LOS ANGELES — No black jurors will sit in judgment of former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle as he faces a murder charge in the killing of Oscar Grant III on the Fruitvale BART station platform early Jan. 1, 2009.
In a surprisingly quick selection process Tuesday, the prosecutor trying the case and Mehserle's defense attorney came to an agreement on a jury that includes seven white Los Angeles residents and what appears to be five Latinos.
In addition, at least four of the jurors have a connection to law enforcement, either by having police officers as friends or in their family or by having worked with law enforcement on neighborhood crime committees.
When the day began, five of the roughly 50 potential jurors were black; two were dismissed by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Perry. The other three black residents were dismissed by Mehserle defense attorney Michael Rains as part what is called perfunctory challenges.
Those challenges can be made by attorneys without stating a reason, but if an opposing attorney believes the requests for dismissals were made based on race, an objection can be made with the court.
Deputy district attorney David Stein did not make such an objection in open court, but after every request by Rains to dismiss a black juror, Stein asked for a private discussion with the judge.
Nevertheless, Perry never commented about Rains' decisions to dismiss the black jurors. About eight hours after both attorneys began asking jurors questions, they agreed on a jury.
"It's scary," said Jack Bryson, the father of two of the men who were with Grant the night he was killed. "Right now, the only faith I have is my faith in God."
Rains used three of his challenges to remove African-Americans from the jury, and used five others to remove two white residents and three Latinos.
Stein used seven challenges to remove jurors. Four of them were Latino, two were Asian and one was white.
The day began with both attorneys asking the potential jurors questions with the focus on the jurors' past experiences with law enforcement, their ability to put aside biases and their willingness to speak up against a majority opinion.
When questioning potential jurors individually, Rains appeared to select those who said they have had past bad experiences with law enforcement and who said they have suffered from racial discrimination in the past.
"It just comes with the territory of being black," one black female juror said about past racial profiling by police.
That potential juror said that even though she and her husband have been racially profiled, she could put aside her feelings and find Mehserle not guilty if the evidence proved it.
"I have no reservations about doing that," she said.
Another black female juror said that while she would not have a problem finding Mehserle not guilty should the evidence prove it, she knows her family in Chicago would.
"There are certain portions of my family in Chicago who are militant," the potential juror said. "So, yeah, if it were to result in something beneficial to the white defendant I am sure I would hear things from my relatives."
Stein asked jurors about their ability to put aside biases to judge the case fairly.
In other events, Rains asked Perry to forbid the prosecution from presenting its version of a synchronized video of the shooting. Rains said the prosecution's version of the synchronized video contains numerous errors that will confuse the jury.
Perry said he will rule on the motion in the course of the trial.
Also, Stein objected to two motions made last week by Rains, who was seeking to prevent the jury from hearing that another officer used a racial slur just before the killing and to prevent Grant's girlfriend from testifying in the case.
Perry said he would rule on those motions before opening statements are made Thursday.