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Potential Jurors in Mehserle Murder Trial Questioned on Oakland, Race, Tasers, Police, and BART
The questioning of the first two batches of potential jurors based on their answers to a juror questionnaire begins Tuesday, June 8th in Los Angeles Superior Court. If Johannes Mehserle's defense attorney Michael Rains follows through on his threat to treat potential African American jurors aggressively remains to be seen. Certainly, the answers provided for the questionnaire on topics such as racial discrimination, police abuses, and the political environments in Oakland and Los Angeles create an opening for Rains to do so. [Full questionnaire below.]
They can try to deny Oakland its right to self-determine justice for itself by moving the trial out of Alameda County, but they can't take Oakland out of the trial. On the eve of the beginning of formal trial proceedings last week, Oakland community activists reasserted their commitment to justice for Oscar Grant, no matter what happens in this case, and for all victims of police violence at a sunset vigil at District Attorney Nancy O'Malley's office in Oakland. And now, just over eighteen months since Johannes Mehserle murdered Oscar Grant in Oakland by shooting him in the back, about 100 potential jurors have already responded to a questionnaire that features numerous inquiries related to Oakland.
Have you, friends, or relatives ever lived in Oakland, California? Have you seen, heard, or read anything about the Oakland Police Department or the City of Oakland's response to this case? Please describe the extent to which you are familiar with the area of the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland, California. What is your opinion of the crime situation in Oakland? Do you have an opinion as to whether racial discrimination is a problem in Oakland, California?Other questions target attitudes toward race and/or police:
Have you ever visited someone in a jail, prison, or juvenile detention facility, or have you ever been incarcerated? Have you or any close friend or relative ever been mistreated by the police? Was anyone prosecuted or disciplined? Do you personally know any police officer killed in the line of duty? Do you have any feelings about the prosecution of police officers who are charged with committing crimes? Defendant Johannes Merserle is Caucasian. The man he shot, Oscar Grant, was African-American. In other words, a white police officer shot and killed a black man. Can you judge this case fairly without consideration of the race of the persons involved? Will the fact that a white police officer shot and killed a black man make it difficult for you to be a fair and impartial juror in this case? Have you or anyone close to you ever been the victim of racial discrimination? Do you believe racial discrimination is a serious problem in Los Angeles?While the questionnaire was divided into sections such as Political Affiliations, Pre-Trial Publicity, Criminal Justice System, Attitudes Regarding Race, and so forth, some of the questions could have been grouped into a category called Reality Check.
Have you or anyone close to you ever had a bad experience with a police officer? Do police officers lie? If yes, how often? Have you ever had any negative experience(s) with police officers or other law enforcement agents? Have you ever seen a police officer act inappropriately? Have you ever witnessed a police officer show discrimination toward someone? Do you believe police officers tend to treat criminal suspects differently in low income neighborhoods than they do in middle or high income neighborhoods? Should police officers be treated differently than civilians if they break the law?It is hard to understand how anyone could not be aware of such issues in Los Angeles, but it is possible. Perhaps some of these are test questions like those used in psychological surveys to root out dishonesty.
Interestingly, in the final questionnaire section regarding jurors' knowledge of those who might be called as witnesses or be the subject of testimony, sixty-one people from the BART police department are listed, from now-retired Chief Gary Gee, to commanders and lieutenants, to seargents and rank and file officers. While it does not include General Manager Dorothy Dugger, the ultimate authority at BART on police matters, the list goes far beyond any personnel information that has been made public regarding the murder of Oscar Grant or the ensuing cover-up by BART police and supervisors. For instance, it may never be known which officers bullied Tommy Cross out of his video of the murder, who exactly allowed Mehserle and Pirone to view the video before they filed their incident reports, or which supervisors thought it appropriate (or legal even) to withhold the video from prosecutors until it was subpoenaed by the DA in April 2009. Additionally, who amongst those listed were a part of the exodus of supervisors allowed to retire rather than face discipline from BART? Most likely at least some of the answers are in the non-public version of the Meyers Nave report on the January 1st, 2009, murder of Oscar Grant.
