A small group of people gathered outside the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office this afternoon to demand that District Attorney Nancy O’Malley deny a motion to move former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle’s trial out of Alameda County.
Mehserle, 27, has been charged with the murder of unarmed passenger Oscar Grant III, 22, who was shot once in the back on the platform of the Fruitvale BART Station in Oakland on Jan. 1 after he and other officers were called to the station in response to reports of a fight on a train.
The group By Any Means Necessary held the rally today, which had more than a dozen participants, and called for the trial to stay in the county where the incident occurred.
Bertrina Grant, Grant’s aunt, said “we want the case to stay right here for him. We want a fair trial, we want justice for my nephew.”
Defense attorney Michael Rains filed the motion earlier this month, arguing that a change of venue will protect Mehserle’s right to a fair trial in front of a jury that hasn’t prejudged his case and wouldn’t be intimidated by its deliberations.
Tania Kappner, an organizer for BAMN, said today that “it would be extremely discriminatory if (the trial) was moved to the suburbs.”
Kappner said Rains would “use prejudice and fear” of young black men to distort the case.
Rains admitted during Mehserle’s preliminary hearing in June that Mehserle, who is white, killed Grant but claimed that it was “a tragic accident” because Mehserle meant to use his Taser device on Grant and fired his gun by mistake.
In his motion, Rains said there’s a racial divide within Alameda County concerning Mehserle’s guilt, that there have been declarations by two judges suggesting that Mehserle’s explanation for the shooting isn’t believable and there’s a threat of violence if jurors don’t find the former officer guilty of murder.
Judge Morris Jacobson, whom Rains criticized for expressing doubt about Mehserle’s claim that the shooting was an accident, will hold a hearing on the change of venue motion on Oct. 2, when Mehserle, who is free on $3 million bail, is scheduled to return to court.
Mehserle’s trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 2.
Jacobson has barred Rains and prosecutor David Stein from speaking to the news media about Mehserle’s case. Stein hasn’t yet filed his response to Rains’ request that the trial be moved.
If the change of venue motion were to be granted, the state Judicial Council would choose an alternate county.