Preliminary hearing held over BART shooting

May 18, 2009 6:13:55 PM PDT
The family of a man shot and killed by a BART police officer relive the incident in court. Some of the home video from that night provoked an emotional response.

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Dozens of protesters, frustrated by the delay in holding Monday's hearing, made their point outside the courthouse. The hearing will determine whether the former BART officer accused of murder, Johannes Mesherle, should stand trial.

The protesters had to wait outside, since there wasn't any room inside the packed courtroom with both Oscar Grant's and Johannes Mesherle's family members. There were a few seats set aside in the courtroom. It was an extremely tense situation all day on Monday. There was high security with seven sheriff's deputies standing guard inside the courtroom. Four witnesses testified for about five hours and one of them was the Alameda County coroner who testified that Grant died as a result of a gunshot wound to the back.

"The truth is just going to come out," said Grant's uncle Bobby Johnson.

Grant's uncle and family members sat in the courtroom wearing t-shirts with grants face on them. They sat through five hours of painful testimony.

"It's very painful, but we know this is something we have to go through at this time to get justice for Oscar," said Johnson.

Two of the amateur videos taken by BART passengers that captured the New Year's Day shooting were shown in court and broken down and analyzed frame by frame.

When the gunshot rang out in the courtroom it startled onlookers and had Grant's family in tears.

Attorney John Burris is representing them in a $50 million lawsuit against BART.

"Is there going to be any testimony from anyone who will say that Mesherle said that night that he was reaching for a Taser? I don't believe there will be any testimony to that effect," said Burris.

The videos were recorded by two women who both said they turned their cameras on because they had concerns about the way BART officers were treating Grant and his friends from the beginning. They also said passengers on the train were rowdy and using profanity towards the officers.

But both witnesses testified that Grant was fully cooperative with officers and that he had his hands behind his back when Mesherle shot him.

Attorney Michael Cardoza was in the courtroom following the case and said there already appears to be enough evidence for this to go to trial.

"Certainly there's been enough so far with the videotapes and the coroner saying the cause of death was the gunshot wound. So the DA theoretically could rest right now," said Cardoza.

Both inside and outside the courthouse, the case continued to draw protesters.

Mesherle's attorney had requested that Judge C. Don Clay remove the Alameda County District Attorney from this case. Attorney Michael Reins accused the DA of trying to get Mesherle to talk to DA investigators without the presence of a lawyer earlier on in the investigation. Monday, the judge threw out that request and denied it.

Mesherle remains out on $3 million bail. The preliminary hearing that started Monday is expected to go on for about two weeks.

On Tuesday a witness, who was on the Fruitvale BART station platform, is expected to talk to ABC7 about new clear video that has not yet been seen publicly.

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