-Alameda County Deputy District Attorney David Stein
On Monday, June 21, Alameda County Deputy District Attorney David Stein concluded his murder case against former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle.
Stein's case against Mehserle lasted seven days and included 26 witnesses and dozens of pieces of evidence. That evidence included six video recordings of the events that preceded and followed Grant's killing, three of which captured Mehserle pulling his gun from his holster, aiming it at Grant's back and pulling the trigger.
Such video evidence would be enough to convict most people, certainly ANY black man. However, since Mehserle is a cop, he is allowed to argue that he was scared of the people on the train, that he thought that a man lying face down on the ground with another officer's knee on the back of his neck was a physical threat that justified the use of a taser (even though two other officers on the scene that night have already testified that Grant was NOT a threat), and that he mistook his handgun for a taser.
Not only did Defense Attorney Rains accuse the prosecution of not having any evidence, but he himself solely relied on evidence from hired guns, one of whom was a veteran of the Rodney King trial, and attacks on the victim's character.
Rains opened up his defense of Mehserle by calling a San Leandro police officer to the stand who testified about a previous run-in with Grant, where Grant tried to run away during an arrest. Mind you, neither Mehserle nor former BART officer Anthony Pirone knew about this incident the night Grant was killed, so there was no other reason to introduce this evidence other than to attack Grant's character. Grant tried to run away, he didn't pull out a gun.
Rains then pestered Jackie Bryson, one of Oscar Grant's friends who was also on the BART station platform the night Mehserle shot Grant in the back. Rains insinuated that Bryson tried to flee the scene immediately after the shooting, even though he was still in handcuffs and surrounded by Police Officers. The video shows Bryson only standing up and taking a few steps backward with a look of disbelief on his face.
"My friend just got shot. I don't know what I was doing. I was in shock."
Bryson testified that Grant was NOT resisting arrest like Mehserle claims, but was instead struggling for air as two 250 pound cops had their knees pressing down on his torso. Grant's arm was stuck under his body when he was thrown to the ground by the officers. Videotape shows that Grant was also thrown down on top of another friend's leg too, which was probably pushing up into his diaphram. Bryson contended that Grant was unsuccessfully trying to remove his arm from under his body, and NOT digging in his pocket for a non-existent handgun as Mehserle has claimed.
"Oscar kept telling them, 'I can't breathe, I can't breathe,' " Bryson said.
All of a sudden, Bryson said, Mehserle "goes, '(Expletive) this.' He stands up and he shoots him."
Bryson also testified about BART Police attempts to intimidate him after the shooting. Even though Bryson was NOT under arrest, he was read his Miranda rights and kept in a cell in handcuffs:
After the shooting, Bryson said, he was taken to BART police headquarters and put in a small cell with his handcuffs still on. Periodically, he said, Pirone would walk by the cell, pull up a chair, put his feet up and smile at Bryson.
"He comes in, he pulls up a chair, and he kicks his feet up, and he's just laughing," Bryson said. "He just kept smiling and laughing with a smirk."
Pirone, who has been fired due to his aggressive behavior on the BART platform that night, had screamed a racial slur at Grant and assaulted him shortly before Mehserle shot him in the back. Pirone also was the only BART Officer on the scene that fateful night who was smiling in the post-shooting photos taken by BART detectives.
In court, Prosecutor Stein played an audio recording of a BART detective telling Bryson that he was not under arrest, and then immediately reading him his rights.
At the end of that day of testimony, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Perry announced that he would release all six video recordings of the events before, during and after the shooting.
The next day, Rains called Michael Schott to the witness stand as an alleged forensic video expert. Schott was paid "at least" $65,000 by Mehserle's defense team to testify that he believed that Grant and his friends were the aggressors on the BART platform the night Grant was killed.
The first action Rains focused on was a video that, in real time, appeared to show Pirone walking toward Grant and then punching or elbowing him in the head.
Schott said his analysis does not show Pirone doing anything of the sort and instead shows Grant punching Pirone, even though the former officer never testified that Grant had hit him.
Can you believe this idiocy? The Defense team paid Schott $65,000 to LIE under oath that Grant was actually the one who punched Pirone, even though the video clearly shows otherwise, and Pirone never accused Grant of striking him. In fact, one of the last defense witnesses, Dr. Thomas Rogers, a 31-year forensic pathologist and a physician of 40 years who authored the autopsy report on Grant, testified that the victim had been struck very hard on the head (which would be consistent with the videotape footage).
The doctor also noted that Grant had evidence of hemorrhage in the central nervous system. Rogers stated that, once he was able to look underneath Grant’s skin, that there was evidence of blunt force trauma to the left side of Grant’s head, just above his ear.
