East Bay News

Mehserle sobs on the stand in BART murder trial

Friday, June 25, 2010
Johannes Mehserle courtroom sketch Cell phone photo taken by Oscar Grant Johannes Mehserle trial courtroom spectators ABC7 legal analyst Dean Johnson Cell phone video of Oscar Grant shooting Cell phone photo taken by Oscar Grant Cell phone video of the Oscar Grant shooting was released by the courts

An outburst in the courtroom of the BART murder case stopped the trial for a few minutes Friday. There were tears on the witness stand and anger from the audience. Former BART officer Johannes Mehserle sobbed as he testified about shooting unarmed passenger Oscar Grant in the back.

It was an emotionally charged day in the Los Angeles courtroom from start to finish Friday. It started with a young man from Youth Radio facing contempt charges because the court learned that he had a device that had the ability to record inside the courtroom, which is forbidden in this case.

Later, while Mehserle was on the stand sobbing about the minute that he killed Grant, another courtroom observer, identified as 24-year-old Timothy Killings, stood up and shouted a profanity at Mehserle while he was on the stand and told him to save the tears. Then the young man opened up his shirt so that the jury could see he was wearing an Oscar Grant t-shirt underneath. Sheriff's deputies took him away in handcuffs and Judge Robert Perry ordered him arrested for contempt.

"He seemed to be the only one who really had the guts to express it because a lot of us were holding back," courtroom observer Alejandra Cruz said. "If it wasn't going to be him, it was going to be somebody because the tension in there was so, so tense."

Mehserle cried on the stand while talking about the moment he looked down at his right hand and realized he had just fired his gun and not his Taser into the back of an unarmed passenger. He told the jury that just seconds before that, he struggled to pull Grant's hand from underneath his body, and that Grant dug into his front pocket.

Mehserle said, "I made the decision at that point to tase him... I knew the right front pocket to be a place where people keep guns."

But it was the former officer's testimony about the moment he pulled the trigger that sparked an outburst in the courtroom.

Mehserle said, "I remember looking at my right hand and seeing I had my gun in my right hand... I didn't know what to think. It just shouldn't have been there."

Grant's mother stormed out of the courtroom.

"It's been almost a year and a half and he hasn't offered any apology, he hasn't said it was a mistake, and now he's sitting on the stand crying," Grant's mother Wanda Johnson said. "I've been crying every day."

There were protests outside the courthouse. Inside, Mehserle told jurors he always believed using his Taser was the only option on the Fruitvale platform that morning. After he shot Grant he said Grant was hysterical, but still talking. Grant told him, "You shot me." Mehserle said he tried to keep him alive; he had Grant's blood on his hands.

Prosecutor David Stein grilled Mehserle on why he claimed he was so poorly trained as a BART officer. He also pressed him on whether his testimony was rehearsed.

Mehserle said, "I think about this event every single day of my life. I go home and wake up, I think about it. So in essence, I've been preparing since this happened."

Under cross-examination Mehserle also admitted he never told anyone, not even his closest colleagues on the BART force that this shooting in his opinion was an accident, and that he meant to fire his Taser.

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Tags:
BART, johannes mehserle, oscar grant, east bay news, cecilia vega
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