If at first you fail to indict, try, try again.
Last week, a Charlotte, N.C., grand jury denied prosecutors’ request to indict a white police officer for voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death of an unarmed black man who refused to obey orders to stop and show his hands after police responded to a robbery call.
The decision angered the NAACP and other black leaders, who threatened to boycott the city if it didn’t indict the officer. State authorities vowed to swiftly impanel a new grand jury and resubmit the charge.
And so on Monday, as civil-rights activists loudly marched outside the Charlotte courthouse, a re-impaneled grand jury agreed to indict Charlotte police officer Randall Kerrick in the racially and politically charged case, which in many ways mirrors the Trayvon Martin case.
Kerrick, who claims self defense, faces up to 11 years in prison if convicted. His trial is expected to begin within eight months.
“We are thankful that the grand jury carefully considered the evidence and returned the indictment,” said Charles Monnett III, the attorney for the family of 24-year-old shooting victim Jonathan Ferrell.
Kerrick’s lawyer argued the nearby demonstrations compromised his client’s chances at a fair hearing.
“How in the world is that grand jury supposed to go into that courtroom and make a decision when you’ve also got the NAACP outside?” defense attorney Michael Green demanded. “How is Randall Kerrick supposed to get a fair trial and due process?”
Jurors originally believed the evidence presented against the officer did not support the manslaughter charge. Their refusal to indict was rare. The same jurors issued indictments in all of the other cases they heard. As WND reported in October, evidence showed authorities overcharged Kerrick in an apparent rush to appease protesters and quell racial tensions.
The case has triggered outcry from the black community, which organized a national campaign to pressure authorities to carry out “justice” for Ferrell.
During a local church rally Thursday night, about 150 civil-rights activists organized by THUG – True Healing Under God – threatened to boycott the city if jurors fail to indict Kerrick.
Charlotte NAACP President Kojo Nantambu called the jury decision “despicable,” asserting, “Something is wrong with the system that we live in … something is wrong in this country.”
Rally organizer John Barnett, founder of THUG, said Ferrell would be alive if he were white like Kerrick.
“I’m trying to figure out: What does 14 jurors and one attorney general don’t see that people in Africa see?” Barnett asked. “That all of us see. What do they not see?”
Kerrick’s attorneys tried to block the new grand jury hearing as “a wholly improper and blatant attempt to influence” a politically correct outcome in the case, which has attracted national attention.
After the earlier decision, defense attorney George Laughrun said “the weight of the world” has been lifted from his client’s shoulders.
“He’s extremely relieved that the grand jury members saw fit to keep an open mind and not listen to all the propaganda on all the things he did wrong,” Laughrun said. “What they decided … was that Officer Randall Kerrick did his job. Regretfully it cost the life of Jonathan Ferrell. But he did his job.”
Kerrick, whose dashcam captured the confrontation on video, was charged in connection with the Sept. 14 shooting death of Ferrell, a former Florida A&M football player.
Kerrick repeatedly fired at Ferrell with his gun after a Taser failed to stop him and after Ferrell failed to show his hands. Though Ferrell was found later to be unarmed, Kerrick and others who viewed the video insisted the use of force was justified.
As WND reported, the video shows Kerrick first opened fire after Ferrell – who was much larger than Kerrick – charged him while ignoring commands and concealing his hands. Kerrick fired more rounds after Ferrell continued to move forward to the point where he made physical contact with the officer.
“His hands were not in the air,” Laughrun, a former prosecutor, said.
At one point, before the shooting, he added, “You see one of his hands partially behind his back, concealed, as he continued to advance.”
Ferrell may have been under the influence of controlled substances.
Witnesses reported to investigators that they saw Ferrell, who had dropped out of college, drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana in the hours before he crashed his car at an entrance to a suburban Charlotte neighborhood that Saturday at 2:30 a.m.
The police chief, who is African-American, still has not released the results of the toxicology report. The report, along with the video, will now become part of discovery as Kerrick’s lawyers prepare his defense.
At least one resident of the neighborhood reported Ferrell acting violently several minutes before the confrontation with police.
A 911 tape reveals a frantic call from homeowner Sarah McCartney, who was home alone with her 1-year-old son while her husband was traveling. Through tears, she reported Ferrell trying to kick in her front door in what she thought was an attempted robbery. Banging and yelling can be heard in the background.
