The Latest: No Retrial; Attorney General Says Case Closed

28 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. 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. Attorney General’s Office won’t retry Randall “Wes” Kerrick in the death of Jonathan Ferrell, according to a letter sent to Mecklenburg County District Attorney Andrew Murray on Friday. “Upon speaking with jurors, it is our understanding that the jury had deadlocked by a vote of eight jurors for acquittal and four jurors for conviction on the charge of voluntary manslaughter,” Robert Montgomery, senior deputy attorney general, wrote. “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.

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. Some officials believe a majority of officers disagree with top administrators about the shooting and believe Kerrick took reasonable action to protect himself.

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. Another juror interviewed this past weekend would not say how she voted but said: “I feel bad that as a jury we could not come together one way or the other for the families.” The female juror interviewed Tuesday said the jury repeatedly examined all of the evidence, hoping to discover something that would lead to consensus on Kerrick’s innocence or guilt in the shooting death of 24-year-old Ferrell. 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. It shows Ferrell walking toward Kerrick and two other police officers, then running off-camera in Kerrick’s direction before Kerrick shot him 10 times.

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. 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.

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. Kerrick’s lawyer Laughrun said it’s unclear if Kerrick will remain with CMPD: “We haven’t even gotten that far,” he said. “We’ll see what his options are and what’s best for him and his family.” Some have suggested those options might include filing suit against the city. 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.

Laughrun said Kerrick is “relieved obviously” by the attorney general’s decision. “I think he was a little stunned the decision came so quickly. 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. He didn’t want this hanging over his family’s heads or the heads of the Ferrell family and the city of Charlotte.” Corine Mack, president of the Charlotte NAACP branch, said she’s concerned that prosecutors opted not to re-try Kerrick because “one black juror sided with the white jurors.” She called the decision a “rush to judgment” since the mistrial was declared only a week ago. 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. Online petitions emerged, including one championed by Ferrell’s brother, Willie Ferrell. “We’re not giving up,” Mack said. “There’s an African American male who is deceased at the hands of a former white CMPD officer.

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. Zion Church, said he was baffled and disheartened by the prosecution’s decision. “I just don’t understand how an officer can get away with shooting an unarmed man 10 times. 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. But 53 percent of Republicans said the trial didn’t make a difference in their confidence in the CMPD; 40 percent of Democrats said it didn’t make a difference.

The scene became tense, as people inside the ballpark and protesters outside yelled at each other through the fence. “Unless you have new evidence to present, you are going to come up with the same thing,” a deadlocked jury, the juror said.

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