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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: East Bay | Police State and Prisons | Racial Justice
Mehserle's Failed Attempt to Exclude Sophina Mesa Testimony & Oscar Grant Taser Photo
Defense attorney Michael Rains filed a motion on Johannes Mehserle's behalf to exclude the testimony of Sophina Mesa, Oscar Grant's fiancé and the mother of his daughter Tatiana. The motion was heard and denied by Judge Robert J. Perry on June 9th and Sophina Mesa is expected to testify for the prosecution in Los Angeles Superior Court today.
[Sophina Mesa, in purple coat, at press conference in front of LA Superior Court on January 8th, 2010.]
Sophina Mesa was present on the BART train with Oscar Grant and his friends on their return from San Francisco early New Year's Day 2009. When the train stopped at Fruitvale BART station, she disembarked from the train and waited for Oscar Grant in the station below the platform. After about 5 minutes, concerned that she had not seen Oscar come down, she called him from her mobile phone. Oscar Grant told her that BART police were detaining him and his friends and beating them for no reason. She has said Oscar Grant sounded nervous and scared on the phone. Johannes Mehserle shot and killed Oscar Grant just minutes later.
Rains argued that Sophina Mesa's testimony was redundant as Tommy Cross and Jackie Bryson, friends on the platform with him, both heard Oscar Grant make the comment about being beaten for no reason on the phone. Rains also asserts that bringing her to the stand would remind jurors that Oscar Grant was the father of a young daughter and therefore unduly prejudice jurors. (Nevermind that Rains later mentioned in opening statements on June 10th that Mehserle was once voted "most huggable" one year in high school.)
Ever eager to shift the focus to Oscar Grant and his friends and assert that they were resisting arrest -- as he was only partially granted permission to do at a previous pre-trial hearing by winning the narrow right to present as evidence a police report that claimed Oscar Grant resisted arrest in 2006 -- Rains declared that if Sophina Mesa was allowed to testify, that he wanted to grill her about Oscar Grant's record and that he was on parole at the time of his murder, even though Judge Perry had previously ruled against the introduction of such information.
In the District Attorney's opposition to the motion, it is argued that Sophina Mesa's testimony about Oscar Grant being nervous and scared, and additionally that he said he was was afraid of being tasered (due to a previous tasing by police), is relevant to his state of the mind at the time in that he was less likely to have been resisting arrest. Admitting her testimony further will explain to jurors about the conversation Oscar Grant was seen to be having on the phone on several eye-witness videos taken by other passengers. Being that Mehserle's primary defense argument is that Oscar Grant was resisting arrest at the time Mehserle shot him in the back -- asserting that Mehserle intended to tase, not shoot, Oscar Grant because he was resisting -- Sophina Mesa's testimony should be allowed.
Oscar Grant knew that Mehserle possessed a taser because moments before he was shot, Mehserle had pointed his taser at Oscar Grant. Oscar Grant took a photo of Mehserle pointing the taser on his sister's cell phone. That photo will be admitted as evidence in the trial as per Oscar Grant's fear of being tased on the Fruitvale platform.
The DA further argued that Oscar Grants probation and parole status was already ruled off-limits by the judge and likewise should be excluded from any cross examination by Rains.
Judge Robert Perry' ruled for the prosecution on this motion. Sophina will testify and shall not be questioned regarding Oscar Grant's probationary status. Nevertheless, family and friends are anxious about how aggressively Rains might attack her testimony today, especially after he openly sneered at Jamil Dewar's crying on the witness stand on Friday.
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