Yet I'm sure Schott still got his $65,000 for testifying, under oath, that his "frame-by-frame anaylsis" of the video proved that Grant hit Pirone rather than Pirone hitting Grant.
The next day, Rains called Mehserle himself to the stand. Mehserle proceeded to give a well-rehearsed performance that included a description of his taser training, his distancing himself from Pirone's "agressive style," his admission that he was pointing a taser at Grant and his friends just minutes before he fatally shot Grant in the back, and an emotional meltdown.
About his taser training, Mehserle claimed that he never thought about the potential danger of mistaking his pistol for his taser:
"To me it wasn't that big of a deal," he said.
About Pirone's conduct on the platform the night Grant was killed, Mehserle put the blame squarely on the more aggressive officer's shoulders:
"They were yelling, you know, '(Expletive) that officer. I'm going to sue him,' " Mehserle said. "I said, 'Are you talking about me?' and they said, 'No, that guy.' I told them, 'I don't know what is going on. Settle down, and we'll figure it out.' "
Mehserle said he had his Taser pointed at the group while he talked with them and thought that he was able to calm them down.
"But that all changed when Pirone came back," Mehserle said.
Mehserle here is referring to the moment when Pirone started screaming a racial slur at Grant and then punched or elbowed him in the head before the two officers threw Grant to the ground and killed him.
Mehserle also maintains that he "doesn't remember" unholstering his gun (which is not an easy thing to do for obvious reasons) or pulling the trigger. However, Mehserle made it very clear that his defense is that at the time, he assumed that Grant had a gun and was trying to pull it out of his pocket. He doesn't remember much else, but he was adamant about remembering that.
“I thought that I didn’t want to get shot.”
-SF Bay View
When he finally got to the part where, somehow, his sig sauer mysteriously appeared in his hands, he started crying, which caused Wanda Johnson, Grant's mother, to leave the courtroom.
Another member of the gallery, Timothy Killings, also got up and walked out, saying, "You should save those fucking tears dude." Killings, even though he was leaving the courtroom of his own volition, was immediately arrested.
Mehserle immediately stopped crying during the commotion.
Stein's cross-examination of Mehserle was brutal. Not fooled by the waterworks, Stein pointed out that the former officer did not follow protocol on several ocasions leading up to Grant's killing, including the fact that Mehserle's use of a taser would have been unjustified:
Comparing the circumstances Mehserle faced just before the shooting to tactics taught to police officers about such incidents, Stein had Mehserle admit that many of the actions he took early Jan. 1, 2009, did not follow proper protocol.
Stein said Mehserle's movements just before the shooting were not consistent with the movements an officer should make after deciding to use a Taser on a suspect who is lying on the ground.
Mehserle admitted he never yelled "gun" when he thought Grant was reaching for one as officers are taught to do if they see a weapon. Mehserle said he did not yell "gun" because he never saw one.
Stein also pointed out that Mehserle admitted he did not notice that Grant was being pinned down by then-BART police officer Anthony Pirone even though officers are taught always to be aware of their surroundings.
"The only thing that went through my head was that I had to hurry up and tase," Mehserle said.
Stein ended his questioning of Mehserle by asking the former officer why he had not told anyone — during his 10 minutes on Oakland's Fruitvale BART station platform after the shooting or a friend who stayed with him for a week after the killing — that he had made a mistake.
Mehserle said he could not remember talking to anyone on the platform after the killing even though a security camera shows him talking with several people.
Stein destroyed Mehserle's defense that he was justified in using a taser because he thought Grant had a gun:
The prosecutor asked, “When you watched the video, did you hear yourself say, I’m going to tase him?” Mehserle replied, “No.”
The prosecutor continued, “Why did you fire (what you thought was a taser) when Officer Pirone was in such close proximity (because the tase would shock anyone touching the victim)?” Mehserle answered, “I knew I had to act very fast with the taser.” The prosecutor fired back, “Because you were going against a gun?”
“Yes,” said Mehserle. Then the prosecutor asked him what effect does being tased have on the body. He answered that tasing makes the body tighten up. Stein then unloaded his legal nuclear bomb on Mehserle when he asked him, “Why would you want a hand holding a gun to constrict?” Mehserle answered, “I wasn’t thinking about that.”
-SF Bay View
Stein then went on to get the defendant to admit that he never called for medical assistance, despite Mehserle's contention that it was an accidental shooting. Mehserle also admitted that he never told any other officer on the platform that he had intended to tase Grant, even though Pirone had lied about this previously.
Stein also pointed out that Mehserle was living with members of the defense team, and that he had rehearsed all of his theatrics through roll playing with the defense team. Mehserle admitted to preparing for the case "for more than an hour."
