Expert witnesses, camera access debated in Kerrick trial

Jonathan Ferrell with his fiancee, Cache Heidel.
Jonathan Ferrell with his fiancee, Cache Heidel. Ferrell family

Attorneys discussed potential expert witnesses and the judge considered courtroom media coverage in Thursday morning’s proceedings of the voluntary manslaughter trial of a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer.

Both the prosecution and defense are expected to call expert witnesses with knowledge of police training and policy in the case against Randall “Wes” Kerrick, who shot Jonathan Ferrell 10 times in September 2013, killing the unarmed man. The trial comes as the nation experiences a series of high-profile deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police officers.

Superior Court Judge Robert Ervin said he would allow expert testimony on CMPD policies and training, as well as Basic Law Enforcement Training standards, but not testimony that judged whether actions violated laws. That will be for the jury to decide, he said.

Among disputed potential witnesses were:

▪ CMPD Captain Mike Campagna. Kerrick’s lawyers argued that Campagna is more familiar with police training for Tasers than firearms. The judge said the question was whether Campagna knows more about CMPD training standards than the average person.

▪ Former BLET police training instructor Dave Cloutier. His qualifications were challenged by Assistant Attorney General Teresa Postell, who noted he retired in 2001. The judge said it’s possible he could have maintained expertise.

▪ CMPD Officer Thornell Little, who was at the scene and missed Ferrell with his Taser stun gun. Prosecuting lawyers objected to allowing Little to testify about Ferrell’s intentions. In a pre-trial sworn deposition referenced in court Thursday, Little said that in Kerrick’s position, he also would have used his firearm.

▪ Lance LoRusso, a lawyer and former police officer. Prosecuting lawyers said he was unqualified to be an expert witness. Attorneys and the judge agreed to revisit discussing LoRusso, who is based in Georgia and represents the Georgia Fraternal Order of Police.

The judge also listened to requests to allow media to use electronic devices and a video camera in the courtroom.

Brad Kutrow, representing the Observer, WBTV and News 14 Carolina, said video coverage would give the public important context when considering evidence, such as the dashcam video, when it is released.

The judge is said he will decide on media coverage Friday morning.

The trial is in recess until 9:30 a.m. Monday.

Taylor: 704-358-5353; Twitter: @LangstonITaylor