Mehserle trial could start in May

January 8, 2010 10:28:23 PM PST
A Los Angeles County judge said today that the trial of former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle on charges that he murdered unarmed passenger Oscar Grant III could start in mid-May, according to a court spokeswoman.

However, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Robert Perry didn't set a firm trial date at a brief hearing for Mehserle today, according Mary Hearn, a spokeswoman for the court administrator's office in Los Angeles.

Hearn said Mehserle, who is free on $3 million bail, is scheduled to return to court Feb. 19 for a hearing on two motions that will be filed by Mehserle's attorney, Michael Rains.

One motion will seek to reduce Mehserle's bail and the other will ask that the Alameda County District Attorney's Office be removed from prosecuting the case.

Similar motions were denied by Alameda County Superior Court judges last year.

Mehserle, 27, is charged with murder for the shooting death of Grant, a 22-year-old Hayward man, on the platform of the Fruitvale station shortly after 2 a.m. on Jan. 1, 2009.

Mehserle and other officers were responding to reports that there was a fight on a train.

On Oct. 16, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Morris Jacobson ruled that Mehserle's trial should be moved out of the county because the case has received a large amount of publicity and created "a high degree of political turmoil" and other factors that could endanger Mehserle's ability to get a fair trial.

On Nov. 16 Jacobson selected Los Angeles County as the new venue for Mehserle's case and on Dec. 2 California Supreme Court Justice Ronald George chose Perry, a veteran judge who has handled numerous high-profile cases, to preside over it.

Rains has admitted that Mehserle shot and killed Grant but claims the shooting was accidental because Mehserle meant to use his Taser stun gun on Grant but fired his gun by mistake.

Hearn said Perry today refused to lift a gag order that Jacobson imposed last January, which bars the attorneys in the case from speaking about it to the news media.

Perry also said he won't let cameras into his courtroom for Mehserle's case, according to Hearn.


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