During his final arguments at the end of the trial, Stein destroyed the "I thought he had a gun" theory:
Stein asked the jury to think about why Mehserle never told fellow officers after the shooting that it was an accident. He also asked the jury to consider why Mehserle would stand up and release his hold of Grant if he truly believed Grant was reaching for a gun.
"The last thing you want to do is to create distance. You want to be on that person like white on rice," Stein said. "You are going to be on that person to make sure that gun is not coming out."
That is, unless you're pissed off at someone and you also feel entitled to shooting a black man in the back because, hell, Oakland Police Department Sergeant Pat Gonzales got away with it when he murdered Gary King, Jr. in 2007.
The next day, Rains called another hired gun to the witness stand. Greg Meyer, a retired LAPD Captain who has made a lucrative career for himself testifying in over 100 criminal and civil cases on police use-of-force issues, including the infamous Rodney King trial, where he determined that the LAPD officers who savagely beat King had NOT used "excessive force." The defense team paid Meyer $375 an hour plus $3,000 a day for his appearances in court. Meyer testified that he spent 80-90 hours on the case reviewing hundreds of pages of documents, interviewing Mehserle, and watching videos from the night Grant was killed, and came to the conclusion that the defendant did have the right to use his taser on Grant.
However, like Schott before him, his testimony was picked apart during cross-examination by Stein. He was even made to admit that the BART officers on the scene did not initially have a reason to arrest Grant.
Stein's cross-examination of Meyer also revealed that the expert reached his opinions on the case in March 2009 before a preliminary hearing was conducted and before BART conducted its own internal investigation into the shooting.
Meyer admitted that he had not reviewed all the evidence in the case, even though his website states, "I've learned to not form opinions before reviewing all the evidence."
Stein also informed the jury that Meyer had worked on behalf of one of the Los Angeles police officers who beat Rodney King.
Stein also pointed out that Meyer's conclusion was based on his accepting as fact that Grant was resisting arrest and digging for something in his pocket.
Stein asked if Meyer's opinion would change if he knew that Grant was pushed on top of someone's legs, had 500 pounds of force against his back and was yelling out that he could not breathe.
All three facts have been presented as evidence in the case, but Meyer said they did not change his opinion. Meyer said he rejected the prosecution's belief that Grant was not resisting arrest but rather had his arm trapped beneath him.
"I rejected it. It doesn't wash," Meyer said. "It doesn't matter to me. The evidence, in my view, was that he was intentionally keeping his arm under his body."
I guess it's too much to ask that a professional liar being paid over $3,000 for his services would act as if he were a credible witness.
The Defense wrapped up its case by calling coroner Dr. Thomas Rogers and 3 other BART officers who were on the Fruitvale BART station platform the night Mehserle killed Grant, as well as another officer.
When the coroner testified about the details of Grant's death, Grant's mother, Wanda Johnson, fell ill and had to leave the courthouse in an ambulance. She was complaining of arm and neck pain.
Later on in the day, Stein had an expert witness testify that Mehserle’s fully-loaded pistol weighed 780 grams more than his taser. The taser also happens to be yellow, not black like his gun, and was holstered on the left side of his body as opposed to the right side, where his gun was holstered. In addition, Mehserle had to holster his taser shortly before unholstering his gun.
Stein asked three different BART officers who were on the platform the night Mehserle killed Grant, whether or not Mehserle ever said that he had made a mistake, and all three said no.
Stein also asked Mehserle's friend and fellow Officer Terry Foreman if Mehserle ever spoke about the shooting with him in the days that followed the shooting.
Foreman, who was called by Mehserle for support after the shooting and who drove Mehserle home and days later to his attorney's office in Sacramento, said Mehserle never mentioned that the shooting was an accident.
During the trial proceedings in Los Angeles, 3 black journalists were banned from the courtroom: JR Valrey of the SF Bay View newspaper (for allegedly threatening to shoot witnesses, but he was later allowed to attend subsequent proceedings), Anyi Howell of Youth Radio (for charging his cell phone), and the Editor of the LA Sentinel (for being from the largest black newspaper in LA).
The political climate that allowed six out of the seven Black males under 40 to be banned from the courtroom is consistent with the track record of this case: The trial was moved out of Alameda County because of defense claims that Blacks in the area could not be unbiased, and no Black people were picked to sit on the Los Angeles jury.
-SF Bay View
Judge Robert Perry, who was involved with the infamous Rampart CRASH Unit scandal, has allowed the jury to consider charges of Murder 2, Manslaughter, and Involuntary Manslaughter. The jury may begin deliberating as soon as today.