Mehserle Judge: Murder Not an Option For Jury

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBC Bay Area
    Oscar Grant, 22, who was unarmed, was shot and killed by former BART Officer Johannes Mehserle after Mehserle and other officers responded to reports that there was a fight on a BART train.

    The judge in the Johannes Mehserle trial made a crucial decision Wednesday. He threw out the charge of first degree murder Wednesday morning.

    That decision is considered just as important as the evidence in the case. Superior Court Judge Robert Perry said the shooting of Oscar Grant happened "in a manner suggesting an absence of premeditation."  He said evidence is "clearly insufficient to support a first degree murder charge, but could reasonably support second degree murder."

    Mehserle has pleaded not guilty to murdering Grant on New Year's Day 2009.

    Jurors have the day off and instead the lawyers are making arguments prior to juror instructions. Those arguments continued Wednesday mid-morning over lesser charges, which include voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. Reporter Jodi Hernandez is in court and says the judge has indicated he's intends to include voluntary manslaughter, but was still considering involuntary.

    In the end Perry ruled that the jury will be given the option of both voluntary and involuntary manslaughter charges.

    Mehserle's lawyer, Michael Rains, wanted the jury to be able to consider only second-degree murder  or acquittal, so the judge's decisions Wednesday did not go his way.   East Bay attorney Michael Cardoza says Rains was going for an all or nothing approach.

    Closing arguments are scheduled Thursday.  The jury could begin deliberating by the afternoon.

    There was more drama outside the courtroom on Tuesday. Oscar Grant's mother, Wanda Johnson, was rushed to a hospital after having pain in her side. Doctors kept her overnight as a precaution.

    The trial is being held in Los Angeles but officials and businesses in Oakland are preparing for possible trouble once the verdict is reached. Late last week, Oakland city leaders sent out a few tips for people to keep their properties and vehicles safe, in case of post-verdict protests that could become violent.

    Oakland authorities call the preparation "Operation Verdict" and are spending Wednesday setting up a command center at the Port of Oakland.

    In a community bulletin issued Friday officials advised residents to park cars in a secure location, remove large trash bins from the curb and report any vandalism or destruction they see by calling 911.

    In the early weeks of 2009, protests turned into riots. Dozens of businesses were vandalized, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage.

    The worry is a verdict of not guilty, or even guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter, protests could turn violent again.

    Even before the trial began, protest organizers announced that they would meet at 16th and Broadway in Oakland at whatever time the verdict is announced. They said they would decide what to do and where to go once they know the outcome.