No matter what secrets BART still protects that would assist the prosecution, in what city the trial is held, which jurors are selected, who might testify, or what verdict may be handed down, reverberations from the trial will be felt immediately and for a long time afterward for the residents of Oakland. Given that the prosecution of Johannes Mehserle for killing Oscar Grant represents the first time a police officer has been tried for murder in a line-of-duty shooting in California, it's not hyperbolic to further recognize that the consequences of the actions the DA, defense attorneys, the judge, and the jury will also have repercussions for Los Angeles, the entire state of California, and perhaps beyond.
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF
The questionnaires are part of the public record of the case. Your name will not
Please remember your responses are under oath and must be truthful. Thank
I, _______________, declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the State
JUROR NUMBER: _______________________
Phone numbers where the Court can reach you (these will be kept confidential):
Return the completed questionnaire to the clerk or bailiff. If an emergency arises and
1. Juror Number __ Age __ Sex Race ________________________
2. Birthplace Where were you raised? _____________________
3. Single _ Married _ Divorced _ Separated_ Widowed _ living with another__________________
4. City or area of residence (not actual address) __________________
5. Years there? __ Own or rent? _____ How long in California? ________________________
7. Have you, friends, or relatives ever lived in Oakland, California? _ If yes, explain
8. Why did you move to your neighborhood?____________________________
9. What do you like best about your neighborhood? __________________
10. What do you like least about your neighborhood? __________________
11. What is your current employment status? __________________
12. If you are employed outside the home:
13. Other jobs you have held _______________________
14. If retired or disabled, what was your occupation? __________________
15. Have you ever owned your own business?_ If yes, explain __________________
16. Occupation and employer of your spouse or companion __________________
17. Do you have children? _ If yes, please state the age, sex, and occupation for
18. How many persons live with you? ___________________
19. For other adult members of your household, please state their relationship to you
21. Professional or vocational training __________________
22. Have you received training in law enforcement, the law, or the court system?
23. Do you plan to attend school in the future?_, If yes, explain __________________
24. Haveyou had training or education in psychology, psychiatry or counseling? __
25. What is the education of your spouse or significant other? ____________________
26. Have you ever served in the military? _ If yes, explain __________________________
POLITICAL, RELIGIOUS AND OTHER AFFILIATIONS
27. Are you registered to vote? ___________________
28. Are you involved or active in a political party or politics in general? ___________________
29. Are you a religious person? __ How often do you attend services? __________________
30. How important is religion in your life? _________________________________
31. Will your religious principles affect your ability to serve as a juror? _ If yes,
32. Please list all civic, political, fraternal or charitable organizations with which you are
33. Have you or anyone close to you ever participated in any crime prevention, victims'
35. Have you ever belonged to or contributed money to any of the following or similar
36. What newspapers, web cites, periodicals or magazines do you read on a regular
37. What television and radio programs do you watch or listen to regularly?
38. What types of books do you read? _________________________
39. List any subject matter or genre in reading materials, television programs or movies
40. How often do you watch television shows involving the police, crime, or justice?
41. How often do you follow the news on crime on the radio, TV, internet or
42. Please identify the most important sources of news for you:
43. Have you written a letter to an editor? _ If yes, what was it about __________________
44. What hobbies/activities do you enjoy in your spare time, either now or in the past?
45. Do you consider yourself an expert on any subject? __________________ If yes, explain _________________________
On January 1, 2009, defendant Johannes Mehserle shot and killed Oscar Grant in
46. Have you heard, read or seen any information relating to these events? ___________________
47. Have you formed any impressions or opinions that would influence your
48. If you have formed impressions or opinions about this case, can you set them aside
49. Have you seen, heard, or read anything about the Oakland Police Department or
50. Please describe the extent to which you are familiar with the area of the Fruitvale
BART (BAY AREA RAPID TRANSIT)
51. BART is a rapid transit system that serves the entire San Francisco Bay Area. It
52. Have you ever ridden on this transit system? _ If yes, when and how often? ____
53. Do you or does anyone close to you know anyone who works for BART or the
CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
54. Have you, friends, or relatives ever worked for any law enforcement agency,
55. Have you ever considered working in law enforcement?
56. Have you or a close friend or family member ever been employed in a private
57. Have you, friends, or relatives ever been employed by any prosecutor's office or
58. Have you or anyone close to you ever been the victim of a crime or witness to a
59. Have you, friends or relatives ever been shot, or shot at?__________________ If yes, explain ___________________________________________
