Former BART officer pleads not guilty

January 15, 2009 7:47:47 PM PST
Former BART police officer Johannes Mesherle's parents walked into the Alameda County courthouse Thursday to hear their son enter his plea on charges of murdering Oscar Grant. They were escorted by a sheriff's deputy and taunted by a Grant supporter.

"We're just not protesting in the streets; we're going to attend every court hearing and be here to see it to the end," protester Mandingo Hayes said. Hayes says from now on, he will be at every court hearing for Mesherle.

Mesherle hardly spoke. He entered his not guilty plea through his lawyer. Mesherle sat behind a partition, barely visible to anyone, which angered grant's family, who packed the courtroom for their first chance to see Mesherle.

"I was very sad about my nephew and this man killing him, but now I'm angry because they didn't give us an opportunity to just look at him," Grant's aunt Charmaine Johnson Jones said.

The single murder charge filed against Mesherle will stay, unless a judge eventually decides to reduce it to a lesser count, deputy district attorney John Creighton said.

"We looked a the evidence, we made the determination that we did based upon what we had and it will be up to the trier of fact to decide what this officer is responsible for," Creighton said.

Mesherle abruptly quit the force last week without speaking to investigators about the shooting. He now remains in custody without bail, but his attorney, Christopher Miller, told the judge he will request that the former BART officer be released on bail.

Miller and Mesherle's parents left the courthouse without speaking to reporters, but Wednesday Miller said videos that captured Grant's killing do not tell the entire story.

"The courtroom is the appropriate place for us to present that evidence and I'm confident when that is done he will be cleared of these charges," miller said.

Extra security measures are being taken because of the high profile nature of this case. Sheriff's deputies kept both families separated both inside the courthouse and as they walked in and out of the building and Mesherle is being kept in protective custody at the county's Santa Rita Jail.