Former BART Cop Must Stand Trial For Murder of Innocent Man

Story by: Paul T. Rosynsky for the Contra Costa Times

OAKLAND — Former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle will have to stand before a jury on a murder charge, a judge ruled Thursday, rejecting arguments from Mehserle’s attorney that a previous judge erred when ruling that enough evidence was presented to push the case to a full trial.

“For purposes of the preliminary hearing, the question is whether a strong suspicion of guilt exists, not whether all doubt as to guilt is eliminated,” Alameda County Superior Court Judge Thomas Reardon wrote. “The magistrate’s factual finding that defendant knowingly fired his gun is supported by the evidence presented.”

Mehserle is charged with murder in the Jan. 1 killing of Oscar Grant III. Mehserle shot the 22-year-old Hayward man in the back as he lay prone on the Fruitvale BART station platform. The shooting occurred after more than a half-dozen BART police officers stormed a Dublin-bound train after receiving a call about a fight among passengers.

Mehserle’s attorney, Michael Rains, has argued that Mehserle intended to use his Taser against Grant but pulled his gun by mistake.

After a more than two-week long preliminary hearing in June, Alameda County Superior Court Judge C. Don Clay ruled that he had been provided with enough evidence to push the case to a full jury trial. Rains filed a motion shortly after Clay’s ruling, asking Reardon to overturn the decision on grounds that Clay was biased against Mehserle and made numerous mistakes in

reaching his decision.Rains argued that his client’s right to a fair trial was violated because Clay cut his defense short and refused to allow Rains to call several witnesses, including an expert to talk about training BART officers receive. Reardon ruled that Clay did nothing wrong and that evidence in the case indicates Mehserle should have known he had a gun in his hand.

“The video shows the defendant using his right hand to withdraw his service weapon at the right hip; it does not show him using his left hand to withdraw the Taser at his left hip, nor does sit show him using (his) right hand to cross his body to withdraw the taser,” Reardon wrote. “Also, the video shows the officer looking down at the weapon as he tries to remove if from its holster and shows the officer extending the weapon in front of him before firing.

“(The Taser) is bright yellow and looks nothing like his service weapon,” Reardon wrote.

Reardon ruled that many of the witnesses denied a chance to testify would have repeated facts already presented during the preliminary hearing and that some of the witnesses would have provided testimony based on opinions, not facts.

Even without witness testimony, Reardon ruled, enough evidence was presented through videos to push the case to a jury trial.

Neither Deputy District Attorney David Stein nor Rains could speak about the ruling Thursday because a gag order had been placed on the case prohibiting either from publicly discussing case details.

Mehserle is scheduled to return to court Oct. 2 when Rains attempts to win a change-of-venue motion.

Johannes Merserle Motion to Dismiss PDF


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