CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Over the objections of defense lawyers, jurors in the voluntary manslaughter trial of a Charlotte police officer were given a photo Wednesday showing the bloody body of a man shot 10 times by the officer.
The frontal photo of Jonathan Ferrell, who had been handcuffed in a ditch following the shooting, was taken when detectives finally rolled over his body more than three hours after he was declared dead.
When he was shot in September 2013, Ferrell had been looking for help after crashing his car in a suburban Charlotte neighborhood.
Some jurors briefly glanced at the photo, while others looked intently as they passed the 8 x 10 picture around. Unlike all the other photos introduced so far in the trial, it was not displayed on a large screen in the courtroom.
Kerrick's lawyer said the image was simply meant to "pull the heartstrings of the jurors" and get them to sympathize with Ferrell. Attorney Michael Greene pointed out when another photo of Ferrell's body face-down was shown Tuesday to everyone in the courtroom, jurors noticed that his mother, fiancee and other family members abruptly left the courtroom crying.
"The picture is being shown solely for the purpose of evoking sympathy, not to educate the jury," Greene said.
Prosecutors said the photo was important because it shows the aftermath of Kerrick firing 12 shots. The homicide detective who was on the witness stand as lawyers argued over the picture said he matched Ferrell's face to his ID even though his face was distorted by being pressed against the ground for hours after his death.
Detective Matt Hefner said his supervisors ordered that the body remain in that position until evidence could be gathered from the large crime scene. It stretched from where Ferrell was shot to the spot about 600 feet away where he had crashed his car and started looking for help.
Superior Court Judge Robert Ervin told family members to remain calm or leave before the lawyers argued over the photo. Those who remained showed little reaction.
Kerrick, 28, faces up to 11 years in prison if convicted of voluntary manslaughter. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department hired him in 2011 after he had worked as an animal control officer.
Day three of his trial again focused on testimony from detectives and crime scene technicians about photos taken and evidence gathered at the scene of the shooting just before 3 a.m. on Sept. 14, 2013. Dashboard camera footage of the shooting has not been shown yet.
Defense lawyers said the shooting was justified because Ferrell charged officers before they could figure out what was going on and tried to grab Kerrick's gun when he fell on the officer after being shot at four times.
Prosecutors said Kerrick overreacted, as he and two other officers never identified themselves as police. The other officers did not fire their guns and were not charged. They also have not yet testified.
The officers came to the neighborhood after a woman called 911 and reported a man tried to knock down her door. Authorities said that man was Ferrell, looking for help after crashing his car. The 24-year-old former Florida A&M football player was in the unfamiliar neighborhood smoking marijuana at a friend's house, prosecutors said.
Ferrell's family settled a lawsuit with Charlotte for $2.25 million before the criminal trial began.
Ferrell's family has said they think the white officer shot first instead of asking questions because he was scared of the larger, black man.
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