Former BART officer pleads not guilty to murder chargeSubmitted by christopher X on Thu, 01/15/2009 - 19:51
Former BART officer pleads not guilty to murder charge
(01-15) 14:47 PST OAKLAND -- The former BART police officer who shot an unarmed man to death on an Oakland train platform early New Year's Day pleaded not guilty today to murder charges.
Johannes Mehserle, 27, entered his plea in a brief hearing in Alameda County Superior Court.
Mehserle was charged with murder Tuesday by District Attorney Tom Orloff, who said Mehserle had committed an intentional, unlawful act when he shot 22-year-old Oscar Grant to death at the Fruitvale Station. Mehserle and other BART officers had pulled Grant and several acquaintances from a train about 2 a.m. while investigating reports of an onboard fight.
Grant was lying face-down, with both hands behind his back, when Mehserle shot him, Oakland police investigators said.
Mehserle has not offered a public explanation for the shooting and declined to talk to criminal investigators. He quit Jan. 7 after two years on the job rather than be interviewed by BART internal affairs inspectors who could have brought a disciplinary case against him.
Orloff said he expected the case to go to trial, where a jury would probably have the option of convicting the former officer of first- or second-degree murder; convicting him of a lesser charge of voluntary or involuntary manslaughter; or acquitting him. Orloff said he would fight any defense effort to move the case out of Alameda County.
Mehserle's defense attorney, Christopher Miller of Sacramento, has not addressed the issue of a possible change of venue. He described his client Wednesday as a "fine young man" and said he expected Mehserle would be cleared.
Oakland police summarized their view of the case in a court filing asking a judge to sign Mehserle's murder warrant. They said Grant put up a brief struggle with two officers on the train platform but had been restrained and had both arms behind him when Mehserle shot him.
Several legal experts said they could recall no instance of a police officer in California being charged with murder for an on-duty incident, and Orloff said he had never brought such a case in more than 14 years on the job. (full article at link)