The defense presents DNA evidence in the voluntary manslaughter trial of police officer Randall Kerrick. Video by WBTV
The defense presents DNA evidence in the voluntary manslaughter trial of police officer Randall Kerrick. Video by WBTV

Crime

Live updates: Defense rests in Charlotte’s police shooting case

By Cleve R. Wootson Jr.

cwootson@charlotteobserver.com

August 17, 2015 09:57 AM

UPDATED August 17, 2015 05:31 PM

Monday begins the third week of testimony in the voluntary manslaughter trial of Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Officer Randall “Wes” Kerrick, who is accused of wrongfully killing Jonathan Ferrell in a late-night encounter in 2013.

For a review of the basic facts of the case and links to prior reports, scroll to the bottom.

3 p.m.: Defense rests; closing arguments on Tuesday morning

After finishing with a CMPD DNA expert, the defense for Kerrick rested on Monday afternoon.

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The defense made a motion for dismissal, claiming the prosecution had failed to prove its case. Such a motion is common, and was denied by Superior Court Judge Robert Ervin.

Closing arguments are now scheduled for Tuesday morning. Afterward, the jury will receive its instructions and begin deliberations.

The 12-member jury has two people who are Latino, three African-American and seven white. Eight are women and four are men.

Four alternate jurors who have heard the entire case side-by-side with the regular jurors will likely be released from service after closing arguments. The alternates are all white, and consist of one man and three women.

If convicted of voluntary manslaughter, Kerrick faces three to 11 years in prison. He has been on unpaid suspension since the shooting.

12:30 p.m.: CMPD DNA expert says Ferrell’s DNA was on Kerrick’s gun

A CMPD DNA expert testified that Ferrell’s DNA was found on Kerrick’s gun, boots and pants.

Eve Rossi said the DNA came from Ferrell’s blood.

Kerrick has testified that Ferrell was rapidly moving toward him before the officer fired and that he feared Ferrell was going to attack him and take his service weapon. Kerrick also said Ferrell made physical contact with him, but he wasn’t sure how it happened.

Kerrick also testified that he felt a tug on his gun while he was lying in a ditch with Ferrell on his lower body.

Testimony has not made clear how Ferrell’s blood got onto Kerrick’s gun.

Court is recessed for lunch. Rossi is expected to continue testifying when court resumes at 2 p.m.

11 a.m.: Expert says Kerrick firing at Ferrell was consistent with training

Dave Cloutier, an expert witness on police training and policies, told jurors that Kerrick’s decision to fire at Ferrell was consistent with decades of law enforcement training and CMPD directives.

“Based on my training, based on my experience, based on my education, the fact that (Kerrick) discharged his firearm ... is consistent with basic law enforcement training and CMPD directives,” Cloutier said.

Defense attorneys are trying to use Cloutier’s testimony to refute CMPD Capt. Mike Campagna’s testimony. Campagna, the former head of the police training academy, testified last week that Kerrick violated CMPD policies and his training by shooting Ferrell.

Cloutier, who told jurors Campagna was his student at the N.C. Justice Academy, said Kerrick behaved appropriately.

Defense attorneys appeared to be trying to rebuild Kerrick’s character after prosecutors pointed out inconsistencies last week between the officer’s testimony and what he told homicide investigators hours after the shooting.

Kerrick may have experienced “auditory exclusion,” a phenomenon common in police shootings that can cause officers to misremember the number of shots fired, Cloutier said.

“Because of auditory exclusion, an officer may fire a large number of shots, but invariably when asked how many shots were fired they will say substantially less than were actually fired,” Cloutier said.

10:10 a.m.: Kerrick filed assault report after shooting

The defense called Officer Jeremiah Dossett, an officer who was working the night of the Ferrell shooting.

Dossett took a police report that said Kerrick was assaulted by Ferrell. He also testified that he’d known Kerrick and thought he was a truthful person.

“Do you know him to have a reputation for truthfulness and honesty?” defense attorney George Laughrun asked.

“He’s truthful,” Dossett replied.

But prosecutors asked why Dossett hadn’t been able to speak to the suspect in alleged assault on Kerrick.

“That party was deceased at the time,” Dossett said, referring to Ferrell.

9:45 a.m.: Reviewing Officer Neal’s 2013 interview

Court resumed Monday morning by continuing to play a recorded video interview CMPD investigators had with Officer Adam Neal in 2013, just a few hours after Jonathan Ferrell was killed.

Neal is the only one of the three officers at the scene who left his dash-mounted camera running during the encounter with Jonathan Ferrell. His dashcam captured the first moments: Ferrell walking toward the officers. Taser targeting laser dots visible on his chest. Ferrell breaking into a run in the direction of two officers.

The shooting happens off-camera, but voices and gunshots are clearly audible. The microphone for the dashcam video was on Neal’s uniform.

Neal was a prosecution witness on Day 3 of testimony, but his video interview was not played at that time. In his testimony, Neal said he never considered pulling a weapon that night and instead viewed the situation as one that would require physical force to restrain the subject. Neal also testified that he did not see Kerrick until he already had fired several shots and was lying in a ditch with Ferrell at his feet.

Kerrick’s defense team is now playing the 2013 video interview in court. The audio was difficult for courtroom observers to hear.

Basic facts

A jury will decide whether Kerrick used excessive force when he fired 12 shots at Ferrell, or whether he was justified because he thought Ferrell posed a deadly threat.

The 12-member jury has two people who are Latino, three African-American and seven white. Eight are women and four are men. The alternate jurors are all white, and consist of one man and three women.

If convicted, Kerrick faces three to 11 years in prison. He has been on unpaid suspension since the shooting.

According to police, Ferrell wrecked his fiancee’s car on his way home after an outing with friends and sought help at a house in a neighborhood east of Charlotte. The homeowner, afraid someone was trying to break in, called 911. Kerrick and two other officers responded, and the deadly confrontation ensued.

Ferrell, 24, had moved to Charlotte from Florida to be with his fiancee. He was a former scholarship football player for Florida A&M University. He was working at both Best Buy and Dillard’s at the time of his death.

To read reports from the second week of Kerrick’s trial:

Monday live updates, Monday’s wrap-up story.

Tuesday live updates, Tuesday’s wrap-up story.

Wednesday live updates, Tuesday’s wrap-up story.

Thursday live updates, Thursday’s wrap-up story.

Friday live updates, Friday’s wrap-up story.

To read reports from the first week of Kerrick’s trial:

Monday live updates, Monday’s wrap-up story.

Tuesday live updates, Tuesday’s wrap-up story.

Wednesday live updates, Wednesday’s wrap-up story.

Thursday live updates, Thursday’s wrap-up story.

Friday live updates, Friday’s wrap-up story.

Q&A at the end of the first week.

Full transcript of CMPD interview with Kerrick in 2013.

Cleve R. Wootson Jr.: 704-358-5046, @CleveWootson