CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) – New motions have been filed in the case of a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officer charged with involuntary manslaughter after allegedly shooting and killing an unarmed man in 2013.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officer Randall Kerrick is accused of shooting Jonathan Ferrell ten times during an incident in September 2013.
Ferrell, an unarmed Charlotte man who had wrecked his car in the Reedy Creek community in northwest Charlotte, knocked on the front door of a house apparently seeking help. The woman inside when Ferrell knocked frantically called 911 to report a home invasion.
Kerrick and three other officers responded to the suspicious activity call and encountered Ferrell.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police say Kerrick fired his gun 12 times, hitting Ferrell ten times. He was charged with voluntary manslaughter after the shooting. He is currently on unpaid administrative leave.
According to WBTV sources, a motion was filed Thursday to put a gag order in place for all of the players in the case. A separate motion was filed to reconsider a venue change for the case.
In the gag order motion filed Thursday, the defense lists a 26-point reasoning why Kerrick would not get a fair trial in Charlotte, including the city’s 2013 plan to release the dash cam video in the case, the city’s refusal to pay for Kerrick’s defense and the city’s $2.25 million settlement – with taxpayer money – of a civil lawsuit with Ferrell’s estate in May – two months before his trial.
One of the motions filed says city council met in closed-door session and agreed to settlement in the civil suit against the city of Charlotte, Chief Monroe and Officer Kerrick without taxpayer input.
That means more than 80% of potential jurors have been monetarily affected by decision to settle civil suit. These will be same jurors already summoned to jury duty and asked to be fair and impartial.
The motion claims Attorney General Roy Cooper went on a Charlotte television station and said civil depositions were “clearly a public record” and would not affect the criminal trial.
The defense says that’s wrong, but because Cooper improperly said it, they then released those civil depositions that had legal conclusions that will be inadmissible in the criminal proceedings.
The defense mentions former Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe, saying he “abruptly retired.”
A prominent communications expert from Ohio has been hired by the city of Charlotte to help plan media relations during the trial, another reason the defense says Kerrick won’t get a fair trial.
Mark Weaver, founder of Communications Counsel in Columbus, Ohio, will be paid $15,000 to consult on city communications during the trial, which is scheduled to begin July 20.
Kerrick’s defense team reacted angrily to the announcement, calling it the latest effort by the city to undermine Kerrick’s right to a fair trial. In the motion, lawyers say city manager Ron Carlee got the taxpayer money, without approval of the city council.
They say his job wold be “to shape public perception” of the trial in favor of the State by broadcasting his “biased and purchased commentary” on activities in court, jury selection, and more.
“With the advent of social media, it is virtually impossible for jurors, their friends and/or family members not to be subjected to the commentary and influence of the City’s hired publicist during the trial,” the motion states, saying there is no order to sequester the potential juror pool.
The motion, if granted, would place a gag order on the defense counsel, counsel for the state, court personnel, law enforcement and representatives of the city of Charlotte – including city attorney’s office, city manager’s office, Charlotte City Council and the publicist hired by the city.
In May, Judge Robert Ervin ruled that Randall Kerrick’s voluntary manslaughter case would remain in Charlotte.
The defense had requested a change of venue, suggesting Iredell or Gaston counties for a fair trial. Lawyers for the state argued that the dash cam video has not been released so the jury pool has not been tainted.
“I don’t see where I can go to get away from the publicity,” Judge Ervin said.
The motion was denied, but the judge is leaving the door open to the possibility of selecting jurors from another county if necessary during jury selection.
One-on-one questioning of potential jurors was granted by the judge, to determine the jurors’ knowledge in the case. Typically one-on-one questioning is reserved for capital cases.
At the time, lawyers George Laughrun and Michael Green also filed an additional motion to throw out the case, saying Ferrell’s blood evidence was destroyed. They argued in court documents the blood would reveal if Ferrell consumed any drugs or alcohol before the fatal encounter. During the hearing, the defense lawyers said they were informed by the lab that there may be more blood that can be tested.
The lawyers for the state, Steve Arbogast and Adrian Harris, special prosecutors with the NC Attorney General’s office, said Ferrell’s blood was not destroyed. Kerrick’s defense team agreed to put the motion to dismiss based on the blood evidence on hold to see if additional testing is possible.
Kerrick’s trial is set for later this month, starting July 20.
Copyright 2015 WBTV. All rights reserved