*Mainstream media coverage has a tendency to jump from one big story to the next. And that’s why most people have forgetton about Oscar Grant, the San Francisco Bay area man who was shot in his back by a transit officer as he lay face down on a BART train platform on New Years Day 2009.
Johannes Mehserle is the first police officer in California’s history to be indicted for murder for an on-duty shooting. And that – if for no other reason – is why this trial should stay at the forefront of news coverage. Mehserle resigned from the department days after the shooting.
Since Grant’s shooting thirteen months ago the trial has been moved to Los Angeles County because a Bay Area judge said an impartial jury in Alameda County would be hard to find. A trial date has not been set, but the judge who will preside over it has been named.
Judge Robert Perry is the judge who ordered Anna Nicole Smith’s ex-boyfriend and doctors to stand trial on charges of drugging Smith to death. Now Perry has been assigned to try Mehserle for Grant’s murder. Perry also has ruled there will be no cameras in the court room during the trial whenever it is set. Some activists say without live media coverage of the trial justice might go unserved. And I agree, because even the most obvious acts of police brutality complete with witnesses or caught on video have gone unpunished even in a court of law.
If you are available to demonstrate outside and around the courthouse during the trial, help with fundraising or offer space in your homes for Bay Area activists who will travel to LA to participate in the trial that is expected to last several months, Southern California activists want to hear from you. They are calling on people who can attend court hearings during the day when most people are at work to build their own network of reporters who will give their own perspective on the trial.
Since the invention of Youtube and other social networking sites traditional media outlets no longer have a monopoly over all the news that is fit to print and broadcast. So while America continues to fight the battle against police brutality one thing we can celebrate is our freedom of speech and access to information.
Last week Sophina Mesa, the mother of Grant’s 5-year-old daughter, settled for $1.5 million with BART as part of a $50 million wrongful death lawsuit against the agency and several employees.
In another shooting, Houston area police Sargent Jeff Cotton was charged with first-degree aggravated assault by a public servant. Cotton is free on $20,000 bail after he shot Robert Tolan in the driveway of his parents’ home in late December 2008. The ten year veteran of the Bellaire Police Department said he suspected Tolan of stealing the SUV he was driving, even while Tolan’s parents tried to tell the sargent they owned the vehicle as their son lay face down in the driveway at gunpoint. The victim’s father, Robert Tolan, Sr., is a former MLB player, and the family has filed a civil law suit aganst the city of Bellaire.
If convicted Cotton faces a maximum possible sentence of life in prison. His trial has not been set.