Oscar Grant's Killer Says He Can't Get Fair Trial In Oakland

Oscar Grant's Killer Says He Can't Get Fair Trial In Oakland

Published October 12, 2009

The ex-cop who began his New Year by killing an unarmed Black man hopes to find a jury that sees his side.

Former Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) officer Johannes Mehserle is awaiting a judge’s opinion on the change-of-venue request recently filed on his behalf in a California court. Mehserle was caught on video firing a shot into Oscar Grant’s back Jan. 1 as Grant lay face-down on a train station platform. Mehserle and other officers reportedly responded to a call about a disturbance on an Oakland railcar. Grant, who appeared to pose no threat while being detained, was abruptly shot to death by Mehserle, to the shock of onlookers. The killing sparked20numerous protests and demands for justice in Oakland’s Black community. Mehserle resigned without responding to a request for questioning by officers investigating the shooting.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Morris Jacobson is reviewing arguments that Mehserle’s jury should be picked from outside of the Oakland area. After a four-day hearing that included a survey of nearly 400 people who knew about the case, defense lawyers suggested that violence could erupt in Oakland if Mehserle is tried there. Almost half the people in the survey that defense lawyers presented reportedly think the ex-officer is guilty.

Prosecutors, meanwhile, insist that the county is large enough for impartial jurors and alternates to be chosen without a venue change.

Even without knowing if Mehserle will be found guilty, an independent law firm has issued numerous recommendations about changes in BART policies, following an inv estigation of the Grant killing. Mehserle’s lawyer has suggested that the ex-officer meant to fire his Taser instead of his pistol.

Criticism of the BART police department hasn’t been limited to the shooter. After publicly stating that he and his staff were “taking this investigation very seriously,” it was revealed that the department’s Chief Gary Gee had solicited financial support for Mehserle.

Written by Eddie B. Allen Jr.


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