60. Have you, friends, or relatives ever had a gun pointed at you or them, or been
61. Have you or anyone close to you ever been accused of, arrested, or prosecuted for
62. Have you ever visited someone in a jail, prison, or juvenile detention facility, or
63. Have you or anyone close to you ever been a witness in a criminal case?
64. Have you or anyone close to you ever had a bad experience with a police officer?
65. What is your opinion of the crime situation in Oakland? _____________________
66. What is your opinion of the crime situation in your neighborhood? __________________
67. What are the major causes of crime? ___________________
68. What should be done to reduce crime? _________________________________
69. Do police officers lie? _ If yes, how often ____________________
70. Defendants are sometimes not responsible for the crimes charged.
71. The rights of suspects are better protected than the rights of victims.
72. Do you understand the charges are not evidence?__________________
73. Do you understand the defendant is entitled to the presumption of innocence?__________________
74. Do you understand the State is required to prove the guilt of the defendant?__________________
75. Do you understand the State must prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt?__________________
76. Do you understand the defendant is not required to prove he is innocent?__________________
77. Do you understand the defendant has a constitutional right not to testify? __________________
78. Do you agree to follow these principles and apply them in this case?__________________
79. Do you have any questions about these principles? ___________________
80. Do you have strong feelings or opinions about firearms, the use or abuse of
81. Have you ever used or fired a gun or rifle? __ If yes, explain __________________
82. Have you ever owned or do you presently own any firearm(s)? _ If yes, list all
83. Could you fire a gun in self-defense? _ yes _ no __ not sure
84. Do you have any familiarity with guns? __ If yes, explain __________________
85. Do you now, or have you in the past, ever belonged to any organization that
86. Do you have any familiarity with a weapon used by police known as a taser? ___________________
87. Have you read, seen or heard anything about the safety of tasers, or their
88. Have you, friends, or relatives ever used a taser or seen a taser used? ___________________
89. Has a taser ever been used on you or anyone close to you?__________________
90. Do you have strong feelings or opinions about the use of tasers by law
EXPERIENCES WITH LAW ENFORCEMENT
91. Have you ever been on a "ride-along" with police officers or other law enforcement
92. Have you ever had any positive experience(s) with police officers or other law
93. Have you ever had any negative experience(s) with police officers or other law
94. How would you rate the job the police in your city are doing in dealing with crime?
95. Have you ever witnessed the police use force on someone? __________________
96. Have you ever seen a police officer act inappropriately? ___________________
97. Have you or any close friend or relative ever been mistreated by the police? ___________________
98. Have you ever filed a complaint about a police officer?__________________ If yes, explain ___________________________________________
99. Do you have any knowledge of police procedures or methods from any source?__________________
100. Do you personally know any police officer killed in the line of duty?__________________
101. Do you have any associations with law enforcement that will make it difficult for you
OPINIONS REGARDING LAW ENFORCEMENT
102. Do you have any feelings about the prosecution of police officers who are charged
103. Should police officers be treated differently than civilians if they break the law?
104. Do you believe police officers are entitled to more believability as witnesses than
105. Do you believe that because the defendant was a police officer and is now charged
ATTITUDES REGARDING RACE
106. Defendant Johannes Merserle is Caucasian. The man he shot, Oscar Grant, was
107. Will the fact that a white police officer shot and killed a black man make it difficult for
108. Have you or anyone close to you ever been the victim of racial discrimination? ___________________
109. Have you or anyone close to you ever been accused of discriminating against
110. Do you have an opinion as to whether racial discrimination is a problem in
111. Do you believe racial discrimination is a serious problem in Los Angeles? ___________________
112. Do you believe police officers tend to treat criminal suspects differently in low
113. Do you believe it is more dangerous for police officers to work in low income
114. Have you ever witnessed a police officer show discrimination toward someone?__________________
115. Have you or anyone close to you ever been the victim of any kind of discrimination
116. Have you ever served on a jury? _ How many times?__________________
117. Have you ever been on a hung jury? __ If yes, were you in the majority?__________________
118. If you are selected as a juror in this case, do you anticipate any negative reactions
119. Have you formed any opinion about the guilt or innocence of defendant Mehserle?
120. Is there anything you would like to bring to the Court's attention that might affect
121. Would you like to serve on this jury? Why? __________________
The following persons may testify or be the subject of testimony in this case. Please