SF Bay Area Indymedia indymedia
About Contact Subscribe Calendar Publish Print Donate

East Bay | Police State and Prisons

Notes from the Mehserle Trial's "Change of Venue" Hearing, Day One, 10/6/09
by RMJ
Wednesday Oct 7th, 2009 1:13 PM
Rains’ brief argues that Oakland jurors will not be fair and impartial throughout the criminal trial given the influence of corporate and independent media coverage of the criminal trial, as well as the threat and influence of what Rains’ suggests are “enraged” Oakland resident protests directed at the issue of police brutality and the unjust murder of poor, Oakland residents. We the people reject any attempt by Rains’ to mischaracterize the moral conscience of informed and democratically engaged Oakland residents who want a safer and healthier city in which all peoples can be free of unjust trauma, violence, and dehumanization by law enforcement.
On October 6th 2009 at 2pm, the Oakland residents, lawyers, defendant Johannes Mehserle, and the family and friends of Oscar Grant III convened for the “change of venue” hearing at the Alameda Superior Courthouse. Johannes Mehserle’s defense attorney, Michael Rains, is attempting to have Mehserle’s criminal trial moved out of Oakland. Rains’ “change of motion” brief distorted and capitalized on the intensive media coverage following Oscar Grant III’s murder, as well as the manner in which Oakland residents have vocalized their demands for democratic justice. Rains’ brief argues that Oakland jurors will not be fair and impartial throughout the criminal trial given the influence of corporate and independent media coverage of the criminal trial, as well as the threat and influence of what Rains’ suggests are “enraged” Oakland resident protests directed at the issue of police brutality and the unjust murder of poor, Oakland residents. We the people reject any attempt by Rains’ to mischaracterize the moral conscience of informed and democratically engaged Oakland residents who want a safer and healthier city in which all peoples can be free of unjust trauma, violence, and dehumanization by law enforcement.

On October 6th 2009 at 2pm, Attorney Michael Rains called on Judge Morris Jacobson and the Alameda Superior Court to receive the testimony of jury consultant, Dr. Craig New. Rains’ called on Dr. New to testify on the data results of a survey created and carried out by two researchers—Dr. Charles Bronson (an academic mentor of Dr. New from graduate school) and a Dr. Mark Wilkinman (spelling check needed). Rains asked the court to receive Dr. New as an expert in the design, evaluation, and analysis of survey research; in the effects of pretrial publicity on potential jurors; and, in the effectiveness of jury voir dire in high profile cases such as this one. Jury voir dire is a process of examination of potential jurors by the prosecution and defense which includes general questions of jurors in a group setting as well as the individual examination of potential jurors separate from the group. (See http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/voir+dire for a definition of this term.) As it turns out, Dr. Charles Bronson was unable to testify for health problems, and consequently Bronson suggested that Rains call on Dr. New to testify and affirm Bronson’s survey results, which urge for Mehserle’s trial to be moved out of Oakland.

Bronson used interview data gathered through phone calls administered by an out-of-state research center. Phone calls were supposedly made to Alameda County residents who were asked questions that indicated case recognition, prejudice towards the Mehserle case knowledge, demographics, and questions about interviewees fears about potential violence in Oakland if Mehserle were to acquitted. After spending much time establishing Dr. New’s background experience in evaluating such surveys and testifying for and against “change of venue” motions, Rains attempted to prove to the court through Dr. New’s testimony that Johannes Mehserle could not get a fair trail in Oakland. The Oakland Tribune published Bronson’s survey results, but no attempt was made by the Tribune to explain what makes a survey scientifically valid, or to inform newspaper readers of how to analyze surveyed, statistical data.

However, when prosecuting attorney David Stein began his cross examination, it was evident that Rains’ survey and the data collection process was full of response bias (a cognitive bias that can affect survey results when interviewees wish to please the interviewer by answering questions with the morally right answer), as well as skewed and leading questions. Furthermore, it became clear that Dr. New, having only a week and a half to review the survey data and the case itself, had come to his opinion about the survey only that morning after breakfast, upon meeting with Attorney Rains. Defense attorney Stein demonstrated to the court that Dr. New had in fact based his testimony of very little case knowledge, as well as very little knowledge about Alameda County. Earning $225/hr for his brief research work around this case and his court testimony time, Dr. New appeared shaken on the stand when Attorney Stein pointed out the inconsistencies in New’s testimony and in the assumed validity of the survey results. Court resumes today in an hour at 2pm at the Alameda Superior Court House and more notes will follow.

For the people - RMJ