Jury selection begins in Mehserle trial

Johannes Mehserle has said he was reaching for his Taser, but mistakenly used his gun and fatally shot Grant.
June 2, 2010 7:53:54 PM PDT
In Los Angeles, 200 potential jurors were called in on Wednesday, for the first round of jury selection in the trial of a former BART police officer who killed an unarmed BART passenger on New Year's Day last year.

The judge actually warned the group of prospective jurors to wear comfortable shoes if they are selected for the trial, because they'll have to walk up flights of stairs in order to stay sequestered in the courthouse.

The trial that generated so much publicity in the Bay Area had to be moved, but for many in Southern California, it is completely unknown.

"I don't really know a whole about the case, I just know that someone took a picture of it," Los Angeles resident Delonda Lewis said.

"I haven't heard anything of the sort," a Los Angeles resident said.

"I didn't hear anything about any of that happening," another Los Angeles resident said.

Johannes Mehserle came to court on Wednesday morning in the back of a car driven by his lawyer and into the protection of armed deputies.

Extreme measures will also be taken to protect the 12 jurors and six alternates chosen to sit in a jury box during the former BART officer's murder trial.

They will be partially sequestered and that means they'll be bused to the courthouse every morning, not allowed to leave during the day -- except to go home at night and not even be allowed to walk in the courthouse hallways with the general public.

"We want to get the best 12 jurors with the most open mind," Oscar Grant's uncle Kenneth Johnson said.

That's the hope from the family of Oscar Grant, whom Mehserle shot and killed on the Fruitvale BART station platform last year. Grant was unarmed and Mehserle's lawyers say it was an accident.

In addition to an impartial jury, Grant's family wants something else.

"We don't want to see 12 white jurors, obviously," Johnson said. "This has been happening to black people for a long time. This isn't anything new. The only thing different is that this time it was on video."

The potential jurors answered a 15-page questionnaire. The 120 questions ask everything from their thoughts on Tasers and on police to how they feel about race relations in the East Bay and whether they know anyone in Oakland.

They were also asked what they thought of the Oakland Police Department. This process is expected to take a few days, while the trial is expected to last three to four weeks.

As for the video of the shooting, some people in the courthouse said they have seen it and most told the judge they couldn't be on the jury because of financial hardships.

A handful said they favored law enforcement officers and couldn't be fair and on the other hand, one woman told the judge she already thought Mehserle was guilty and she told the judge he looked like a "jar head."

She was among the more than 100 people who were promptly excused.


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