Meanwhile, Back in Los Angeles: Pretrial Hearings Underway in the Oscar Grant Case

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From the L.A. Times:

More than 100 protesters demanding justice for a Bay Area man shot to death by a BART police officer on New Year’s Day last year converged on a downtown Los Angeles courthouse today for the first proceedings since the racially charged case was moved here from Alameda County.

Johannes Mehserle, who resigned from the Bay Area Rapid Transit police force a week after the shooting he admits to but contends was unintentional, will stand trial for murder before Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Robert J. Perry in May, the judge said at his pretrial hearing.

Perry prolonged a gag order issued by an Alameda County judge prohibiting either side in the case from discussing it in public. He also rejected a request from Bay Area broadcasters to allow televised coverage of the trial in light of the intense public interest in the shooting death that provoked three days of rioting that damaged dozens of Oakland businesses.

Perry said his experience of high-profile trials is that allowing cameras in the courtroom “is detrimental to the search for truth and justice.” The judge said he would prohibit cellphones, texting, the use of laptop computers and all other means of recording or transmitting the proceedings when the trial begins in mid-May.

Oscar Grant Shooting Anniversary

Flyer for commemorating Oscar Grant's shooting; Oaktown was calm this New Year's, and law enforcement was out in force. But the trial may not begin until May (Courtesy: SFist)

Perry seems to want to avoid an O.J.-style circus, but I would say that in this particular case, people–especially people from Oakland who cannot attend–need to watch the proceedings, and what the witnesses are saying, to be sure in their own minds about what is happening, regardless of how many death threats the officer’s family and the pro-Mehserle people are getting. Televising the proceedings without editing on public TV or C-Span or even Court TV might clarify things for those who are reclining on tenterhooks right now and keep them from creating an even greater public disturbance if a negative verdict is handed down.

I don’t like Judge Perry’s mentioning of the death threats; I don’t like his mentioning the riots and the property damage. They are immaterial to what is being asked: whether Mehserle showed malice in murdering Oscar Grant. I feel that the judge’s pronouncements from the bench is already prejudicing people as well with this recital of how black Oaktowners and people from around the country reacted to what appeared to them to be a gross miscarriage of justice. And they had the cellphone videos and even dozens of eyewitnesses to prove it.

I didn’t like it either when I saw and heard that people went mad over there. But when judges or prosecutors bring up rioting, it sends a message to certain members of the populace–law and order types–that the ravening wolves were at the door keening for blood, and that the poor young white man needs to be saved. Excuse me? This guy doesn’t need saving. Mehserle and his fellow officers that night changed their stories and changed them again several times in broad day when their lies and excuses wouldn’t stand up. Mehserle even tried to flee (and some say he was allowed to flee), but he was extradited and brought back to California. He deserves no special treatment or sympathy for his woes.

Mehserle’s attorney, Michael Rains, told the court Friday that what it comes down to is whether Mehserle intended to shoot Grant.

He certainly intended to do something to Grant, who was prone, handcuffed and unable to resist. In the fantasy these officers were enacting in their minds about how culpable Oscar Grant was in his own murder, how was the young man “a danger” to the officers at all? How is it that a cop “forgets” which gun is a Taser and which one is a revolver? I’m still waiting for that one.

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I would say that before anyone becomes a police officer that s/he should know his/her right from his left. Their superiors should remind them of that. Furthermore, jumping for the gun first is almost a given among officers with this kind of mindset, not only for Johannes Mehserle, but the other officers who were present, Marysol Domenici and Tony Pirone. These young men they rousted were unarmed. What I am wondering is, have the police officers seen too many training videos or played too many video games or seen too many cop films so that fantasy for them becomes reality, when it isn’t? When cops are pumped up like this, they are in another world. Everything is magnified. They think everything they do is justified.

The testimony is going to tres interesting; I’m going to have to read it to believe the lies for myself. I know one thing for sure: regardless of the judge’s gag order, prosecutors cannot afford to fck this one up or it will be on their asses for a long time to come.

Meanwhile, the former felon who accompanied Oscar Grant on that fateful night is suing BART.

