The case against former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle on charges that he murdered unarmed passenger Oscar Grant III in Oakland on Jan. 1 was officially transferred from Alameda County to Los Angeles County Tuesday.
In a minute-long hearing, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Morris Jacobson said the next hearing will be in the courtroom of Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Robert Perry at 8:30 a.m. on Jan. 8.
Jacobson said to Mehserle, “Mr. Mehserle, you have to be there.” The judge then said, “With that, good luck to everyone” and
adjourned the hearing.
Mehserle's lawyer, Michael Rains, told reporters that Jacobson's gag order remains in effect so he still couldn't comment on the case.
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 in Oakland shortly after 2 a.m. on New Year's Day.
Rains has admitted that Mehserle shot and killed Grant but said the shooting was accidental because Mehserle had meant to use his Taser stun gun on Grant and fired his gun by mistake. He's free on $3 million bail.
On Oct. 16, Jacobson ruled that Mehserle's trial should be moved out of Alameda 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. 19, Jacobson selected Los Angeles County as the new venue for the case.
California Supreme Court Justice Ronald George on December 2 selected Perry, a veteran Los Angeles County judge who has handled numerous high-profile cases, to preside over Mehserle's trial.
Oakland attorney John Burris, who represents Grant's family in a $50 million civil rights suit against BART, Mehserle and other officers, said after Tuesday's hearing that he's been told that Mehserle's trial could start as soon as June.
But Los Angeles County Superior Court spokesman Allan Parachini said a trial date hasn't yet been set and probably won't be set before the Jan. 8 hearing.
Burris said the purpose of the Jan. 8 hearing will be to set dates for pretrial motions and possible to schedule a trial date.
Burris said Grant's family is “disappointed” that Perry has indicated that he won't allow Mehserle's trial to be televised.
“Given the high visibility and importance of this case we think there should be television coverage for Alameda County and Northern
California residents,” Burris said.
He said if news organizations make a bid to allow television coverage Grant's family “could join in” and file a brief asking for such