Under the Dome

Cooper criticized for Kerrick re-trial decision

UPDATED

Attorney General Roy Cooper was slammed from all sides over the weekend for his decision, announced Friday, not to re-try a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer who shot and killed an unarmed man.

The officer, Randall “Wes” Kerrick, will not face further criminal prosecution after a jury hung 8-4 in favor of acquittal.

Willie Flemming, president of the African-American Caucus of the state Democratic Party, issued a statement asking Cooper to reconsider.

“We are asking Attorney General Cooper to reconsider granting the Ferrell family another day in court,” Flemming said.. Because of the recently documented epidemic of police killings and violence toward African-Americans around our great state and nation, we need to continue pushing for justice, not hung juries, when it comes to black lives and communities mattering”

The NAACP chapter in North Carolina also released a statement on Tuesday: “We believe the decision not to retry the case is unconscionable. The loss of human life and the heartbreak of a family require a more just and wise response from our elected leaders. To say that a hung jury has spoken is simply wrong and Attorney General ought to know and do better.”

The state Republican Party also found fault, saying his decision called into question his judgment:

"Regardless of your views on the outcome of this trial, concerns about Roy Cooper's competency in handling this case from the very beginning and how he may have let politics influence the case raise serious questions about the attorney general's priorities and if he is more worried about doing his job or running for governor.”

Ken Spaulding of Durham, who will run against Cooper in the Democratic primary to challenge Gov. Pat McCrory, issued this statement:

“Quite frankly, a politician running for higher office should not make a unilateral and political decision in place of the people of Mecklenburg County. Political ambition clouds the public trust when the administration of justice is short-circuited. Jury decisions create more trust and faith when they are allowed to move forward.”

Cooper said he and the other attorneys in his office concluded a retrial would be fruitless after a jury was so overwhelmingly tilted toward acquittal. He stood by the office’s decision to take the case to a jury in the first place, saying he believed that’s what the evidence warranted.

The attorney general’s decision was backed up in at least one quarter: The Charlotte Observer’s editorial page, which said the trial provided an important public airing of the events. The editorial concludes:

“What’s clear now to most everyone is that absent some new and jarring evidence, trying the case again would be impractical. It would reopen wounds. It would rekindle divisions. It would likely produce a similar result.

“The attorney general was right to realize it.”

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