Clergy and NAACP members from across North Carolina met behind closed doors Friday with Roy Cooper, North Carolina’s attorney general, to discuss his decision not to retry Randall “Wes” Kerrick, the Charlotte police officer who shot and killed an unarmed man.
The meeting lasted for about an hour and ended, participants said, with Cooper holding to the same position he announced a week ago.
“We understand and share the frustration over this needless loss of life, but there will not be another trial absent any new credible evidence being brought to light,” Noelle Talley, a spokeswoman for Cooper, said after the meeting. “The decision not to retry the case was made based solely on the facts and the law.”
Kerrick was tried in Mecklenburg County Superior Court on a voluntary manslaughter accusation after he shot and killed Jonathan Ferrell, a former Florida A&M football player, in 2013.
After a monthlong trial, where prosecutors and a defense team offered very different narratives of what happened on Sept. 14, 2013, the judge declared a mistrial. The jury deadlocked in division – with four jurors in favor of a manslaughter conviction and eight for acquittal.
“Yes, the jury in the first trial was unable to speak in one voice,” said the Rev. Dwayne Walker, pastor at the 1,000-member Little Rock AME Zion Church in Charlotte and a member of the NAACP, lobbying for a second trial. “As such, this hung jury has not spoken for the Charlotte community or the people of North Carolina.”
Walker was among a dozen people standing outside the state justice department offices Friday morning with a letter that clergy planned to sign and discuss with Cooper behind closed doors.
“The loss of human life and the heartbreak of a family require a more just and wise response,” the letter stated.
The Rev. William J. Barber Jr., head of the N.C. NAACP, said the decision not to hold a second trial sets a “dangerous precedent.”
“A hung jury is not a spoken jury,” Barber said before the letter was delivered to Cooper.
Others who signed the letter with Walker and Barber include: Corine Mack, leader of the Charlotte NAACP chapter; Rodney Sadler, a Bible professor at Charlotte’s Union Presbyterian Seminary; Tonyia Rawl, a founding pastor of Unity Fellowship Church in Charlotte; the Rev. Donnie R. Garris of Antioch Baptist Church in Charlotte; the Rev. John Mendez, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Winston-Salem; Kojo Nantambu, former Charlotte NAACP leader; Mike Broadway of Durham; the Rev. Gregory K. Moss of St. Paul Baptist Church in Charlotte, the Rev. Jimmie R. Hawkins, pastor of Covenant Presbyterian in Durham; the Rev. Glencie Rhedrick of First Baptist Church West in Charlotte; the Rev. Earl Johnson of Durham and Michelle Laws, executive director of the N.C. NAACP.
“In the state of North Carolina where African Americans have a long history of being wrongfully convicted of murder and other crimes, we now see a case of the same legal system refusing to properly try an officer of the law for killing an unarmed black college student,” the letter states. “We contend that your decision not to retry this case was made much too quickly.”
The letter signers said they were concerned that not holding a second trial “sets a dangerous precedent that lends itself to continued issues of inequality in the criminal justice system.”
Talley, the spokeswoman for the attorney general, said the group had a “productive meeting.”
“We look forward to continuing to work with the participants to improve the criminal justice system,” Talley said in a statement Friday afternoon.
Barber said afterward that the NAACP would meet with legal advisers in the coming weeks to consider possible next steps.