Prosecutor David Stein and defense attorney Michael Rains completed their closing arguments today in the trial of former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle on a murder charge for the fatal shooting of unarmed passenger Oscar Grant III.
A Los Angeles County Superior Court spokeswoman said Judge Robert Perry began giving jurors legal instructions before their lunch break and continued giving instructions when they came back to court. Video equipment was set up in the jury room at 1:15, and deliberations began at 1:40. Jurors left at 4 p.m. today and will come back to court at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Rains has admitted that Mehserle shot and killed Grant, a 22-year-old Hayward man, at the Fruitvale station in Oakland shortly after 2 a.m. Jan. 1, 2009, after he and other officers responded to a report that there was a fight on a train.
But Rains claims the shooting was an accident and Mehserle, 28, who's free on $3 million bail, meant to use his Taser stun gun on Grant.
On Wednesday, Perry said jurors will have the option of convicting Mehserle of second-degree murder or the lesser charges of voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter. Jurors will also have the option of finding Mehserle not guilty of all charges.
The legal instructions Perry is presenting today explain the differences between the various types of homicide charges jurors will consider.
Back in Oakland, Mayor Ron Dellums and other community leaders scheduled a news conference at 1 p.m. to call for unity, peace and justice as the city awaits the verdict in Mehserle's trial.
In a statement, Dellums said, "We are calling on every person in our community to stand together, united in our commitment to bring peace to our streets and economic opportunity to our neighborhoods."
He said, "We acknowledge the anger and frustration that arises with the tragic loss of life in our community. That emotion needs to be expressed constructively and peacefully."
Dellums said community leaders are encouraging people to channel their emotions in positive ways.
He said community leaders will also discuss what other options are being considered no matter what the verdict is, such as a proposed federal civil rights investigation.
The news conference was to be held at Youth Uprising, located at 8711 MacArthur Blvd. in Oakland.
Among those expected to participate were youth leaders, the Urban Peace Movement, Youth Uprising, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, and faith leaders.