CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Five days from now, the highly-anticipated trial of a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department officer accused of killing an unarmed man is set to begin, and city leaders plan to ramp up efforts to handle riots or protests in the coming days.
They plan to hold a series of community meetings addressing issues like proper protesting, race and police accountability.
The first is scheduled for Monday, which is the day jury selection starts.
New CMPD Chief Kerr Putney is expected to be part of a panel discussion alongside Georgia Ferrell, the mother of Jonathan Ferrell who police said Randall Kerrick shot 10 times in September 2013.
Channel 9 learned city officials have been discussing concerns their public appearances and associations may risk Kerrick's chance at a fair trial.
There was a discussion Tuesday that elected officials should not attend a rally this weekend in support of the Ferrell family to avoid the appearance of being accusatory.
"We have no position on the trial itself. We are simply concerned about the city of Charlotte," said Willie Ratchford, executive director of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations Committee.
Kerrick's attorneys have unsuccessfully asked twice that the trial be moved because of concern the city's payout of $2.5 million to the Ferrell family in a civil settlement and the hiring of an attorney to handle public relations during the trial may imply Kerrick's guilt.
"How often do you have a jury pool that has potentially seen evidence of a highly-publicized civil settlement that has everything to do with the charges this officer faces?" said Brad Smith, a defense attorney who is not tied to the Kerrick trial.
The judge has said if finding fair jurors is a problem, he might reconsider the idea of moving the trial or bringing in jurors from another county.
It's been estimated this trial could last at least two months.
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