The former BART officer charged with killing an unanarmed passenger makes his first appearance in a Los Angeles courtroom Friday.
BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle is charged with killing Oscar Grant III at the Fruitvale station in Oakland on Jan. 1, 2009. Mehserle's lawyer, Michael Rains, has admitted that his client shot and killed Grant but claims that the shooting was accidental because Mehserle meant to use his Taser stun gun on Grant but fired his gun by mistake. Mehserle has pleaded not guilty.
Security will be tight for Friday's pretrial hearing and includes two metal detectors. Protesters started gathering outside the courthouse well before the trial was set to begin. About 40 protesters were marching and chanting in front of the courthouse demanding justice for the victim, 22-year-old Oscar Grant. About two dozen Los Angeles police officers and sheriff's deputies were monitoring the crowd.
Attorneys in the case say they expect Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Robert Perry will schedule court dates for future hearings on pretrial motions and may also discuss a possible starting date for Mehserle's trial.
Court officials have said that Mehserle's trial may not start until the end of this year but it's also possible that it could start this summer if a courtroom is available. The trial will be held in the same courthouse where O.J Simpson was acquitted for murder.
Mehserle, 27, is charged with murder for the shooting death of Grant, a 22-year-old Hayward man, on the platform of the Fruitvale station shortly after 2 a.m. on Jan. 1, 2009. Mehserle and other officers were responding to reports that there was a fight on a train.
On Oct. 16, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Morris Jacobson ruled that Mehserle's trial should be moved out of the county because the case has received a large amount of publicity and created "a high degree of political turmoil" and other factors that could endanger Mehserle's ability to get a fair trial.
Mehserle is free on $3 million bail.
Bay City News contributed to this report.