Update, 3:20 p.m. Friday: Johannes Mehserle, the former BART police officer convicted of killing passenger Oscar Grant III, was on the witness stand again Friday testifying about the circumstances surrounding the fatal Jan. 1, 2009, shooting.
Mehserle and BART are defendants in a federal civil rights suit brought by Grant’s father. On Friday, lawyers questioned Mehserle about his claim that he meant to draw a Taser, not his semi-automatic pistol, while he and other officers tried to subdue grant on the platform at the Fruitvale station in East Oakland.
Mehserle’s attorney, Michael Rains, argued that BART is culpable in the shooting because its Taser training was inadequate. But Mehserle testified that he had no problems with the training and had practiced drawing his Taser, positioned on his left side, with his right hand. When asked how he came to draw his service weapon instead of the stun gun, he said, “I’m not sure how it happened.”
Just as he did in his 2010 murder trial, Mehserle wept when he recounted details of the shooting. He broke into tears Friday as he recalled seeing a bullet hole in Grant’s back and realizing he had shot the suspect. Mehserle was acquitted of the murder charges in the earlier trial, held in Los Angeles, but convicted of involuntary manslaughter. He said during testimony on Wednesday that he disagreed with the jury’s verdict in that case.
This post update includes reporting from the Associated Press.
Update, 3:40 p.m. Wednesday: Former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle made an abbreviated appearance on the stand this afternoon — his testimony interrupted when the judge in the case recessed the trial until Friday. Here’s the Associated Press on Mehserle’s Wednesday testimony:
The former San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit police who shot and killed a man on a train platform said Wednesday he disagreed with a jury’s verdict convicting him of involuntary manslaughter.
Johannes Mehserle was called to the witness stand to testify in a civil trial stemming from a lawsuit filed by the father of Oscar Grant, who was killed on New Year’s Day 2009.
Grant’s father is suing BART, Mehserle and others over the shooting.Mehserle said he accidentally used his gun when he meant to use his Taser.
Mehserle paused for several seconds when he was asked whether he agreed with the jury’s verdict, which led to his serving about a year in a jail. After answering no, Mehserle wasn’t asked any follow-up questions about the verdict.
The father’s lawyer, Waukeen McCoy was just beginning to question Mehserle about the shooting of Grant on the Fruitvale station platform in Oakland when the judge halted testimony for the trial.
Mehserle’s testimony continues Friday.
Original post: Johannes Mehserle, the former BART police officer who shot and killed Oscar Grant III on New Year’s Day 2009, is appearing in court today to testify in a lawsuit filed by Grant’s father.
The elder Grant, who’s serving a life sentence for murder, is seeking unspecified damages for violating his civil right to a familial relationship with his son.
It’s not the first lawsuit in the case. BART has settled suits filed on behalf of Grant III’s mother and daughter for a total of $2.8 million. Last month, the agency settled a civil rights lawsuit brought by several of the men detained with Grant at the Fruitvale BART station in 2009. The reported payment in that case was $175,000.
And today is not the first time Mehserle has testified. He also appeared in his 2010 murder trial in Los Angeles, which resulted in a guilty verdict on the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter. The San Francisco Chronicle’s Demian Bulwa covered Mehserle’s testimony. Some of his impressions of that 2010 testimony:
After Mehserle’s seven-hour appearance ended Friday, there were two questions: Did Mehserle murder Grant? And now that he was a human being with a voice, was he the type who could murder Grant?
For the most part, the 28-year-old was calm, comfortable and careful, and he came across as the young and inexperienced officer that he is – or was. He often paused after questions, formulating his answers.
He cried almost every time he talked about the first moments after he shot Grant – a 22-year-old Hayward resident – in the back. Every time he did, a protest of faint muttering would emerge from Grant’s relatives and supporters in the gallery. They, too, were a factor in his testimony.
Judge Robert Perry was wary of letting emotion or stagecraft overwhelm Mehserle’s explanation for killing Grant – that he thought he had his Taser in his hand when he shot him while trying to handcuff him on Jan. 1, 2009, that “the thought of my gun never came into the equation.”
Perry told defense attorney Michael Rains to speed things up as he asked Mehserle for childhood memories, and he later cut him off – “That’s too much, Mr. Rains” – when he tried to drill deeper into his client’s grief.
Prosecutor David Stein at one point started to crank up an attack, but Perry admonished him: “Lower your voice.” He later stopped Stein from asking Mehserle if he ever felt compelled to apologize to Grant’s family.
Perry was most stern with the gallery, where a Grant supporter was arrested after telling Mehserle to “save those f-ing tears.” The judge bellowed: “I’ll clear the courtroom.”
Finally: Here’s the lawsuit, filed in 2009: