. ...Especially when that officer is investigating a first-degree burglary.”
Laughrun also recalled the testimony of Thornell Little, the first officer to encounter Ferrell. Prosecutors opted not to call Little, but defense attorneys did.
“Two other officers had a front row seat to this event and the state didn’t want you to hear from one of them,” he said.
The attorney also spoke of Kerrick’s character. Kerrick went to work as a teenager to support his family because his father was disabled.
“This man wanted to be a CMPD officer so bad that he was a dogcatcher,” Laughrun said.
He said Kerrick didn’t have to testify. Kerrick was on the witness stand for several hours.
Kerrick testified because he wanted the jury “to hear from him, firsthand, what he did that night,” Laughrun said. “The reasonable actions that he took to protect himself from serious injury and death and his fellow officers.”
10:55 a.m.: Defense attorney says Kerrick’s reaction was ‘reasonable’
In his closing statement, defense attorney George Laughrun said Kerrick’s actions were consistent with his training and reasonable.
“He doesn’t have to know that this person is impaired,” Laughrun said. “He didn’t know that this person had blown through a Taser. He has a right to a reasonable reaction to that, and that’s what he did.”
10:50 a.m.: Laughrun says Kerrick didn’t have time to reholster gun, fight Ferrell
Defense attorney George Laughrun said Kerrick didn’t have time to put up his gun as Ferrell approached him.
“Four seconds – does that make sense for this officer to reholster his firearm, to go hand to hand with a suspect who has blown through a Taser?” Laughrun asked. “Does it make sense for him to reholster his gun and say, ‘Hey, fella, let’s fight’?”
Laughrun also tried to discredit the prosecution’s expert witness, CMPD Capt. Mike Campagna, who used to be over the training bureau.
“He works for CMPD,” Laughrun said. “What do you think he’s going to say?”
“It’s the state of North Carolina with a blank check of resources, and CMPD with a blank check of resources.”
10:30 a.m.: Defense says Ferrell attacked Kerrick
Defense attorney George Laughrun said Ferrell attacked Kerrick.
“Ferrell kept charging,” he said. “He was amped up, he was pacing, he was trying to get at officer Kerrick.”
“How did Wes Kerrick’s DNA get under Jonathan Ferrell’s fingernails?” Laughrun asked. “Because he hit (Kerrick) in the mouth.”
10:24 a.m.: Defense attorney says case is about choices by Kerrick and Ferrell
Defense attorney George Laughrun said Kerrick and Ferrell made choices that affected the outcome on the shooting.
Kerrick told dispatchers, “Add me to the call,” Laughrun said.
But he said Ferrell chose to run at officers.
“We have a duty as citizens to respond to police,” Laughrun said. “You may not like it, but that’s the way it is.”
10:20 a.m.: Defense attorney says police training at issue
In his closing argument, defense attorney George Laughrun said there’s a problem with how the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department trains its officers.
“You ought to be concerned about some training issues, because the training issues for CMPD are all over the place,” Laughrun said. “The training is not what it should be in the city.”
Laughrun also said the shooting is not about race.
“You ought to be offended that (prosecutors) tried to play the race card,” he said.
10 a.m.: Prosecutor says Officer Kerrick panicked
In his closing arguments, prosecutor Adren Harris said Kerrick panicked.
“He had a litany of non-deadly options at his disposal and he didn’t use it, why?” Harris asked. “He panicked. He abandoned all of his training, he abandoned everything he learned and he fired those shots.”
“We’re not here to say (Kerrick) is a bad person, but he made a bad choice,” Harris said.
9:40 a.m.: Prosecutor says Ferrell wasn’t a threat
In his closing arguments, prosecutor Adren Harris said the victim, Jonathan Ferrell, never posed any threat to anyone.
“Jonathan never makes any threats, never shows any weapon,” Harris said. “All they’re trying to do is demonize this young man, because it’s easy to say this person deserved what they got when you muddy them up.”
Harris said officers had made up their minds about Ferrell’s guilt before they pulled up where he was walking.
“In their mind, Jonathan had already committed a crime,” Harris said. “They were there to tase and arrest first and ask questions later.”
A jury will decide whether Kerrick used excessive force when he fired 12 shots at Ferrell, or whether he was justified because he thought Ferrell posed a deadly threat.
The 12-member jury has two people who are Latino, three African-American and seven white. Eight are women and four are men. The alternate jurors are all white, and consist of one man and three women.
If convicted, Kerrick faces three to 11 years in prison. He has been on unpaid suspension since the shooting.
According to police, Ferrell wrecked his fiancee’s car on his way home after an outing with friends and sought help at a house in a neighborhood east of Charlotte. The homeowner, afraid someone was trying to break in, called 911. Kerrick and two other officers responded, and the deadly confrontation ensued.
Ferrell, 24, had moved to Charlotte from Florida to be with his fiancee. He was a former scholarship football player for Florida A&M University. He was working at both Best Buy and Dillard’s at the time of his death.