Johntue Caldwell filed a $5 million federal civil rights lawsuit Monday, claiming that he was mistreated by a second BART officer, Marysol Domenici, before Grant was shot in the back on the platform of Oakland’s Fruitvale Station early Jan. 1, 2009.

The suit says Domenici ordered Caldwell to the ground, threatened him with a Taser, touched the stun gun to his face and cursed him using a racial slur. Caldwell was “mentally and emotionally injured,” his attorneys wrote.

However, an attorney for BART argues that Caldwell has an extensive criminal record and has filed a nuisance claim. Dale Allen says that Domenici never touched Caldwell, but that Caldwell was one of three young men swore at and berated the officers at the Fruitvale Station. He says that Caldwell’s claims aren’t supported by witnesses. Officers Marysol Domenici and Tony Pirone are on paid leave until they are either disciplined or fired for their actions a year ago.

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(Place your mouse point over the picture and it will describe what is happening. This is a photo from Getty Images.)

Just because someone has a criminal record, it doesn’t mean that they are not telling the truth once or twice in their lives, or that they are trying to make money from a tragedy.

Although many Oakland activists will not be able to come down and demonstrate during each court date, it doesn’t mean that Los Angeles activists will be sitting on their hands. A meeting was called last week at Chuco’s Justice Center and at least 40 people attended, representing a cross section of Los Angeles, says the L.A. Watts Times. They were agreed that Mehserle should be convicted of murder, and that they felt nothing but grief and anger over Oscar Grant’s death.

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Aidge Patterson, one of the organizers of the Jan. 3 meeting, said the goal was to begin the process of creating a unified movement for Grant in Los Angeles.

“We definitely wanted to get the ball rolling early to show from the minute they touched down in L.A. (to let them know) that this isn’t the place they’re going to come to and get away with murder,” he said. “Los Angeles is not going to stand for it. This is a city and a community that knows police brutality like no other place and because of that, there are literally thousands of people in this city who share the same story as Oscar Grant or similar to Oscar Grant.”

Keishia Brunston might be one of those people.

The 38-year-old Compton resident said she came to the meeting, “because it’s for Oscar Grant and his family … we’re all Oscar Grant, Deandre Brunston, same thing. Everybody knows the situation with my nephew Deandre … And it’s just been happening ever since, back-to-back. So, I’m here to support all the families and Oscar Grant’s family when they come to L.A.”

Deandre Brunston was a 24-year-old male whose shooting by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies on Aug. 24, 2003, was caught on video and also widely distributed.

Brunston, who had been sought for questioning in a domestic dispute, was cornered in a doorway by deputies and repeatedly stated he had a gun, which turned out to be false. He said he would fire on deputies if they released a police canine on him.

Deputies released the canine, and when Brunston made a sudden move, fired more than 80 shots at him and shot the dog in the process. The canine was then airlifted to a hospital while Brunston was allowed to bleed to death.

This horrendous kind of thing is happening all over. I wish that police would begin to really investigate and stop crime in black communities, like the serial murders of middle-aged women by Anthony Sowell in Cleveland, OH and with the disappearance of Mitrice Richardson in Malibu. In a lot of ways, the cops are blowing it by focusing squarely on cracking suspected gangbangers in the head, as with the rousting that resulted in Oscar Grant’s death, instead of real law enforcement that would get the community on their side. It’s not that gangbangers don’t need to be brought up short; but some of what cops are doing is reminiscent of playing yet another round of Grand Theft Auto.

Oscar Grant commemorated at Fruitvale BART Station. Even his little daughter, Tatiana, was present, holding up a poster with the face of her father. Her grandmother and Oscar’s mother Wanda Johnson spoke at the vigil, held in the late afternoon at a time when commuters would be coming home or going to work in a second shift. It was said that BART cops were not going to allow it because the 150 people present did not have a permit to gather; and then they prudently changed their minds.

Oakland Local has a commemorative page in Grant’s memory here. There are poems, artwork, and reminisces by his friends.

Older Black Panthers are shaking their heads and are absolutely convinced that nothing has changed since their early days in Oakland; they want people to get organized.

Stay tuned regarding further developments in this case.

~ by blksista on January 9, 2010.

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