Jonathan Ferrell Killing: Cop May Still Be Charged

By Brett Snider, Esq. on January 22, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A North Carolina grand jury has declined to indict Jonathan Ferrell's killer, a police officer, on voluntary manslaughter charges. But prosecutors aren't giving up just yet.

Because not all members of the grand jury were present, the state Attorney General's office says it will ask a full panel of grand jurors to reconsider charges against Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer Randall Kerrick, The Associated Press reports. Kerrick, 27, shot and killed Ferrell, a 24-year-old ex-football player for Florida A&M, as Ferrell was seeking help after a car crash in September.

Can Ferrell's family expect any justice in the wake of his killing?

Some Grand Jurors 'Missing'

Ferrell was shot and killed by Kerrick outside a North Carolina home where he was seeking help after a car crash. A woman inside the residence allegedly believed Ferrell was a burglar and called 911; Kerrick's attorney maintained that the shooting was justified.

A grand jury was convened to determine whether there was enough evidence to indict Kerrick on a charge of voluntary manslaughter. In North Carolina, voluntary manslaughter is a Class D felony, punishable by up to nearly seven years in prison.

However, the grand jury chose not to indict Kerrick, and instead asked prosecutors to submit a lesser charge. Prosecutors, though, took issue with the fact that some members of the grand jury were missing from Tuesday's deliberations.

In North Carolina, a grand jury has 18 members, and at least 12 are needed to indict, The Charlotte Observer reports. It's not clear how many jurors were missing on Tuesday, but the AG said in a statement, "It would be in the best interest of justice to resubmit this case to a full grand jury, which we plan to do as soon as possible."

It's also not clear whether prosecutors would submit lesser charges for the jury's consideration such as assault with a deadly weapon, which would merit only a fraction of the potential prison time.

Civil Suit Alleges Excessive Force

The Ferrell family has also filed a civil suit, alleging that Kerrick used excessive force in killing their loved one, reports the AP. Excessive force claims are a kind of police brutality complaint that claims officers exceeded their license to use reasonable force to restrain or capture a suspect.

Officers are sometimes authorized to use deadly force by shooting a suspect, but only in very specific circumstances. Even if Kerrick is never convicted in criminal court, the Ferrells may be able to recover damages from the city of Charlotte if a civil court determines that Kerrick was improperly trained in using deadly force.

The killing of a young black man by a white officer has sparked racial friction over this case, but criminal or civil justice for the slain Ferrell remains to be seen.

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