Mehserle Takes the Stand - NBC Bay Area

Mehserle Takes the Stand



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    A courtroom shocker from Los Angeles Thursday as former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle took the witness stand in his own murder trial.

    It was the first time the officer has spoken publicly about the shooting.

    Mehserle is on trial for the murder of BART passenger Oscar Grant.   People in court said Mehserle sounded nervous on the stand.  They said he acted embarrassed when his lawyer Michael Rains asked him about being voted "most huggable" in high school. 

    Grant's uncle, Bobby Johnson, said Mehserle did not say much about the night  his nephew died during his 90 minutes on the stand Thursday.  Johnson said Mehserle focused on his childhood, Taser training and the first moments after he arrived at the Fruitvale station early Jan. 1, 2009.

    Court was adjourned just before Mehserle was getting to the portion of the story where he shot Grant.  He will take the stand again Friday morning.

    The fact that Mehserle took the stand came as a surprise to just about everyone.  On Wednesday lawyers and the judge announced that closing arguments could happen as early as next Tuesday, well ahead of the four weeks the trial was expected to take. That lead legal experts to believe Mehserle would not take the stand.  

    They say calling him as a witness was a true courtroom bombshell.

    Attorney Royal Oaks, who has sat in on the trial from the beginning, said he thinks the defense called Mehserle out of a point of confidence and not weakness.  The KTVU legal analyst said he thinks Mehserle's lawyers thought he would come across to the jury as a likeable and huggable guy.

    Earlier in the day a video expert told the jury Grant didn't have both of his hands behind he his back when Mehserle shot him on an Oakland platform.
    Michael Schott was called by the defense to help bolster their claim that Mehserle struggled for 12 seconds to grab Grant's hands before the gun went off.  They also claim Mehserle intended to use his Taser and grabbed his gun by accident.
    Prosecutors have contended that Grant was complying with officers when he was shot.
    On Thursday, Schott broke down videos taken by bystanders frame by frame showing jurors key movements prior to the shooting. Schott said Oscar Grant's left hand was free as Mehserle drew his handgun and then shot him in the back while he lay on his stomach.  Schott testimony is a win in itself for the defense.  The prosecution tried to keep him off the witness stand.
    Mehserle has pleaded not guilty to murdering Grant.

    His trial was moved from Alameda County to Los Angeles because of intense media coverage and racial tensions.