The murder trial for former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle will be moved out of Alameda County due to the massive amount of publicity the case has received, a judge ruled today.
Mehserle, 27, who is charged with murder for the shooting death of unarmed passenger Oscar Grant III, 22, at the Fruitvale station in Oakland early New Year's Day, is “a real lightning rod for the community,” according to a consultant for Mehserle’s defense team.
Jurors “are sure to be frightened, intimidated and influenced” if the trial were to be held in Alameda County, according to a ruling issued today by Alameda Superior Court Judge Morris Jacobson.
The ruling noted that in nine months since the incident, “there have been 2,000 or more newspaper articles, 2,000 or more television news segments, far more than 350 radio news stories and untold number of Internet hits,” including more than 500,000 downloads of amateur video footage captured of the shooting.
The judge also agreed that Mehserle would not receive a fair trial in Alameda County since many within the community suspect the killing was racially motivated and an example of police brutality.
Mehserle is white and Grant was black.
The incident led to rioting on Oakland’s streets and protests in other Bay Area cities.
“Protestors have been widely quoted in the media in the last week stating that they intend to maintain their activities and presence at the courthouse in an effort “to see that justice is served,” the judge’s ruling stated.
Mehserle has plead not-guilty to the murder charge. His defense said the shooting was an accident – that Mehserle meant to use his Taser rather than firearm.