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High Profile Police Murder Trial Underway

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Originally published on Youthradio.org, the premier source for youth generated news throughout the globe.

By: Ariel Edwards- Levy

LOS ANGELES -- So it begins. All eyes are on Judge Robert J. Perry's Los Angeles courtroom as the opening arguments being in a controversial murder trial.

Ex-Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer Johannes Mehserle is accused of fatally shooting Oscar Grant, who was unarmed, last January. Mehserle pleaded not guilty, saying through attorneys that he had meant to Taser the man. Prosecutors say the shooting was intentional.

The case made big headlines and triggered growing racial tension in Oakland, causing days of protests. The Superior Court in Alameda made the decision to move the trial to Los Angeles due to the large amount of publicity the case had attracted in the Bay Area.

For his part, Judge Perry has cracked down on media access to the trial. As a result the facts of a case which entered into public consciousness though cell phone videos shot by bystanders, will reach the world largely by print.

Television cameras are banned from the courtroom, as are computers, cell phones, and all other recording and communication devices.

The judge also rejected Bay Area broadcasters' request to allow TV coverage of the trial, telling the L.A. Times that allowing in cameras would be "detrimental to the search for truth and justice." In addition, Judge Perry extended an already-issued gag order forbidding both sides to discuss the case.

It's not the only controversial part of the trial.

Supporters of Grant are upset that the selected jury, which was chosen in just two days, has no black members. It's made up of six whites, five Latinos, and one East Indian.

Jack Bryson, whose sons were with Grant the night of the shooting, told the Associated Press the decision felt like a slap in the face.

"This case came all the way to Los Angeles after the judge in Alameda County said they couldn't get a fair and impartial jury there."

"This is the best you can do, and you did this in two days," he said. "We could've stayed back in Oakland for this."

Judge Perry has also ruled on several pre-trial motions that could impact the case, which most analysts say could favor the defense. Last month, Perry allowed in evidence that Grant had previously resisted arrest by the San Leandro Police Department, and that he was a parolee. Later he also ruled that the defense could bring in a video expert to interpret the videos taken of the killing. The expert will testify that he saw Grant and a friend attempt to attack officers.

However he also ruled that Grant's girlfriend could give her version of the night of the shooting, and that the prosecution could introduce the fact that a racial slur was used by Mehserle and another BART officer.

Footage shows Officer Anthony Pirone, who was also fired, shouting, "Bitch-ass n-, right? Bitch-ass n-, right?" at Grant, the San Francisco Chronicle says. Mehserle's lawyer says he was repeating what Grant said.

The trial is expected to last for three weeks.

Continuing Coverage:
  • Youth Radio will be hosting a chat on Twitter with reporters and observers at the LA County Superior Court every day that the trial is in session at 12:30PM PDT. Search for the hashtag #OGTrial, or follow @youthradio for updates.

Youth Radio/Youth Media International (YMI) is youth-driven converged media production company that delivers the best youth news, culture and undiscovered talent to a cross section of audiences. To read more youth news from around the globe and explore high quality audio and video features, visit Youthradio.org