BART Shooting Case Moved To Los Angeles County Court


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OAKLAND-An Alameda County Superior Court judge decided yesterday that a former BART police officer's trial will be moved to Los Angeles County.

Judge Morris Jacobson ruled that the trial of Johannes Mehserle, who is charged with the New Year's Day shooting of Oscar Grant III, will be moved to the Los Angeles Superior Court in Downtown Los Angeles, rather than San Diego County.

Jacobson ruled last month that Mehserle's trial should be moved due to the large amount of publicity and protests surrounding the case.

Mehserle's attorney, Michael Rains, pushed for the trial to be moved to San Diego County so the trial could begin as early as late January. In contrast, Los Angeles County will not be able to start the trial for six months to a year.

"The relative hardship if my client has to wait ... is enormous," Rains said. "He will have to renew bail, and that is a considerable expense."

Rains also maintained that local Los Angeles newspapers covered the case more frequently than did San Diego newspapers, increasing the potential of biased jurors in Los Angeles.

According to Rains, in an 11-month period, 27 news stories were published in a Los Angeles newspaper, while only two stories were run in a San Diego CBS affiliate.

Judge Jacobson, however, said despite media coverage, Mehserle could still receive a fair trial in either county.

"The media coverage is so miniscule that it is not a factor that carries very much weight," he said.

Alameda County Deputy District Attorney David Stein advocated for a move to Los Angeles because the facilities are better equipped for high security cases, and there is a possibility that the county will provide a judge.

San Diego is not adequately equipped for a high profile case and would not provide a judge. Therefore, Alameda County would have to pay for an Alameda County judge's traveling and housing expenses in addition to increased security needs at the courthouse.

Stein also favored Los Angles County because its population demographics more closely resemble those of Alameda County.

"When this process is over ... the people of Alameda County must feel that their interests have been served," he said.

John Burris, the attorney for Grant's family, said the defense's assertion that violence could erupt in Los Angeles was "nonsensical."

"If it's an acquittal, it's going to be difficult no matter where it is," he said. "In Los Angeles County ... you have more of a likelihood of getting a verdict that's consistent with the facts."

Wanda Johnson, Grant's mother, said she plans on attending every court date in Los Angeles.

"I'm overjoyed for the verdict that was rendered today," she said. "It still gives me hope and faith in the judicial system."


Keena Batti covers the courts. Contact her at [email protected]

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