Crime & Courts

Jury selection in police shooting trial enters 2nd week on Monday

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

When court resumes Monday morning, attorneys on both sides need to find three jurors and four alternates to fill out the jury in the voluntary manslaughter trial of Charlotte police Officer Randall “Wes” Kerrick.

Friday, the court excused a black woman who works in a school cafeteria and has five school-age children. She told Superior Court Judge Robert Ervin that serving on a trial for a month or more could wreck her financially.

Continuing a trend Friday, the prosecution removed a white man, a software engineer who was a former jury foreman, with extensive weapons training. All of the state’s strikes have eliminated white men. The defense team has used three strikes to remove black women. Each side has three strikes remaining.

Kerrick, 29, who is white, is accused of the Sept. 14, 2013, shooting death of 24-year-old African-American Jonathan Ferrell, a former college football player who had wrecked his car in the Bradfield Farms neighborhood east of Charlotte. Prosecutors say Ferrell had knocked on the door of a nearby home seeking help. The defense says he tried to break into the house to rob it. Kerrick shot him 10 times after he and two other officers answered a 911 call. Ferrell was unarmed.

If convicted, Kerrick faces between three and 11 years in prison.

The trial, which is unfolding against a nationwide debate over police treatment of African-Americans, could start as early as late this week, observers say. Already, attorneys have begun framing the key figures. In opening days, however, most of the labels have been hung on Ferrell.

The lead prosecutor, Special Deputy Attorney General Adren Harris, repeatedly has asked prospective jurors about their attitudes toward drugs and alcohol, alluding to upcoming evidence that Ferrell had drunk alcohol and smoked marijuana on the night of his death. Ferrell’s blood-alcohol level was .06, according to his autopsy. That’s under the legal limit for driving a car. No trace of marijuana was found in his system.

Defense attorney George Laughrun has been more direct. On Thursday, he repeatedly told the jury pool that a break-in occurred. That brought objections from the prosecution, which were upheld by the judge. At one point, Laughrun referred to Ferrell as “the suspect in the break-in” who had been using alcohol and marijuana.

The prosecution has treated Kerrick more lightly, with Harris referring to the police officer as the defendant in the case and asking potential jurors if sympathy would keep them from sending Kerrick to prison.

Michael Gordon: 704-358-5095, @MikeGordonOBS

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