Jurors announced early Friday afternoon that they are deadlocked in the trial of Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer Randall 'Wes' Kerrick in the death of Jonathan Ferrell. tsumlin@charlotteobserver.com
Jurors announced early Friday afternoon that they are deadlocked in the trial of Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer Randall 'Wes' Kerrick in the death of Jonathan Ferrell. tsumlin@charlotteobserver.com

Crime

Live updates: Jury deadlocks, mistrial declared in Kerrick police shooting trial

By Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Michael Gordon

cwootson@charlotteobserver.com

August 21, 2015 11:13 AM

UPDATED August 21, 2015 05:40 PM

Friday is the fourth day of deliberations for the jury 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.

Earlier in the deliberations, the jurors several times asked the judge to provide additional legal information and to allow them to review evidence.

The jury instructions include the definitions of legal terms. Read them here. You also can read transcripts of the interviews with the three officers: Kerrick, Officer Adam Neal (who captured the dashcam video), Officer Thornell Little (who fired his Taser at Ferrell).

There is no disagreement on two key elements of voluntary manslaughter: Kerrick intentionally fired his gun and his gunshots caused Ferrell’s death. That leaves the third element for the jury to decide: Were Kerrick’s actions acceptable for self-defense, or did he use more force than was needed to protect himself?

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

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

For a review of the basic facts of the case and links to prior reports, click here.

4:15 p.m.: Jury says it is still deadlocked

After jury reports it is still deadlocked at 8-4, Superior Court Judge Robert Ervin declared a mistrial.

It is not yet known whether prosecutors will seek to try the case again.

For continuing coverage, follow www.charlotteobserver.com. This story is the first main story.

Live Blog Mistrial declared in case of officer in death of Jonathan Ferrell
 

3:15 p.m: Jury continues work; extra deputies in courtroom

Superior Court Judge Robert Ervin allowed the jury deciding the fate of Kerrick to continue deliberating Friday afternoon.

Earlier Friday, the jury foreman told the judge that jurors were deadlocked, 8 to 4, with little chance of reaching a unanimous verdict.

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Defense attorneys twice asked Ervin to declare a mistrial, and the court prepared itself for any discord that could arise. A dozen deputies, about three times as normal, stood or sat in key positions of the courtroom. Sheriff Irwin Carmichael and Chief Deputy Felicia McAdoo arrived to supervise their actions.

Ervin called jurors out at about 3 p.m.

The jury foreman indicated that while jurors had not reached a consensus, they had productive talks. Jurors had not taken another vote Friday afternoon, the foreman said.

“Since the break we’ve had a number of discussions,” the foreman said. “We haven’t had the need for additional evidence ... We had anticipated making another vote, but where we were getting to didn’t call for another vote.”

3:05 p.m.: Jury summoned by judge to check on deliberations

The judge called in the jury at 3 p.m. to see if there has been any change since before lunch, when they said they were deadlocked.

The foreman said their discussions since the lunch break have made progress. The judge asked if they need any evidence to review, and the foreman said they do not, although that could change.

2:15 p.m.: Jury tries again to reach verdict

After the judge instructed them to keep trying to reach a verdict, the jury took a lunch break and has now resumed deliberations.

The judge has some discretion on how long to keep the jurors trying to work through their 8-4 stalemate.

The next scheduled break is 3:30 p.m.

1 p.m.: Upset over a mistrial touches both sides

While the Kerrick and Ferrell families have not spoken Friday about the possibility of a mistrial, others in the courtroom expressed concerns about the potential of not having a resolution.

Pam Phillips, a Kerrick family supporter, said a mistrial “is just more pain and anguish – for both families.”

If a mistrial does happen, Phillips said, she thought it would be best for prosecutors to not pursue a retrial. “Would the city seriously consider taking this back to court? After one grand jury said don’t do it and after 12 people can’t agree? Can we put this at rest and move on to some kind of healing?”

Attorneys on both sides declined to talk about a deadlock.

Charlotte civil rights activist John C. Barnett says a mistrial could resurrect the ghosts of Missouri’s Michael Brown and Florida’s Trayvon Martin and a “Here we go again” response from urban youth.

If a mistrial is declared, he wants the case to be prosecuted again. “It would send a signal that you don’t give up, a little glimmer of hope that you don’t ever give up on the justice system.”

Ashley Williams, a UNC Charlotte student who works with Black Lives Matter, has been watching the trial and said she would be dissatisfied with a mistrial. “For the jury to be hung sends a message to me and my people that our lives do not matter, that our deaths do not matter and the conditions we are dealing with do not matter, socially, historically, politically.”

Asked if she would want Kerrick retried, she said. “I don’t want his (Ferrell) family to have to go through that again.”

12:15 p.m.: Judge says ‘dynamite charge’ never works

Superior Court Judge Robert Ervin said he has not seen the ‘dynamite charge’ to a jury work, but he read it to the jurors anyway.

The Allen Charge is a legal instruction that tells jurors, “You are reminded that it is your duty to do whatever you can to reach a verdict.”

The instruction then tells jurors to reexamine their position and the evidence, and make a change if they decide their original position was erroneous.

The jurors are then told that they should “not surrender your honest conviction” about the weight of the evidence.

Read the full charge here.

The jury’s first vote was Tuesday afternoon, shortly after jurors received instructions from the judge. The vote was 7 to 5.

The second vote was on Thursday afternoon, and the vote was 8 to 4.

A third vote, early Friday, was 8 to 4.

As is normal, the jury did not say whether the majority favors conviction or acquittal.

Judge Ervin refused a defense request to declare a mistrial based on the deadlocked jury. The judge also asked the jurors if any further review of the evidence or explanation of the law would help.

12 p.m.: Jury says it is deadlocked

The jury sent a note to Superior Court Judge Robert Ervin saying it is deadlocked and asking for the court to advise.

“Judge Ervin, after many days and hours of deliberations we have not come to a conclusion for a definitive and decisive response to either guilty or not guilty.

“After a third (illegible) our positions remained deadlocked.”

Defense Attorney George Laughrun asked the judge to declare a mistrial. Prosecutors asked the judge to order the jury to keep trying.

11 a.m.: Judge, lawyers confer

As of 11 a.m. Friday, the jury has been deliberating nearly 16 hours.

Soon after beginning its work Friday morning, the jury sent a note to Superior Court Judge Robert Ervin. The judge then met with attorneys on both sides. Nothing was disclosed to the public about the nature of the note or the conference in the judge’s chambers.

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