CHARLOTTE — North Carolina’s attorney general should forgo pursuing a retrial for a white police officer whose voluntary manslaughter trial in the death of a black man ended with a hung jury, an attorney for the officer said Wednesday.
George Laughrun, one of two attorneys who represented Officer Randall Kerrick during his three-week trial, noted during a news conference that it took a second grand jury to indict their client, and eight jurors voted to acquit him, suggesting the weakness of Attorney General Roy Cooper’s case.
“Now, what’s best for the citizens of North Carolina? That’s what he has to look at,” Laughrun asked. “He had a grand jury that couldn’t indict him. On that day of the grand jury, there were 280 indictments. Only one was no-true-bill,” meaning only one case failed to result in an indictment. That was the Kerrick case.
The initial grand jury refused to indict Kerrick, suggesting prosecutors seek a lesser charge. But the attorney general’s office, which handled the case, tried again. State law allows prosecutors unlimited trips with the same case before the grand jury, and this time jurors voted 14-4 to indict Kerrick. The 14 votes were the minimum needed to keep the charge against the officer.
Then the trial jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict.
“(Cooper) had 12 citizens, eight of which voted not guilty after hearing everything they could have possibly heard about this case,” Laughrun said. “So, you would hope the attorney general would look at that and say ‘OK, we’ve given it our best shot. It’s time to move on.’”
Noelle Talley, spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, said prosecutors are continuing to review information, and discussions are continuing on a decision about seeking a retrial.
Kerrick was charged in the shooting death of Jonathan Ferrell in September 2013. It happened as Kerrick and two other officers responded to a breaking and entering call.
After three weeks of testimony and four days of deliberations, the jury couldn’t overcome its 8-4 deadlock, leading Judge Robert C. Ervin to declare the mistrial.
Michael Greene, who teamed with Laughrun in defending Kerrick, said he only retried one case in his time as a prosecutor in Mecklenburg County, and that was because a juror knew the defendant in the case. That trial also ended in a hung jury.
Kerrick is suspended without pay from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. Laughrun said Kerrick, who remains free on bond, is currently supporting his wife and small child by working various jobs.