East Bay News
Jury selection completed for Mehserle trial
LOS ANGELES (KGO) -- Jury selection was completed Tuesday in the case of a former BART police officer charged with murdering a man on New Year's Day 2009.
The family of Oscar Grant is angry over the makeup of the jury in the murder trial of former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle.
"We just want justice for Oscar," said Grant's aunt, Zeporia Smith.
The family of Oscar Grant is outraged that the Los Angeles jury for the murder trial of Johannes Mehserle includes no African-Americans.
"With this jury, I'm not sure if they're going to understand what happened to Oscar Grant," said Smith.
Mehserle is accused of murdering Grant on the job with a single gunshot to the back, as the 22-year old African-American man lay face down on a BART platform. The defense will argue that Mehserle mistook his gun for a Taser.
The jury includes eight women and four men: seven are white, four Hispanic and one Indian American.
The jury was selected after just one day of voir dire; that is in depth questioning of potential jurors by attorneys for each side.
Among those selected were a preacher, retired teacher, and several jurors who said they had police officers as relatives or friends.
"You put jury members in there that said they were friends of police officers, family members of police officers. So I mean let's look at it, we have mostly an all-white jury, white officer kills black man -- black young man -- so I mean that's scary, it's like there's no fairness in this," said Grant's friend Jack Bryson.
"I'm very frustrated," said Tracie Cooper. Her son was with Grant on the night of the shooting. "We're just going to prepare ourselves for the worst and hope for the best."
Pleasant Hill attorney Michael Rains is representing Johannes Mehserle. Rains probed further into the answers given by 50 prospective jurors on the initial 15-page written questionnaire. He seemed most interested in answers regarding attitudes about police officers, and any bad experience potential jurors had with officers in the past.
One man in his 30s described a prior incident where he believed a police officer had been "aggressive and confrontational." Others described feeling they were the victims of "racial profiling," where they or a family member was treated unfairly by the police because of their race.
Mehserle is white. Grant was African-American, but both the prosecution and defense have repeatedly stated they believe race was not a factor in the shooting and should not be in the trial.
The incident was caught on numerous cell phone videos, which will be shown at trial. One prospective juror told the judge, "The thought of watching a video where somebody dies makes me really nervous and uncomfortable."
About half of the initial pool of 200 jurors was excused last week, mostly due to the financial hardship that would result from serving on a trial that's expected to last about a month.
Besides jury selection, Judge Robert Perry still has several important rulings to make before trial. He has yet to decide whether the jury should hear about a racial slur used during a verbal exchange between Grant and another former BART officer, Anthony Pirone.
Perry will also decide whether Grant's girlfriend can be called to testify about a cell phone call she received from Grant, just before the shooting.
Mehserle's trial was moved from Alameda to Los Angeles County due to extensive pre-trial publicity in the Bay Area.
Now that the jury's been selected, opening statements are set to begin in Los Angeles on Thursday.
johannes mehserle, oscar grant, BART, east bay news, laura anthony
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