Mehserle jury panel forced to start over


They are deciding the fate of former BART officer /*Johannes Mehserle*/ for the shooting death of /*Oscar Grant*/.

The jury, which has already been through a number of changes, is going through even more changes now. One juror was excused early on in the trial after she repeatedly kept falling asleep during testimony. After Wednesday, the panel will be down to just two alternates, down from six originally.

Tuesday was supposed to be the first full day of deliberations, but instead, court was suspended because of the sick juror.

Los Angeles is watching. That is the message that went up over the holiday weekend near the courthouse where former BART officer Johannes Mehserle is on trial for murder. As Los Angeles watches, Oscar Grant's family continues to wait.

"It's been really taxing on the body. My sisters have been pretty much stressed out behind this. We all have been stressed, tired, many sleepless nights, coming back and forth, making major sacrifice to continue this fight," said Grant's uncle Cephus Johnson.

The fight started more than a year and a half ago on New Year's Day 2009, when Mehserle shot Grant in the back on the Fruitvale station platform. Mehserle says he meant to draw his Taser.

Now, Grant's family will have to keep waiting for a verdict. Deliberations were postponed for the day when a juror became ill. Before they resume Wednesday, an alternate juror will be selected to replace another juror who had a pre-planned vacation. With an alternate in the group, that means the jury will be required to start deliberating all over again from scratch.

ABC7 legal analyst Dean Johnson says the verdict should come quickly.

"Any way that the jurors go, they really only have to answer two questions, the first being 'Did Mehserle think he was using a gun or a Taser?' If the answer is Taser, then their choice is between involuntary manslaughter and acquittal. If they think that he was using a gun, then the choice is either second-degree murder or involuntary manslaughter," he explained.

Exactly what the ethnic makeup of the new jury will be remains to be seen. Judge Robert Perry will select the alternate by lottery. That alternate will be female, either an Asian or Latina, and will replace a Latino man. That brings the makeup to eight women and four men. There are no African-Americans on the mostly-white panel.

Johnson says, "The good news is the jury hasn't deliberated much yet."

The jury deliberated a little more than two hours on Friday. The selection of that alternate to replace the vacationing juror will take place Wednesday in open court at 9:00 in the morning. Then, the jury will begin deliberating all over again.

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