Crime & Courts

Jury is selected for Kerrick trial; testimony begins Monday

Wes Kerrick, left, in court with attorney Michael Greene last week.
Wes Kerrick, left, in court with attorney Michael Greene last week.

Jury selection concluded Wednesday in the voluntary manslaughter trial of Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Officer Randall “Wes” Kerrick after prosecutors and defense attorneys interviewed 44 potential jurors over eight days.

All four alternate jurors were selected on Wednesday, with the last one seated just after 4 p.m. Opening arguments in the trial are slated to begin at 9:30 a.m. Monday.

Kerrick, a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department officer, faces up to 11 years in prison for the Sept. 14, 2013, death of Jonathan Ferrell, an unarmed African-American man who was shot 10 times during a brief encounter in an east Mecklenburg neighborhood.

Ferrell had wrecked his car after taking a friend home. He knocked on a woman’s door, and she called 911 fearing a potential break-in. Prosecutors say Kerrick used excessive force. The officer’s attorneys argue that the shooting was justified.

Twelve jurors were seated by lunchtime Tuesday. Four alternates – a man and three women, all white – were selected in case any of the 12 need to be replaced. More alternates than usual are in place because of the expected length of the trial and the strain it could put on jurors.

One juror already has told Superior Court Judge Robert Ervin that she has two family members with serious health problems, including one in hospice.

Alternates will be called to serve in the order in which they were chosen, starting with a man who is a former youth pastor and now works as a nondenominational missionary.

The first alternate said he had mixed opinions about police shooting cases in other cities that have fueled a national debate over police use of force, particularly against African-Americans.

He told state prosecutors that he felt the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., had been justified. However, he called police-related deaths in New York City and North Charleston “excessive” and wrong.

A 63-year-old church receptionist selected to serve as the third alternate said she had generally positive experiences with law enforcement, but she had concerns about police profiling young men. She also questioned the number of shots fired at Ferrell.

The two other women chosen have connections to law enforcement – one comes from a military family and the other has a brother-in-law who is a retired police officer. Both expressed sadness about police shooting cases elsewhere.

“There seems to be a bigger problem that goes beyond that one incident,” one woman said about incidents in Ferguson.

Willie Ferrell, the victim’s brother, said he and his mother are happy with the selected jurors.

“Everybody is pretty much looking ahead to get justice for Jonathan and to change some lives along the way,” he said. “We’re ready to get justice for my brother.”

He said he walked away from watching eight days of jury selection believing that “more people need to be educated” on how to fill out the forms and answer the questions to be selected for a jury.

Jury selection has drawn an unusual array of courtroom spectators, in addition to the families of Kerrick and Ferrell who have been present for most of the process.

Billy Graham Evangelistic Association members and a South Carolina state representative have also made appearances, and Wednesday’s proceedings included a group of 20 to 25 local and national activists hoping “to show the (Ferrell) family love.”

Fowler: 704-358-5294