NC officer won’t face second trial for shooting unarmed man after car crash

29 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Kerrick case exposes a divide within CMPD. Can new police chief close it?.

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The latest on the state of North Carolina’s decision not to retry a white police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black man in 2013. (All times local): The mother of Jonathan Ferrell said Friday in an interview with The Charlotte Observer that she doesn’t think prosecutors tried hard enough to convict the white police officer who killed her son. When jurors announced last Friday that they couldn’t reach a verdict in Randall Kerrick’s manslaughter trial, some feared Baltimore-style unrest could hit the streets of uptown Charlotte. Last week, a judge declared a mistrial after jurors failed to agree on whether Charlotte-Mecklenburg Officer Randall Kerrick had committed voluntary manslaughter when he shot former Florida A&M football player Jonathan Ferrell in September 2013. That fear seemed well-founded later that night, when the peaceful protesters who marched immediately after the trial ended gave way to a younger, more boisterous crowd, some of whom threw rocks at police. A Fraternal Order of Police leader, Kerrick’s attorney, a member of Charlotte City Council and others told the Observer that Putney is aiming to restore fractured relations between officers and commanders.

Eight jurors voted for acquittal and four for conviction after three days of deliberations. “In consideration of the jurors’ comments, the evidence available to the state, and our background in criminal trials, it is our prosecutors’ unanimous belief a retrial will not yield a different result,” the North Carolina attorney general’s office said in a letter to the Mecklenburg County district attorney’s office, which had asked the attorney general’s office to handle the case. “While our prosecutors tried to seek a conviction, it appears a majority of the jurors did not believe the criminal conviction was the appropriate verdict,” Senior Deputy Atty. Kerrick’s defense attorney, George Laughrun, says those fears are causing some officers to shy away from proactive police work, declining to volunteer for duties outside their assigned tasks. The two officers with Kerrick didn’t fire their guns. “Our prosecutors believe they were able to introduce the relevant evidence and examine the witnesses, including the defendant, appropriately and that the jury fully considered the details of the case,” Montgomery wrote. “However, meeting the standard of proof of beyond a reasonable doubt could not be achieved.” The Ferrell family has settled a lawsuit with the city of Charlotte, receiving $2.25 million.

Given the fact that Kerrick was arrested less than a day after he shot Jonathan Ferrell, it is understandable that officers feel the process was rushed. Given the dispute of the use of force, Putney said he plans to change his department’s training so police learn the same policies and apply them the same way. And since they were told the dashcam video would provide clear and convincing evidence that Kerrick committed a crime, it is also understandable that they feel misled. With hundreds of police killings each year, Kerrick’s case was notable for being one of a few in which a police officer faced criminal charges for using deadly force. Complaints emerged when a dashcam video became public for the first time during the trial and produced divided opinions about whether the shooting was justified.

He struck the right tone recently in reaching out to officers with an email telling them he acknowledges and respects their opinions about the case, even if they differ from his. He has been dealt a tough hand by his predecessor.” At a news conference Wednesday, attorneys for Kerrick said the case had made officers afraid to pull their guns or other weapons out of fear of being prosecuted. Cooper said the shooting shows the need for better and consistent training of law enforcement officers and pushed for pending legislation to help with it.

Putney, a former police academy trainer, said he wants to add more scenario-based training at the academy to make officers more adept at handling real-world confrontations. Kerrick, he noted, volunteered to respond to a suspected home invasion before he encountered Ferrell. “Officers are (now) thinking twice about getting involved,” Laughrun said. Putney has said the investigation was thorough and the department took the proper action. “There are differing opinions surrounding the events of that night and our subsequent response,” Putney said in the e-mail. “I understand and respect each of your opinions and your right to express them. Dozens gathered that evening near Charlotte’s minor league baseball stadium as a game was in progress, and later some protesters walked through the city and shouted.

Given the swirl of commotion the Kerrick case brought to town, city council members would be well advised to request updates from CMPD on how these refinements to the department’s use-of-force protocols are shaping up. Now we need our officers to rise to the occasion again, this time by putting aside hard feelings and continuing to perform like the professionals they are.

She doesn’t believe officers are carrying out their jobs differently but acknowledges some may be treading more cautiously. “They are unhappy because they do not feel they were backed up” by department leaders, Fallon said. “They feel (Kerrick) was scapegoated. They feel he was sacrificed.” Fallon, who chairs the council’s Community Safety Committee, said department leaders failed to conduct a complete investigation before arresting Kerrick. Some have praised former Chief Monroe, who recently retired, for moving quickly to charge Kerrick and accepting that the department was responsible for Ferrell’s death. They also told officers that when Kerrick was questioned by investigators, he could not articulate why he used lethal force instead of other means to subdue Ferrell, Hagler said.

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