LOS ANGELES — A Los Angeles judge Friday morning said no cameras will be allowed in the murder trial of a former BART police officer accused of fatally shooting an unarmed Hayward man during an arrest.
During a pretrial hearing, Judge Robert Perry denied media requests for cameras, explaining that based on his experience, "the presence of cameras in the courtroom are detrimental to the search for truth and justice."
Perry also declined to lift a gag order in the high-profile case of Johannes Mehserle, which was moved from Alameda County to Southern California over concerns Mehserle would not receive a fair trial in the Bay Area because of racial tensions inflamed by the case. Mehserle is white and the victim, Oscar Grant III, was black.
Mehserle, who turned 28 Tuesday, is charged in the killing of Grant, 22, on Jan. 1, 2009, on the platform of BART's Fruitvale station in Oakland. The shooting was video-recorded by several bystanders, shown across the Internet and television, and subsequently used last spring as evidence during a preliminary hearing.
The case sparked a round of racially charged protests in Oakland, with supporters of Grant asserting that race played a factor in the death.
On Friday, about 100 protesters gathered outside the Los Angeles courthouse, demanding justice for Grant.
Mehserle's lawyer, Michael Rains, has said Mehserle meant to use his stun gun on Grant but accidentally fired his handgun instead.
Perry told Rains and Alameda County deputy district attorney David Stein, the prosecutor in the case, that he knows very little about the case and has not seen any videos or read any stories related to it. He suggested that the potential jurors also may not know much and that the trial could start by mid-May.
"My only intent is that both sides receive a fair trial," Perry said. "I'm coming in completely cold on this matter."
Mehserle sat stoically before the judge as members of Grant's family sat directly behind him in the packed courtroom with several sheriff's deputies monitoring the proceedings.
Rains told Perry he intends to file a motion requesting Mehserle's $3 million bail be reduced and renew another motion asking that the Alameda County District Attorney's Office be removed from the case. The next pretrial hearing is set for Feb. 19.