A Mecklenburg County grand jury refused to indict a suspended Charlotte police officer, Randall Kerrick, on a voluntary manslaughter charge Tuesday.
Instead, jurors requested a prosecutors submit a smaller charge in the death of an unarmed 24-year-old Charlotte man whom officer Kerrick shot 10 times.
It was an unusual decision, which Randall Kerrick’s attorneys were quick to point out in a press conference shortly after the grand jury reported back without an indictment.
“You've heard the adage about the grand jury being able to indict a ham sandwich, so it is extremely rare, but it should also be telling to the fact that the officer did his job that night,” says attorney Michael Greene.
It was certainly a victory, but the grand jury did not clear Kerrick of wrongdoing in the death of Jonathan Ferrell. Instead, the grand jury said prosecutors need to file a less serious charge.
But first, Attorney General Roy Cooper - whose office is handling the prosecution, says – prosecutors will resubmit the voluntary manslaughter charge to the grand jury because some members were missing. He did not say how many.
"We were promised a probable cause hearing and then they reneged on it, we were promised a video and they reneged and finally in 2014, we have a grand jury convene … and there's no indictment," says Christopher Chestnut, the attorney for Jonathan Ferrell’s family.
The video Chestnut refers to is a dashcam video, which he and the family have been asking be released. A judge blocked the public release of the video. Chestnut says the family is shocked the grand jury did not return an indictment.
"If any person in Charlotte, Mecklenburg County saw that dash-cam video, they would indict and probably with a charge greater than [voluntary] manslaughter."
Kerrick shot 24-year-old Jonathan Ferrell ten times in mid-September. Police were responding to a report of an early morning break-in, but apparently Ferrell was seeking help after wrecking his car.
Ferrell’s fiancée has said she believes he was racially profiled. Ferrell was black, and Kerrick is white.
CMPD charged Kerrick with voluntary manslaughter less than 24 hours after the shooting and have released some evidence, including a 9-1-1 call and a recording between a dispatcher and another officer at the scene.
Tony Scheer suspects the decision to charge so quickly may have hurt the case. Scheer is a former Mecklenburg County prosecutor who frequently represents police officers, but is not involved in this case.
"In my experience, often if you judge your case that quickly, you can really get caught," Scheer says. "You can be surprised by something that comes later on and wish that you'd taken more time to evaluate it."
In addition to the criminal charge that will be resubmitted to the grand jury, Kerrick still faces a lawsuit filed last week by Jonathan Ferrell’s family.