CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) – The trial of Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Officer Randall Kerrick will soon be in the hands of the jury. Closing arguments began at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday morning and ended around 12:15 p.m.
It’s the fifth week of the State versus Kerrick, and the presentation of evidence is over. Both the defense and prosecution will try to sway the jury one last time.
Kerrick is charged with voluntary manslaughter in the September 2013 shooting death of unarmed Jonathan Ferrell. Kerrick’s defense team says he shot Ferrell in self-defense, as Ferrell charged toward him and attempted to grab his gun.
Prosecutor Adren Harris played the dashcam video in court Tuesday, saying there was plenty of time for Ferrell to be asked questions as he was walking toward Kerrick. Harris said Kerrick had non-deadly options at his disposal and abandoned all his training during the shooting.
The defense, George Laughrun, opened with a bible verse. He said the case was about split-second decisions.
After closing arguments, Ervin will instruct the jury before they start to deliberate.
Two years ago, Kerrick and other responding officers had identified Ferrell as a possible burglary suspect after a woman called 911 overnight to report a stranger was banging on her door and trying to kick it in.
State prosecutors say Ferrell had been injured after wrecking his car and was seeking help at the woman’s house when he was mistaken as a burglar. They argue Ferrell ran in Kerrick’s direction after fearing for his life when another officer deployed his taser, with red laser beams pointing at Ferrell’s chest.
The trial has put a line-up of CMPD officers on the stand, including the two who responded with Kerrick that night. Captain Mike Campagna,who helped write the department’s use of force continuum, also testified that Kerrick broke CMPD policy by firing his weapon. The defense tried to show the policy conflicted with what officers were told in training.
Jonathan Ferrell’s mother, Georgia Ferrell, said she believes prosecutors have done a good job and she’s ready to accept whatever the court decides. She traveled from Florida with her younger son, Willie.
“The hardest part was to see my son’s shirt covered in blood from lime green to darker green. That was very hard to see that. It was very hard to hear so many cruel things that was not my child,” Ferrell said.
Experts testified Monday about use of force and DNA.
The defense presented an expert who helped develop Basic Law Enforcement Training for the State (BLET) to support Kerrick’s decision to fire his weapon.
“Based on my training, my experience, my education based on the fact that he discharged his firearm comports or is consistent with BLET, the CMPD policy regarding use of force,” said Dave Cloutier. He also said it’s possible Kerrick may not have known how many shots he fired, as his body and hearing reacted to the event.
Cloutier said Campagna was also his student more than 20 years ago. He disagrees with Campagna’s opinion that Kerrick violated CMPD policy by firing his weapon and about the how the department assessed Ferrell’s threat level.
“That Officer Kerrick should have perhaps reholstered and de-escalated to a lower level of force,” Cloutier said was incorrect.
State prosecutor Teresa Postell countered by saying Cloutier’s opinion is outdated and that there have been policy changes since he left the Department of Justice.
The defense ended with DNA expert Eve Rossi, who works for CMPD. Typically, she would testify for the state. She testified to finding Jonathan Ferrell’s blood on Kerrick’s gun, boots and uniform.
The defense will likely use that DNA evidence in their closing argument to paint the picture of a close encounter and show that Ferrell was on top of Kerrick when the final shots were fired.
Harris said DNA evidence may confirm Ferrell’s blood was present, but it doesn’t tell the story as to how it appeared there. He said the DNA could have been transferred by someone else, or possibly come from Ferrell while he was trying to defend himself against the gunshot.
“Was there a case? Yes, there is a case,” said retired prosecutor Steve Ward. “It is a triable case. It’s case that as a prosecutor I would not have had any qualms about putting in front of a jury and making every effort to convict.”
Ward thinks the most critical piece of evidence for the defense was one of the last witnesses for the defense.
“The expert that they called who said, under North Carolina law, Officer Kerrick acted appropriately. Not Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department regulations but under NC law.”
Kerrick said he acted in self defense and that everything happened quickly.
Ward said the key piece of evidence for the prosecution is the dashcam video and “watching in three and a half seconds from the time Jonathan Ferrell started moving towards the officers until you heard the final shots – that is extremely, extremely quick. And it probably plays in the prosecution’s favor.”
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