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Judge allows cameras in courtroom for manslaughter trial of CMPD officer

Randall “Wes” Kerrick, left, with attorney Michael Greene during the first day of his trial for killing Jonathan Ferrell, July 20, 2015. Cameras were allowed only for the first of eight days of jury selection. The judge will allow them to return when the trial phase begins Monday.
Randall “Wes” Kerrick, left, with attorney Michael Greene during the first day of his trial for killing Jonathan Ferrell, July 20, 2015. Cameras were allowed only for the first of eight days of jury selection. The judge will allow them to return when the trial phase begins Monday. dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

Superior Court Judge Robert Ervin decided Friday to allow cameras in the courtroom for the trial of CMPD Officer Randall “Wes” Kerrick, but he prohibited live-streaming coverage.

Opening arguments are scheduled for Monday morning in the voluntary manslaughter trial stemming from the on-duty shooting death by Kerrick of 24-year-old Jonathan Ferrell.

Prosecutors say Ferrell was shot dead after Kerrick overreacted during a late-night encounter in 2013. Kerrick’s lawyers claim he acted appropriately under the circumstances.

Ferrell had wrecked his car and apparently sought help at a nearby house, police said. The woman inside called 911 to report a man banging on her door.

Kerrick and two other CMPD officers arrived in the neighborhood and found Ferrell walking down a road. The brief encounter escalated quickly, with one officer firing and missing with his Taser stun gun before Kerrick fired 12 shots, hitting Ferrell 10 times.

A 12-member jury has been seated, along with four alternates. The trial is expected last several weeks, possibly longer than a month.

The judge’s ruling means that a still photography camera and a video camera will be used in the courtroom.

Video can be captured and used by all media, but cannot be sent directly to the Internet in real-time. Jurors cannot be photographed or recorded on video.

Ervin also said he will not allow live posting to the Internet from devices in his courtroom. Laptops and tablets can be used for taking notes, but live posting must be done from outside the courtroom.

During jury selection, live Internet postings to Twitter caused some potential jurors to be concerned, prompting Ervin to ban that from his courtroom during the remainder of the selection process. His decision Friday extends that to the trial itself.

Cameras were allowed in the courtroom for the first of eight days of jury selection.

The trial is in Courtroom 5370 at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse in uptown Charlotte. The courtroom holds 150 people, with some seats reserved for family.

Lawyers representing the Observer and other media requested cameras so that the broader community could keep up with the case.

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