January 28th, 2014
10:03 AM ET

2nd Grand Jury Indicts Officer in Shooting of Ex-FAMU Football Player

A grand jury has indicted Officer Randall Kerrick of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department on a charge of voluntary manslaughter in the September 14 shooting death of Jonathan Ferrell, according to a statement from state Attorney General Roy Cooper.

The grand jury heard evidence from the state Bureau of Investigation and the police department.

"With the strength of the evidence in this case, we're not surprised," Charles Monnett, an attorney for Ferrell's family, said about Monday's indictment.

"We're all pleased and happy that the process is beginning now and that there's an end in sight," he said. "It is the first step towards justice."

Ferrell's mother, Georgia, told CNN that she is prepared to wait as long as it takes for the case to wind its way through the justice system.

"I just feel like God's will will be done," she said.

The Charlotte, North Carolina, officer faced a second grand jury proceeding for the fatal shooting of Ferrell, an ex-college football player who was reportedly seeking assistance after a car accident.

Attorneys for Kerrick had denounced the prosecution's move to resubmit the case as unlawful and filed a motion to block it, but CNN affiliate News 14 Carolina reported the grand jury convened Monday morning.

A grand jury last week declined to indict Kerrick. Prosecutors said afterward the grand jury was composed of less than a full panel and vowed to send the case back.

According to a handwritten statement filed with the court, the first grand jury requested that the prosecutor submit a "bill of indictment to a lesser-included or related offense," but the state attorney general said he would resubmit the voluntary manslaughter charge.

Chris Chestnut, another attorney for Ferrell's family, described relatives as "shocked and devastated" by the first grand jury's ruling and said they were concerned a "miscarriage of justice is imminent."

Kerrick's attorneys, however, filed a motion Friday saying that any miscarriage was on the prosecution's part.

North Carolina law states that a grand jury can be made up of 12 to 18 members, the defense attorneys said. Thus, the prosecution's claim that it could go back to the grand jury because fewer than 18 members initially heard Kerrick's case was spurious, the motion said.

There was "nothing irregular or improper" about the grand jury that heard last week's case, the attorneys said in a statement.

The motion further alleged that Cooper's statement to the media - that "This is not over" - and his announcement that he would resubmit the case was a "wholly improper and blatant attempt to influence the (second) grand jury."

The defense reiterated its claim that the shooting, "while tragic, was justified under the circumstances presented to Officer Kerrick at the time," according to its statement.

"We have seen news clips and interviews stating the community should be 'outraged' at the return of a No True Bill of Indictment," the statement continued. "Those outraged have simply not heard all of the facts and hasten to a position. The true outrage of this community should be at the Attorney General's complete disregard of the original findings of our first grand jury."

Ferrell's family disagreed and issued a statement saying, "It appears that this motion was filed solely because Randall Kerrick's attorneys feel their client will be indicted once the full Grand Jury properly considers the evidence in this case when it convenes on Monday."

Attorneys for Ferrell's family on January 13 filed a civil lawsuitconnected to his death. It targets the city of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe and Kerrick.

Kerrick shot an unarmed Ferrell, a 24-year-old ex-Florida A&M football player, after a woman - home alone with her 1-year-old child - called 911 and reported someone was trying to break down her front door.

It was 2:35 a.m., and according to the lawsuit, the woman "does not understand that Jonathon may be injured and is in need of assistance and becomes frightened by his presence on her doorstep at such a late hour. She quickly closes the door, calls 911 for assistance and activates her home security system."

The woman told police Ferrell was "yelling for her to turn her alarm off" but never reported that Ferrell harmed her, made threatening statements, brandished a weapon or stole or vandalized her property, the lawsuit further alleges.

Police were dispatched, and Ferrell walked down the street to seek assistance elsewhere, according to the lawsuit.

Kerrick and two other officers arrived on the scene about 11 minutes after the 911 call, but Kerrick didn't speak with the woman, the lawsuit says. He instead tracked down Ferrell, who "never engages in any conduct which can be objectively reasonably interpreted as aggravated active aggression," according to the lawsuit.

"Defendant Kerrick, in direct violation of written police department regulations, fires 12 high-velocity bullets at Jonathon, striking him 10 times in the chest and arms," the lawsuit continues.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department has called the shooting unlawful.

"The evidence revealed that Mr. Ferrell did advance on Officer Kerrick and the investigation showed that the subsequent shooting of Mr. Ferrell was excessive," police said in a statement on September 14, the day of the shooting. "Our investigation has shown that Officer Kerrick did not have a lawful right to discharge his weapon during this encounter."

Kerrick is free on $50,000 bond. His attorneys said in their statement Friday, "The citizens of Mecklenburg County by and through its grand jury have spoken. We pray that if this case is reheard by a second Grand Jury, the same conclusion will be reached - that there is no probable cause to sustain an indictment for voluntary manslaughter against Officer Kerrick."

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January 28th, 2014
10:00 AM ET

Is NSA Spying on Your Angry Birds Game?

Angry Birds, one of the most popular game applications, has been downloaded more than one billion times.

But the next time you open it up, could the NSA be tracking you?

According to the "New York Times," the NSA is trying to collect and store user data from apps.

The Times says the classified program focuses on "so-called leaky apps that spew everything from users' smartphone identification codes to where they have been that day."

