Court Security

Using private court entrances protected defendant and counsel, but was it good for judges?

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After a police officer was surrounded by media and followed by taunting protesters as he entered a North Carolina courthouse for his arraignment in a voluntary manslaughter case, the Mecklenburg County sheriff devised a new security plan.

Following that December incident, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer Randall “Wes” Kerrick and his defense team were ushered in and out of private court entrances. That was highly appropriate, George Laughrun, one of the lawyers representing Kerrick, told the Charlotte Observer.

“In 36 years of walking into the courthouse, I have never been scared until that arraignment,” Laughrun said Thursday. “Officer Kerrick had the right of being safe coming and going, and so did we.”

The sheriff’s plan also helped protect the public, Laughrun said.

However, it wasn’t popular with some of the court’s judges, because it put the defendant and his legal team in the same area of the courthouse as themselves, the newspaper says.

Judges contacted by the Observer didn’t want to discuss the issue on the record. But Mecklenburg County Commissioner George Dunlap said in an email to colleagues last week that the unusual courthouse access “caused some discomfort and unrest among many of the judges” and asks what can be done to restore the “feeling of security” among the county’s judiciary.

Absent another high-profile case, the issue doesn’t appear to be an urgent one: The jury deadlocked in Kerrick’s August trial, as the Charlotte Observer and the New York Times (reg. req.) reported at the time. Earlier this month, the state attorney general announced that the case would not be retried, the Charlotte Observer reported.

Related coverage: “Cop accused of shooting ex-football player after car accident is charged with voluntary manslaughter”

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