North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper is planning on running for governor next year. That makes the Democrat one of the first attorneys general in the post-Ferguson era to run for higher office after tangling with an emotional trial involving an unarmed black man killed by a white police officer.
Cooper’s office recently oversaw the case against Randall “Wes” Kerrick, a Charlotte police officer who shot an unarmed black man, Jonathan Ferrell, 10 times in 2013 after Ferrell was in a late-night car accident and approached a nearby house. The case ended in a mistrial after the 12-member jury couldn’t return a unanimous verdict, and Cooper said last month that he didn’t plan to try Kerrick again given the lack of new evidence.
But Cooper’s Democratic primary challenger, local ministers, and the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP are calling for the attorney general to retry the case—and some African-American leaders say the case’s inconclusive end could hurt Cooper with his Democratic base in next year’s election against Republican Gov. Pat McCrory.
North Carolina, where African Americans typically comprise roughly half of all registered Democrats and more than 20 percent of the electorate, is a unique test case for the political repercussions when Democratic prosecutors cross paths with cases involving black victims of police force. Cooper has a reputation as a political moderate dating back over more than a decade as attorney general, but any North Carolina Democrat would have trouble winning statewide without very strong support from African-American voters.