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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: East Bay | Police State and Prisons | Racial Justice
Oakland Town Hall Report from First Two Days of Mehserle Murder Trial in LA, 6/12/10: audio
In this week's Town Hall, Minister Keith Muhammad reports on events inside the courtroom the first two days of the trial of Johannes Mehserle for the murder of Oscar Grant. He is joined in the conversation by Cephus "Uncle Bobby" Johnson, who has also attended the trial. Yvette Felarca of BAMN and others inquire about details of the trial, such as how vigorously Deputy DA David Stein is prosecuting the case thus far.
Minister Keith returned to Oakland Saturday morning after having attended the first two days of the trial. He starts by reminding attendees of the teaching of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Opening statements and several witnesses have already been called in the first two days. Victory is by no means guaranteed.
There is a long history of "justifiable" homicide. Only 9 police officers in the history of the United States have been convicted of murder since the 1800s, but none for line-of-duty killings. The officers who killed Malice Green in the 1992 in Detroit were convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to about 4 years. Otherwise, the system is unwilling to convict its own bad apples.
Minister Keith spoke with Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley on opening day and told her to fight. She said she had a whole team down there in Los Angeles.
Mehserle's defense attorney Michael Rains made it clear that former BART officer Tony Pirone is not on trial, but events started on January 1st, 2009, with his aggressive actions. Rains argues Mehserle made a mistake and intends to bring experts on police stress and tasers.
Stein argued and showed a still of Mehserle looking at his own gun. Rains said still not accurate depiction of how long Mehserle looked at the gun, then turned around and showed a still of Mehserle with his thumb out when he was grabbing his gun to say that Mehserle was trying to use a taser.
Rains asserts Oscar and his friends resisted arrest but the video shows otherwise. DA video expert testified that DA's video was genuine, then witnesses who shot the video were called -- Karina Vargas, Tommy Cross, Daniel Liu, and Jamil Dewar. All said Oscar Grant was not resisting and they started to record video due to Pirone's aggression. Liu said maybe resisting by standing up to talk with the BART police. Rains wanted witnesses to say Mehserle looked confused after the shooting, but there's no known facial expression that shows murder.
Minister Keith discusses stats from an article in Common Dreams. Over 8,000 people were killed by police between 1976 and 1998. While most of those killed in that period were white, police disproportionately make contact with and kill Blacks. 42% of those killed are African Americans. Police forces across the nation are 87% white, and 82% of police homicides are by white police.
What was on the mind of Pirone and Mehserle? Mehserle's expression was no indicator of intent. One witness said he looked the same after the shooting as he looked sitting there in court for his trial.
Many police witnesses are set to testify on the record at the trial -- who's gonna lie?
Rains wants to fabricate Mehserle statement about "I'm going to tase him" just before he shot Oscar Grant in the back (to justify accidental shooting excuse).
During Jamil Dewar's testimony about recording the escalation of police brutality, he broke down after the sound of the shot being fired on the video he recorded. The judge, jury, family, and press were all shaken by his testimony. The Judge Perry didn't even announce the time he expected everyone to return after the lunch break as he normally would.
Survivors are haunted with the memory, and suffer anxiety.
The prosecutor needs to no feed Rains any more ammo about Mehserle's reaction to the shooting.
BART officers never saw any fight, they brought the fight with them.
At the preliminary hearing, Judge Clay said he had no doubt that Mehserle intended to use his gun and not his taser, and also that he had no need for video experts -- only Mehserle can say what was in his mind.
Cephus Johnson adds that Rains tried to construe a gang fight implication from Jamil. Minister Keith adds that Rains has no mercy (even though he acknowledged tragedy of Oscar's death, a "tragic accident," in opening statements), and came at Jamil and asked him why he cried then and not at preliminary hearing. Jamil said he was closer to the event then. The whole courtroom had compassion for Jamil, but Rains said something like "yeah right" after the cross-examination. Rains was frustrated he couldn't make the point that Jamil was faking.
Oscar Grant was not a threat to BART police if he was talking on the phone, and said "don't tase me" related to Mehserle having pointed his taser at Oscar prior to the shooting (as shown in a photo captured by Oscar Grant).
The prosecutor has not objected to anything Rains has said, not even his "yeah right" comment.
Rains may have slipped when said Mehserle was well-trained with his gun, firing it over 1,000 times (making it harder to believe accidental use of it).
Mehserle rolled Oscar Grant over, looked at the bullet wound, kneed him, and handcuffed him after he shot him.
Oscar was pushed down onto his friend's leg by Mehserle, so he had to shift, but he was not resisting.
At one point, Oscar is pushing a friend back away from BART officer Marysol Domenici and Pirone runs over and hit Oscar.
Jamil said he thought BART police were security guards and wouldn't call them police in court.
There was a rally at Fruitvale BART by high school students on the trial's opening day and BART had a fleet of police present, far outnumbering the students.
When people are mad at police, it's because of the history of brutality, not some meanness or unfounded prejudice. Jamil never got off of the BART train our of fear of security guards who seemed ready to hurt someone.
Go to Los Angeles and inform the people as much as you can about the facts of the case.
Oakland will try to secure US Justice Department involvement; Al Sharpton is said to possibly become involved.
There is an issue with the total exclusion of Black jurors when Blacks disproportionately effected by police contacts (jury questionnaire was culturally biased). The DA could have challenged Rains more on the jury selection. Rains challenged and removed all three potential African American jurors. Did the DA use one of his allowable challenges at all during selection?
The DA has to fight harder and raise objections to Rains. Rains has made several objections, many if not most sustained by Perry. Yvette Falarca says that the jury watches to see who's fighting harder for their team. Cephus Johnson says Stein needs to object if Oscar Grant's fiance and mother of his daughter Sophina Mesa is attacked by Rains on Monday.
The Michael Jackson doctor trial starts Monday on the same floor of the courthouse.
The LA Coalition has scheduled a major demonstration outside of the LA County Superior Courthouse for Monday, June 14th.
previous recorded Town Hall for Justice for Oscar Grant on Gang Injunctions, Oakland, 5/22/10: audio
Town Hall Meetings
Every Saturday 4pm - 6pm
Olivet Institutional Missionary Baptist Church
807 27th Ave, Oakland