BART police murder trial pushed up, attorney wants cops on jury

By Thandisizwe Chimurenga
Special to

The criminal trial of former Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) officer Johannes Mehserle will begin about a week earlier than originally scheduled. Judge Robert Perry moved the date to June 1 at a third preliminary hearing in downtown Los Angeles March 26.

Both the district attorney’s office and the defense hope they will be able to send the case to the jury prior to July 4 although there are no guarantees.

Michael Rains, attorney for Mehserle, the former BART officer who has been charged with the murder of Oscar Grant at the Fruitvale BART station early New Year's morning last year, did not make any references in open court to BART’s March 24 firing of Marysol Domenici, who was among the first officers to respond to the Fruitvale transit station. However, he did file a motion challenging the exemption of police officers from service on juries.

Domenici’s firing had been recommended by a Bay Area law firm hired by BART to do an independent assessment of the Mehserle shooting. Domenici’s partner, Tony Pirone, made the decision to take Grant into custody for resisting arrest. Both officers have been on paid administrative leave since the New Year’s Day shooting. BART has not stated whether Pirone will also be terminated.

Rains’ motion is in reference to the Code of Civil Procedure, section 219, which excludes police officers as a class from jury service. Rains argues in the motion that his client’s right to an impartial jury, guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution’s Sixth Amendment and California’s Constitution, will be violated if the exemption stands. The judge stated he looked forward to reading Rains’ motion but did not discuss the issue any further.

The purpose of today’s hearing, which was scheduled in February, was to discuss a potential questionnaire for jurors in the case. The document, which was not finalized and not made available to the public, currently contains more than 130 questions and was often likened to a “psychiatric exam” during the proceedings. Judge Perry expressed his opinion to both sides that “the longer the questionnaire, the more burdensome to the jurors.”

A fourth pretrial hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. on May 7 when the court will hear a series of ‘In Limine’ motions filed by the defense.

Read the complete report on Oakland Local.

Note: This story by Thandisizwe Chimurenga is funded by collaboration between Oakland Local, New America Media, and The Black Hour at Laney College, who are sponsoring independent coverage of the Mehserle trial.

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More