Crime & Courts

9 jurors selected, 7 to go in police shooting trial

CMPD officer Randall "Wes" Kerrick with attorney Michael Greene during the first day of his trial for killing Jonathan Ferrell, July 20, 2015.
CMPD officer Randall "Wes" Kerrick with attorney Michael Greene during the first day of his trial for killing Jonathan Ferrell, July 20, 2015. dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

On the fourth day of the selection process, nine people were chosen to serve on the jury in the trial of a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department officer accused of killing an unarmed man on a dark night in 2013.

Three more jurors and four alternate jurors are still needed. Defense attorney George Laughrun said evidence could be presented as early as the end of next week.

The nine who were selected to serve have been sent home until the full jury has been assembled and the trial starts. The jury so far includes two black women, one Latina woman, four white women and two white men.

CMPD Officer Randall “Wes” Kerrick, 29, is charged with voluntary manslaughter in the fatal shooting of Jonathan Ferrell on Sept. 14, 2013.

Ferrell, 24, had wrecked his car late at night in an east Mecklenburg neighborhood and prosecutors say he sought help at a nearby house. The woman inside called 911, fearing a break-in attempt. Kerrick was one of three officers who responded to the call. In a brief encounter, Kerrick shot Ferrell 10 times.

The jury will be asked to decide whether Kerrick’s response was reasonable under the circumstances or instead constituted excessive force. If convicted, Kerrick faces a possible sentence of three to 11 years.

During jury selection, the judge can agree to release any number of people from service if he finds cause. He has dismissed several people for reasons ranging from financial hardship caused by a long trial to already made-up minds about guilt or innocence. He released one potential juror Thursday because she said she is not a U.S. citizen.

In addition to the judge removing people for cause, the defense and prosecution teams each can strike up to six people without giving a reason.

On Thursday, the defense used strikes against three people, all black women. The prosecution struck two people, both white men.

Ferrell is black; Kerrick is white. Charlotte has not experienced violent protests like those seen in some other cities in the past year over police-related deaths. Several civil rights groups, including the NAACP, are monitoring the trial.

During jury selection, prosecutors have the right to question potential jurors first. They can then strike and replace people until they are satisfied with a full group of 12. On Thursday, after the prosecution struck two white men, they found their replacements satisfactory – a white man and a black woman.

When the state passed its group of 12 to the defense on Thursday, half were people of color and 10 were women. Three black women were then struck by the defense.

On Wednesday, several potential jurors expressed surprise and concern at the amount of media attention given to the selection process this week. One man said he could not fairly hear the evidence because he was so worried about how any verdict would affect his business or his family. He was excused from service by Superior Court Judge Robert Ervin.

Ervin has since banned the public, including the media, from using electronic devices in the courtroom and has reversed his ruling earlier in the week that made public the questionnaires filled out by potential jurors. While juror selection is a public process, the Observer is among the media outlets that have abided by a request from Ervin to not publish jurors’ names.

The pool of 30 potential jurors first assembled Monday has been almost exhausted. With three jurors and four alternates still needed, another group likely will start the process at the beginning of the week.

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