Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant demands fair trial at final hearing before start of Johannes Mehserle murder trial

Rally 7 a.m., press conference 8 a.m., Johannes Mehserle hearing 8:30 a.m. on Friday, May 7, 210 W. Temple St., Criminal Justice Center, front steps, then to the hearing in Department 104 on the ninth floor

by the Los Angeles Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant

The Los Angeles Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant and concerned residents from around the state will hold a press conference at 8 a.m. and rally from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. during the final hearing before the murder trial of former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle, who fatally shot Oscar Grant on New Year’s Day 2009.

The case is unprecedented, as former officer Mehserle is the first law enforcement officer in California ever tried for murder in the “line of duty.” Jury selection is set to begin June 1 and trial is set to begin June 7. Coalition members are concerned that if the defense prevails on May 7, the case will set a precedent for acquitting officers of murdering innocent civilians.

Former officer Mehserle is the first law enforcement officer in California ever tried for murder in the “line of duty.”

Jack Bryson, father of two of the young men with Oscar Grant at the train station, hopes for justice. “We expect District Attorney Stein to stop the defense from painting Oscar and his friends as thugs and Mehserle as a hero who made a mistake. All the young men were cooperating, on the ground, either cuffed or with their hands in their air.”

Regarding evidence, Bryson explains, “Rains (Mehserle’s attorney) doesn’t want jurors to know that BART fired (ex-officers) Pirone and Domenici, accepted resignations from defendant Mehserle and Police Chief Gee, and BART contracted special investigations by Meyers Nave and the National Organization of Black Police Officers – specifically because BART knew their officers were out of control that night and many other officials have participated in a cover-up ever since.”

“The murder of Oscar Grant is a historic case and will set legal precedents in California and nationwide,” says Elizabeth Venable of the Los Angeles Coalition. “Defense attorney Rains wants to use this as an opportunity to rewrite California law. Rains wants to have police on the jury, control the evidence, control the look and language of the courtroom and, most importantly, write jury instructions himself.” Venable continues, “If Rains’ all or nothing, murder or acquittal, strategy works, no cop will ever be convicted of murder in California, no matter how many witnesses or videotapes there are.”

“We expect District Attorney Stein to stop the defense from painting Oscar and his friends as thugs and Mehserle as a hero who made a mistake.” – Jack Bryson, father of two friends who were with Oscar Grant when he was murdered

“From a legal perspective,” says Rachel Jackson of the Oakland Coalition, “Rains’ actions are arrogant, risky and outright disrespectful to all of the district attorneys and judges involved in the case so far. For Rains to imply that Judge Perry will be violating California law if he doesn’t grant Rains’ motions and to make indirect threats to draw out the trial, is an outrageous attempt to corner the prosecution and the judges.” Jackson warns, “Mehserle needs to realize Rains is using this case to advance his career and doesn’t really care about ex-transit cop Mehserle’s fate.”

“If the judge goes along with the defense strategy, the cops will have an official ‘license to kill’ in California,” says Aidge Patterson. “Relations between the police and community will get even worse and no amount of midnight basketball or police-sponsored meetings will ever repair the damage. Cops will have permission to be judge, jury and executioner, as long as they say, ‘Oops, I thought it was my taser,’ afterwards.”

Patterson wonders, “An acquittal in this case will confirm what youth of color already know: Cops can shoot them in the back and nothing will happen. How do people expect the community to respond?”

“An acquittal in this case will confirm what youth of color already know: Cops can shoot them in the back and nothing will happen. How do people expect the community to respond?” – Aidge Patterson, Los Angeles Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant

What started as a coalition between Northern and Southern California is blossoming into a statewide movement against police misconduct. New regions are joining the coalition from all over the state, demanding justice for the murder of Oscar Grant; conviction and incarceration of ex-Officer Johannes Mehserle for murder; and an end to the police brutality that runs rampant throughout the nation.

For more information, contact Aidge Patterson at aidge@aestheticscrew.com or Elizabeth Venable, elziav@gmail.com.