Find updates here on the first day of the trial of Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Officer Randall “Wes” Kerrick, who is charged with voluntary manslaughter after killing an unarmed man while on-duty.
5:15 p.m.: 2 potential jurors excused
Superior Court Judge Robert Ervin decided Monday that spectators in the courtroom cannot wear anything that appears to take sides. His ruling came after the family of Jonathan Ferrell arrived in court wearing “Justice for Jonathan” pins.
“This is not a forum for public speech,” Ervin said.
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Juror questioning is underway, with the first two people excused from service for cause. The judge closed proceedings for the day at about 5:15 p.m.
4:30 p.m.: Selection process moves slowly
The first batch of juror questionnaires are filled out, but no selection or rejection of jurors has yet happened. See a blank questionnaire here.
After the family of Jonathan Ferrell came into the courtroom wearing “Justice for Jonathan” pins, the potential jurors were removed while the defense team argued that the pins should not be allowed in the courtroom.
2:30 p.m.: First prospective jurors enter courtroom
After a lunch break, the trial resumed with the first batch of about 30 prospective jurors entering the courtroom. Most were white. Most were women. They are among 461 citizens summoned for jury service in Mecklenburg County on Monday.
If the jury is not seated after the first group of 30 has been questioned, a second group will be brought in. If a jury has not been seated by the end of Monday, a new pool of potential jurors will be used on Tuesday. The process will continue until at least 12 jurors and two alternates are seated. This could take days or weeks.
1 p.m.: Jury questionnaire asks for “feelings, positive or negative” about police
The first page of the juror questionnaire is pretty routine: name, race, age, employment, etc. But later questions probe further. Among the questions on the fifth page:
- Given what has happened in Ferguson, Missouri, New York City, New York, Madison, Wisconsin, Charleston, South Carolina, Baltimore, Maryland, and Hattiesburg, Mississippi, do you have any strong feelings, positive or negative toward police? Please explain.
- Do you have any feelings, positive or negative, about police/public relations in Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, North Carolina? If yes, please explain.
- The facts in this case will show that Randall Kerrick, a white police officer, shot Jonathan Ferrell, an African American male, during an encounter. Will you be able to follow the law as the Judge instructs you in determining whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty based on the evidence you view in court and the instructions given to you by the trial judge?
12:15 p.m.: No depositions to be released today
Superior Court Judge Robert Ervin has previously ruled that the public should be able to see depositions of CMPD leaders that were taken as part of a civil lawsuit over Jonathan Ferrell’s death. But Ervin has been reviewing the depositions before releasing them, and that already has taken more than a week. He said on Monday that he was not yet finished.
The civil lawsuit was settled in May.
Court was recessed for a lunch break.
11:30 a.m.: Ferrell family speaks
The mother and brother of Jonathan Ferrell spoke to the media outside the Mecklenburg County government center, accompanied by their lawyer, Chris Chestnut, and about 20 supporters. The family already has won a $2.25 million settlement from the city of Charlotte over the shooting.
Georgia Ferrell said her son was an All-American type of person, who was a caregiver and loving person. A reporter asked her what she would say to the accused officer, if she could speak to him directly.
“First, I would give him a hug. And I would let him know he was wrong,” Georgia Ferrell said. “I would ask him why would you take an innocent man’s life. Yes, I do forgive you but you must be punished for what you’ve done.”
Chestnut said the family expects the defense team to inaccurately portray Jonathan Ferrell.
“I think they’re going to try to profile Jonathan as an angry black man, as a thug, but they can’t,” Chestnut said.
Ferrell’s mother was carrying a stuffed Winnie the Pooh and a Bible that she said her son always kept with him.
She said she is frustrated at how long the justice process is taking.
“This has been a very, very long – unnecessarily long – wait,” she said. “If this had been an animal he killed, they would have already put that person in jail.”
11 a.m.: Motions and witnesses
The defense team alleges the case against Kerrick was trumped up by Attorney General Roy Cooper, whose office took over the prosecution of the case at the request of the Mecklenburg County district attorney.
The list of potential witnesses, which names more than 200 people, includes CMPD Chief Kerr Putney and more than two pages of police officer names. Also on the list is Rodney Monroe, who was CMPD chief at the time of the September 2013 shooting and announced the decision to charge Kerrick just hours later.
Judge Ervin is removing identifying information from the jury questionnaires before they are released to the public.
10:30 a.m.: A motion on public access to jury selection
Superior Court Judge Robert Ervin says he will allow the public to see completed jury questionnaires, as requested by Observer attorney Jon Buchan. The public has a right to observe the selection process.
The questionnaire was shown in court and includes questions about how the potential jurors feel about the relationship between the public and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, and how they feel about police after violence that has happened in Ferguson, Mo., Charleston, Baltimore and elsewhere.
9 a.m.: Defendant arrives, witness list revealed
The defendant, Wes Kerrick arrived in court around 9 a.m. He apparently was taken in through a non-public entrance.
The list of potential witnesses has more than 200 names, including N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper.
8 a.m.: Small gathering outside courthouse
About a dozen people gathered in 8 a.m. Marshall Park with Charlotte civil rights activist John Barnett and his True Healing Under God (THUG) organization. The group then talked peacefully to the Mecklenburg County Courthouse, chanting “No justice, no peace.”
Rahman Allah from the Nation of Islam in Charlotte carried a banner reading “Send killer cops to jail” and blaming the entire legal system.
Also outside the courthouse were several people from other groups, including the NAACP. Some people stayed outside while others went inside to watch the proceedings.
Barnett said the small turnout for the demonstration is only a portion of those who care deeply about the outcome, and he promised to have observers in the courtroom every day. “If it (the trial) takes two months, we’ll still be here,” he said.
Reporting at the courthouse: Michael Gordon, Ann Doss Helms, Jane Wester, Sam Hardiman, Hayley Fowler