Protestors stood outside the courthouse holding "#JusticeForJonathan" signs following the announcement that the jury was deadlocked.
The tension grew throughout Charlotte on Friday as the jury in the divisive Randall Kerrick trial informed the judge it had hit an impasse after three votes. Superior Court Judge Robert Ervin told the jury it would have to continue trying, calling it their “duty” to find a verdict.
A note from the judge to the jury informed him that they could not come to a definitive decision in Kerrick’s case. The jury foreman informed the judge that the votes, taken Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, came back as 7-5, 8-4 and 8-4, respectively.
Kerrick is charged with voluntary manslaughter in the shooting of an unarmed Jonathan Ferrell in September 2013. The judge ordered the jury to continue deliberating, advising them to contemplate more evidence to arrive at a decision.
The trial has split those who follow it, often among racial divides, throughout the country. Despite the fact that there are seven white jurors and five nonwhite jurors, activists in support of Jonathan Ferrell said they are confident the eight votes in the most recent tallies were in support of conviction. Ervin advised the foreman not to include information about which way the jury leaned in any vote. The foreman confirmed that just one person changed their mind between the first and second vote.
Ashley Williams, a UNC Charlotte student and social justice organizer who has split time between the courtroom and street protests outside the courtroom, said the entire process "has been rough." She said her and her fellow organizers believe a mistrial would be as bad as a not guilty verdict, even if a retrial were to follow.
“It didn’t go the way it was supposed to go,” Williams said. “I think that if the state were going to do anything, this was the jury. If anybody was going to believe what they were saying and be into what they were saying, it was because of the way they handled themselves throughout the process of this trial. The fact that there are four people who can’t get with everybody else is not a good thing.”
Williams’s comments came despite the fact that some people were upset that white people held a majority on the current jury while Charlotte is a minority-majority city.
“This jury that they have right now, we’re lucky that they had as many people of color as they did. We’ve learned a lot about who gets asked to be jurors and it's registered voters and people with driver’s licenses. Historically, people of color are not those things. If it is such that we cannot win right now, I don’t know that we will. "
Shortly after this story was posted, another indecisive vote led Judge Ervin to declare a mistrial. Creative Loafing will be following up with reactions from both sides over the weekend, as well as a news feature on the mistrial in next week's issue.