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Attorneys seek change of venue for police officer charged in shooting death of unarmed man


CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — Lawyers for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer accused in the shooting death of an unarmed black man say their client can't get a fair trial in the county.

The Charlotte Observer reported (http://bit.ly/1LI42pb) the attorneys for Randall Kerrick accused the city of Charlotte of trying to intimidate and sway potential jurors. Attorneys George Laughrun and Michael Greene asked a judge Thursday to move the trial outside Mecklenburg County.

They also asked Superior Court Judge Robert Ervin to place a gag order on those connected to the upcoming trial.

Ervin, who will hear the trial, denied the attorneys' previous attempt in May to move the trial of Kerrick, who is charged with voluntary manslaughter in connection with the September 2013 death of Jonathan Ferrell. Police say Ferrell was shot 10 times.

The attorneys filed the latest motion the day after the city announced it had hired a communications expert, Mark Weaver, to consult on media relations during Kerrick's trial. Jury selection is scheduled to start July 20.

Weaver said Wednesday that he's helping the city prepare for the possible crush of media covering the case. City officials "don't want to affect this trial," he said. "That's not our job. Our job is to run the city."

But Laughrun said Weaver's hiring was the city's latest effort to undermine Kerrick's defense. He derided Weaver as "a hired gun" brought in "to put a pro-city spin on everything that happens."

Charlotte Observer attorney Jon Buchan said the newspaper will review the motion for a gag order and decide whether to object.

"North Carolina courts have set a very high bar against such gag orders on trial participants," Buchan said. "This scattershot motion falls far short of that bar."

The state Attorney General's Office will prosecute Kerrick. Noelle Talley, a spokeswoman for the office, had no comment on the latest defense motions.

Information from: The Charlotte Observer, http://www.charlotteobserver.com

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