A judge today set a slightly earlier trial date for former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle, who’s accused of murdering unarmed passenger Oscar Grant III at the Fruitvale station in Oakland on Jan. 1, 2009.
Mehserle’s trial had been scheduled to begin on June 7, but at a brief hearing on procedural matters today Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Ronald Perry moved the trial date up by six days, to June 1.
A panel of potential jurors will come to court on June 1 to be given questionnaires and they will return those forms on June 7, when jury selection will begin, according to Los Angeles County Superior Court spokeswoman Mary Hearn.
Pretrial motions in Mehserle’s case must be filed by April 23 and a hearing on such motions will be held on May 7, Hearn said.
Mehserle’s lawyer, Michael Rains, filed a motion today challenging the constitutionality of not allowing police officers to serve on the jury, according to Hearn.
Mehserle, 28, is charged in connection with the shooting death of Grant, a 22-year-old Hayward man, on the platform of the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland shortly after 2 a.m. on Jan. 1, 2009.
Mehserle, who resigned a week after the incident because he didn’t want to cooperate with BART’s internal investigation, and other officers were responding to reports that there was a fight on a train. Friends of Grant who were with him at the time have given depositions stating that Grant was one of the people involved in the fight.
Rains has admitted Mehserle shot and killed Grant but claims that the shooting was accidental because Mehserle meant to use his Taser stun gun on Grant but fired his gun by mistake.
In October, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Morris Jacobson ruled that Mehserle’s trial should be moved out of the county because the large amount of publicity the case has received jeopardized his chance of getting a fair trial locally.
Jacobson selected Los Angeles County as the new venue and California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald George chose Perry to preside over the case.
Jacobson issued a gag order on Feb. 18, 2009, preventing Rains and prosecutor David Stein from speaking to the news media about the case and Perry has kept that order in place.