“I need help!” McCartney can be heard pleading with the operator. “There’s a guy breaking into my front door, he’s trying to kick it down!”
The 911 tape refutes the initial narrative told by the NAACP and the media, who claimed an injured and stranded Ferrell rang McCartney’s doorbell seeking help only to have McCartney slam the door shut after seeing a black man.
“Why did the woman assume it was a robber?” Chris Chestnut, another Ferrell family attorney, said.
“How could this white woman be so terrified by the mere sight of a black man – an injured one at that – that she couldn’t contain her fright long enough to even hear out his plea for help? Come on,” wrote Neil Drumming a black columnist for Salon.com.
Drumming said nothing excuses “her utter lack of empathy,” while failing to report that Ferrell tried to kick in her front door. The 911 tape indicates Ferrell wasn’t acting like a helpless man but a ferocious threat.
Chief Monroe confirmed that Ferrell started “banging on the door viciously.”
Nonetheless, black radio called McCartney a “racist b—-” guilty of a “hate crime.”
A number of black activists posted McCartney’s home address along with photos of her home on social media. As a result, a number of vehicles have driven by her house harassing her family. They have had to hire security for protection.
As in the Martin case, which triggered national outrage over perceived racial profiling, the narrative told by civil-rights activists and national media about the shooting death of Ferrell crumbled under the weight of evidence.
Florida state authorities took over the Martin case after Sanford, Fla., police cleared George Zimmerman in the shooting, deciding he acted in self defense. After a jury later acquitted Zimmerman of manslaughter charges, authorities were criticized for overcharging Zimmerman.
Likewise, North Carolina state authorities have taken over the Ferrell case, which followed virtually on the heels of the Zimmerman trial.
Experts say they’ve never seen a police officer charged so swiftly in a shooting. Normally investigations into police shootings take weeks, if not months.
Yet Kerrick was thrown in jail within hours, bypassing the usual lengthy interviews by internal affairs. Authorities said they wanted to avoid any “ambiguity” as outrage in the black community grew and the NAACP and other groups threatened protests.
Kerrick’s legal team planned to defend the officer under North Carolina’s “stand your ground” law, which allows police officers as well as citizens to use deadly force if they fear for their lives or someone else’s.
Legal experts say Kerrick has a strong case and that authorities may have been too quick to charge the 27-year-old officer.
Police unions say police departments and state officials feel pressure from Attorney General Eric Holder and groups like the NAACP to charge first and investigate later in such cases. That political pressure is having a “chilling effect” on law enforcement officers.
“What it does is it shakes their confidence, because most cops like to think their department has their back,” North Carolina Fraternal Order of Police President Randy Hagler said.
The NAACP wants the charges against Kerrick elevated to murder. Anger in the community could explode if Kerrick isn’t convicted.
Meanwhile, Ferrell’s family has filed a lawsuit against Kerrick and the police department claiming Kerrick used excessive force. Chestnut insisted he opened fire on Ferrell before any commands or warnings were issued.
“There were no commands to ‘Stop, freeze, stop or I’ll shoot,’” he claimed.
“If Mr. Ferrell was not black or brown, wouldn’t they have asked him a few questions before showering him with bullets?” Chestnut added, suggesting bigotry played a role in the shooting.
“The officer is white, Mr. Ferrell is black,” he continued. “I think this is more of a reflection of where we are as a country.”
In fact, footage from a dashboard-mounted police camera shows officers commanded Ferrell at least three times to stop before Kerrick fired, but Ferrell continued to advance menacingly toward them. Another officer, Thornell Little, fired a Taser at Ferrell before Kerrick resorted to using his firearm.
“Orders were given by one of the officers as it relates to him stopping,” acknowledged Charlotte Police Chief Rodney Monroe, who is black. “There were statements given of that nature.”
The NAACP, however, insists it was an “execution” of a black man in “cold blood.”
“There is no evidence that shows Jonathan Ferrell should have been shot at all, but for officer Kerrick to shoot 12 times and striking Mr. Ferrell 10 times indicates more than a reflex, it smells more of hatred and rage, which shows that Mr. Kerrick was predisposed in killing a black man and did so with extreme prejudice,” the NAACP’s Nantambu said.