Alameda County Superior Court Judge Morris Jacobson today granted a defense motion to move former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle’s murder trial away from the county because of the extensive publicity his case has received.
Mehserle, who is free on $3 million bail, is charged with murder for the shooting death of unarmed passenger Oscar Grant III, 22, at the Fruitvale station in Oakland early New Year’s Day after he and other officers were called to the station in response to reports of a fight on a train.
Mehserle’s lawyer, Michael Rains, admitted during Mehserle’s preliminary hearing in June that Mehserle killed Grant but claimed that it was “a tragic accident” because Mehserle meant to use his Taser device on Grant and fired his gun by mistake.
Rains told Jacobson at a hearing on the defense’s change of venue motion last week that if Mehserle’s trial isn’t moved out of Alameda County because of all the pretrial publicity it has received, “justice won’t be done.”
But prosecutor David Stein said the defense’s change of venue motion was “premature, unwarranted and unjustified” and said a survey by jury experts hired by the defense that supports moving the trial was “neither credible or reliable."