A valiant, last-minute effort by Michael Rains was defeated one day before opening arguments in People v. Johannes Mehserle.  On June 9, Judge Robert Perry denied three motions by the defense aimed at keeping out testimony and evidence that may have a negative impact on the former transit officer.

Mehserle is charged with murder in the death of 22-year old Oscar Grant.  Mehserle was videotaped shooting an unarmed Grant the morning of January 1, 2009 at the Fruitvale BART station. 

Rains submitted motions on June 3 asking the court to exclude former officer Anthony Pirone’s use of a racial slur against Oscar Grant and to either exclude the testimony of Sophina Mesa or to allow him to question Mesa about Oscar Grant’s probation and parole status.

Mesa is the girlfriend of Oscar Grant and mother of their 4-year old daughter.

Although Rains argued in the Pirone motion that Grant first used the racial slur against the officer, he requested that it be excluded on the grounds that it would be prejudicial to his client.

“I think what we see the District Attorney doing … is they are trying to … smear the defendant Mr. Mehserle with a portrait of a racially-motivated shooting when, in fact, there’s absolutely not a lick of evidence to attach him to that sort of motivation,” said Rains.  

Judge Robert Perry said the statement was part and parcel of the chaotic events on the platform that morning and that the statement should be admitted.  “I just think it would be misleading to try to say, well, we’re not going to get into one statement allegedly made …,” he said.

Regarding the testimony of Sophina Mesa, Rains had argued that her testimony would be redundant and that the prosecution wanted her included to evoke sympathy for Oscar Grant.

Mesa and Grant, who had been traveling together on the train on New Year’s Eve 2009, communicated by cell phone after being separated. The prosecution argued that Ms. Mesa’s testimony would not be redundant but would in fact offer additional evidence of Grant’s state of mind that morning in that Grant had a fear of Tasers. 

To buttress that claim, the prosecution stated it planned to introduce a photo that Grant took on his cell phone of Mehserle pointing his Taser at him.

The prosecution’s point is that this evidence contradicts the defense’s position that Mehserle was confused and pulled out his service revolver by accident when he meant to Tase Grant.

Finally, on June 7, Rains submitted a motion requesting that only the defense’s video compilation be allowed in court.  Six videos of Oscar Grant’s shooting by Johannes Mehserle are known to exist and have been compiled by both the defense and the prosecution. Rains had argued that the prosecution’s version had errors in it but the judge did not feel that was reason to exclude it.

“I think the District Attorney, if their synchronized video has weaknesses, I think it hurts their case immensely to have the defense present someone like Mr. Schott who can come in and say, “this is why it’s bad and this is why this is more accurate.”  And perhaps the District Attorney’s expert can shoot holes in Mr. Schott’s “synchronized video,” he stated, denying the motion.

Michael Schott is a forensic video image analyst and an expert witness for the defense.

A press conference by the Los Angeles Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant has been called for noon on the day of opening statements and a major demonstration will take place on Monday, June 14 beginning at 8 a.m. at the courthouse in downtown Los Angeles.

Oakland Local will be live tweeting from the trial during breaks.  Follow @OscarGrantTrial.

See Oakland Local’s other
coverage of the Oscar Grant case here