In response to the Times story, the NSA issued a statement, saying in part, "Any implication that NSA's foreign intelligence collection is focused on the smartphone or social media communications of everyday Americans is not true."

SEE FULL STORY ABOVE 

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January 28th, 2014
09:55 AM ET

Obama to Raise Minimum Wage for Federal Contractors

While President Barack Obama’s attempts to increase the nation’s minimum wage through legislation have stalled in Congress, the White House announced plans on Tuesday to use the president’s executive powers to partially address the problem.

Just hours before the President is scheduled to deliver his fifth State of the Union address, the White House revealed that Obama will issue an executive order to increase the minimum wage for new federal contract workers.

The action will cover all workers employed under future government contracts, ensuring that none is paid less than $10.10 an hour. In a fact sheet announcing the action, the White House highlighted several occupations that will be helped by the move, including kitchen and laundry workers on military bases, as well as janitors at federal buildings and construction workers at government building sites.

“The President has embraced the idea in the past that he can use his authority as President and the powers available to the President to advance his agenda on behalf of the American people,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said at his briefing on Monday. “What we have said is that he views 2014 as a year of action and that he has tasked his team to come up with new ways in which we can – he can – advance that agenda.”

White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett added on "New Day" Tuesday, "He doesn't want to sit waiting when there are too many contractors working for the federal government who are raising their children in poverty."

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An administration official confirmed the action will only apply to new contracts, and the White House believes contractors will have time to factor the new wage requirements into future bids.

Included in Tuesday’s announcement was a call for Congress to pass an increase in the minimum wage nationwide and an endorsement of a proposal put forward by two senior Democrats, Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa and Rep. George Miller of California. The proposal would raise the minimum wage for all workers in stages, ultimately reaching $10.10 an hour, while also indexing the wage floor to inflation going forward.

Obama has made wages and economic inequality a central theme of his second term in office, raising the issue repeatedly, including during a call for an extension of emergency unemployment benefits in his first public event of 2014.

“America is getting stronger, and we've made progress,” the President said. “And the economy is growing, and we've got to do more to make sure that all Americans share in that growth. We've got to help our businesses create more jobs. We've got to make sure those jobs offer the wages and benefits that let families rebuild a little security. In other words, we've got to make sure that this recovery leaves nobody behind. And we've got a lot of work to do on that front.”

January 28th, 2014
09:53 AM ET

Deep Freeze Could Bring Deep Snow to Deep South

The Deep South will plunge into a deep freeze again this week, this time with ice and snow expected to fall all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.

Of course, it's not just the South that will be shuddering. Midwesterners and others more accustomed to bitter weather will also be freezing. Here's what to expect around the country

Louisiana

New Orleans and its suburbs could get half an inch of snow and ice by Tuesday evening, forecasters said. Parishes farther north could see 3 inches, with temperatures plunging into the single digits on Wednesday, the National Weather Service said.

"This town is shutting down" on Tuesday, New Orleans cab driver August Delaney said Monday. "Some bridges are going to shut down. Schools are closed. We are not going to put our kids on school buses."

Mayor Mitch Landrieu declared a state of emergency and warned residents to remember what happened when temperatures dipped toward the freezing mark less than a week ago.

"We had bridges that were frozen over, as you might remember," Landrieu said. "We had accidents on those bridges, a fairly large pile-up on the Green Bridge. Sometime not long ago, when they had a similar event, there were a thousand crashes, and there were fatalities, and we want to make sure that we avoid all of that."

Mississippi

State officials say up to 4 inches of snow could fall in the south-central part of Mississippi, and the Gulf Coast could see three-quarters of an inch.

Robert Latham, the state's emergency management director, warned residents to expect power outages as well.

"We're looking at a part of the state that has a large number of pine trees," Latham said. "I can tell you that as ice accumulates on pine trees, limbs will break. Trees will fall. Power will be out."

Texas

Houston is closing all public services not related to public safety as the city braces for freezing rain and sleet on Tuesday.

The Houston Independent School District, the largest in the state, will also be closed.

Georgia

For a city not accustomed to flurries, Atlanta will have a 30 to 40% chance of snow Tuesday.

Farther south in Macon, where about 3 inches of snow could fall,students will get both Tuesday and Wednesday off from school.

Alabama

Montgomery, the state capital, also has a 40% chance of snow for Tuesday.

Schools in both Montgomery and Birmingham will be closed Tuesday. Up to 3 inches of snow are forecast for Montgomery.

Farther north

Much of the northern Plains, Midwest and Northeast will likely shiver through daytime high temperatures 10 to 30 degrees below normal through Wednesday, the National Weather Service said.

Chicago's temperature Tuesday could reach a whopping 3 degrees, but the wind chill in the Windy City will likely make it feel like minus-30 degrees.

In Wisconsin, the state department of transportation urged people to avoid driving if possible. If they must drive, they should carry a fully charged cell phone, have at least half a tank of gasoline and tell somebody where they're going.

In Milwaukee, two motorists seconded that advice.

"It's going to be pure ice. It's all fluffy and light snow like this and it's going to melt down — going to be a mess," Gary Lukowitz told CNN affiliate WITI.

"Even though you see the streets are plowed and it's still slippery out there, still a lot of wet snow on the ground, still freezing and cars are still slipping around," Adam Bernstein said.

And Minnesota authorities advised everyone to stay off the roads in the southern and western parts of the state.

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