BART Shooting Trial to Be Held Outside Alameda County

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In a ruling released Friday afternoon, a judge granted a change of venue for the trial of former BART Police Office Johannes Mehserle.

Citing widespread media coverage and protests among reasons for the change of venue, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Morris Jacobson granted the change of venue at approximately 3 p.m. Friday.

Mehserle fatally shot Oscar Grant III on New Year's Day at the Fruitvale BART Station.

According to the written order granting the change of venue, the amount of media coverage in the case has been "staggering," citing 1,867 articles published in 18 Bay Area newspapers between Jan. 1 and Aug. 31, 2009.

Additionally, the order cites frequent protests in the community and near the courthouse.

"The protest activity was so loud on one occasion that it interrupted the bail hearing in this case," said Jacobson in the order. "On another occasion, angry protesters literally packed the lobby, wall-to-wall, outside of the District Attorney's Office in this Courthouse."

Citing these reasons and several others, including death threats received by Michael Rains-Mehserle's attorney-and his predecessor, Jacobson concluded that jurors may not be able to reach a verdict in a fair way.

"These jurors will be exposed to protestors' angry demand for 'justice for Oscar Grant' each time they go in and out of the courthouse, a constant reminder of the impending civil unrest," said Jacobson in the order. "These jurors also likely will be concerned about the real possibility more riots and violence depending on the verdict they choose. Under these circumstances, there is a reasonable probability that [the] defendant cannot get a fair trial."

The new venue for the trial has yet to be determined, but the order stipulates that the trial will start Nov. 2 barring future court orders.


Amy Brooks is the city news editor. Contact her at [email protected]

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