Wednesday, January 22, 2014

AG right to seek charges again in police shooting

Should the N.C. Attorney General's Office have another go at charges against a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officer who killed an unarmed man believed to have been seeking help after an accident? Yes.

Only more questions remain after a grand jury's decision Tuesday not to indict 28-year-old Officer Randall Kerrick for voluntary manslaughter in connection with the death of 24-year-old Jonathan Ferrell last September. The public needs answers about what happened that night as well as reassurances about police actions. For many, this episode has engendered fear, not trust, in those actions.

A second grand jury might very well come to the same conclusion as the one Tuesday. The grand jury Tuesday was clear that the members did not feel the evidence presented to them supported the charge of manslaughter. They asked in writing for the district attorney to “submit a bill of indictment for a lesser-included or related offense.” The inference is that they may have indicted for a lesser offense.

But not all of the grand jury members were present Tuesday. That surprised state prosecutors and the attorney general wants to bring charges again before the complete body. A case with such import deserves to be heard and assessed by a more complete panel. Only 14 members were present Tuesday. Normally a grand jury has 18 members, and 12 votes are needed for an indictment.

This is a horrific tragedy no matter what the outcome. Three officers responded to a frantic 911 call from a woman who thought a man who knocked on her door around 2 a.m. was a robber. They encountered Ferrell, shoeless, on a road near the house. Ferrell walked then ran toward the officers. One officer fired a Taser. Then Kerrick, the least experienced of the three, fired 12 shots, hitting Ferrell with 10, as he came toward him.

A dash cam video captured some of the events, and has been cited as pivotal in the decision of Police Chief Rodney Monroe and his top commanders in filing manslaughter charges against Kerrick. That dash cam video has not been made public. The Observer's editorial board said last October it should be. The board still thinks so.

The grand jury's proceedings, which are conducted in private, don't give the public any inkling of what that video showed or even if the members viewed it.

It is understandable that Officer Kerrick, confronted with a man approaching him in the dark and not stopping at commands to do so, would be in fear of harm. Did that fear justify deadly force? Was firing 12 shots excessive? Chief Monroe and his commanders said no to the first and yes to the second in filing charges. But the grand jury had the opposite view. The public needs to know why. The public needs to know what evidence was presented for the grand jurors to reach their conclusion.

The public also needs to know that the CMPD is using this tragedy to make changes in training and protocols to help young officers make better decisions. I've said this before. Being a police officer is a dangerous, stressful and scary job. No one envies them their work, or the hard choices they must make in a moment's time. But we as a community should not accept as inevitable that unarmed citizens will die during encounters with police.

- Fannie Flono


cmsparent2010 said...

Wow Flannie - you presuppose that a "wrong" choice was made, moreover, that more training must be needed. See why everyone says the press manipulates the public. What happened to fair and impartial presentation of the facts.

BiBr said...

What bothers me is the fact that "civil rights" groups want a stiffer penalty for a white officer who shot a black man. By what measure can we justify such racist logic? Would the reverse hold true - a black officer should get a stiffer penalty for shooting a white man...

James said...

The officer shot an unarmed man with 10 shots out of 12. The officer should be tried for KILLING this man no matter if he was white, black, yellow, tan or any other color. That is downright MURDER!!!!The officer was a young, smarty acting officer who felt this was his chance to kill someone. The other experienced officers showed better judgment in the situation than the young officer. He needs to be tried for murder and to serve whatever sentence is imposed on him. Charlotte has many young, smarty officers who think they are KINGS and rude, and disrespectful to the citizens of Charlotte. Remember the officer who took advantage of the young ladies sexually several years ago. "It's my word against yours." Well he was found guilty but served only a small amount of time whereas he should have been given 20+ years for his actions..

e1968 said...

@cmsparent2010. Umm... my question for you is this. Did you not realize that this column is called "O-Pinion"????? Apparently since you have difficulty understanding titles, you may have difficulty understanding a multitude of other concepts. Do you really object to the opinion that more training is needed? Wow, I guess that you're okay with the requirement that police applicants must be able to read on a 10th grade reading level. Really????? The big hill to climb is to have a high school diploma or a GED. Give me a break!

I'm sure that you were feeling proud of yourself for sufficiently scolding this journalist, even though she was actually doing exactly what she is paid to do.

Next time you jump in fingers first to disparage someone, try reading the name of the column. Secondly, if you're going to slam someone, at least try to spell his or her name correctly!

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todd said...

None of this would have happened if the colored boy hadn't been drinking, wrecked his car, and lastly done what the police officers told him to do.

Reporting Truth said...

First, I was not present the night of the shooting, so let me speak specifically to the law and not race or other issues. As we've learned the AG is not happy with the make up of the Grand Jury, specifically the number of members present. To be clear the number of GJ members present was fully within the law to hear the case presented. If the AG's team was worried about not having a fully seated GJ they were not obligated to present the case and could reschedule. Our system of justice allows for a GJ to hear the case in leiu of a probable cause hearing. That is done to benefit the prosecution. Without a GJ indictment, the prosecutor must conduct a probable cause hearing. Doing that allows for all the case evidence to be presented in an open court setting. And yes, the AG or DA can make that happen at any time they choose.

This is not the first, nor last time, all the GJ members will not be present however, there were enough to hold GJ sessions. By resubmitting it again, the obvious hope of the AG is to secure more yes votes than no votes, there is not other reason. No one should be upset with the system because the GJ performed its duty as directed under North Carolina law.

What I want the public and media to pick up on is the fact that the GJ operated within the limits of law. The report that the GJ was somehow flawed is just a plain non-truth, a smoke screen a diversion from the fact that the GJ said no to charging the officer with the crime submitted. My question to the AG, the DA, and everyone else, is why is there no out cry for the other defendants who had cases heard by a non-fully seated GJ? My answer: the AG/DA has made this about one person, about one case. The defendants who had their criminal complaint heard faced the same situation, the same GJ. Do they deserve the same fairness our AG/DA is extending? Is their case not as equally important in justice for them?

Who will cry for justice for those folks, reguardless of their race? There have been an endless number of times where there was never a "fully sated GJ". It is not a requirement of our law. So, Mr. AG / Mr. DA hear the plea of those who's cases have no media attention, that are not being marched upon and extend the same fairness to those as well. Your actions moving forward will tell the whole story of is this about fairness or one person, one case.

So MEDIA, COMMUNITY ACTIVIST and OTHERS take that question to the street and equally serve all if that is the AG / DA's position.

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