LOS ANGELES — A police use-of-force and Taser expert hired by Johannes Mehserle's defense team said during testimony Monday that the former BART officer had the right to use his stun gun on Oscar Grant III because the 22-year-old was resisting arrest.
But Greg Meyer's opinions given during questioning by Mehserle's defense attorney, Michael Rains, were somewhat overshadowed by the answers he gave to Deputy District Attorney David Stein during a lengthy cross-examination.
Meyer, a retired Los Angeles Police Department captain, was on the witness stand for almost the entire day discussing a wide range of topics, from Taser training to his analysis of specific actions recorded by passengers during the early morning hours of Jan. 1, 2009.
Meyer said Mehserle was correct in deciding to stand up and use his Taser on the Hayward man. Meyer also said that the roughly six hours of Taser training BART gave its officers was insufficient and most likely led to Mehserle's confusing his gun for his Taser and shooting Grant in the back.
Stein challenged Meyer's testimony. The prosecutor pointed out that the expert had testified on the behalf of at least one police officer involved in the beating of Rodney King and in the past mainly has testified in the defense of police officers accused of using excessive force.
Meyer is being paid $375 an hour for his work on the case and $3,000 a day for each court appearance.
Stein began his cross-examination of Meyer by revealing to the jury that the expert had testified that the officers who beat Rodney King did not, according to Los Angeles Police Department policy at the time, use excessive force against the black man.
Stein also revealed that Meyer formed his opinions in the Mehserle case in March 2009, months before a preliminary hearing in the case was held and before a BART internal investigation was completed.
Meyer also admitted under cross-examination that the circumstances surrounding at least half a dozen previous incidents in which an officer had confused a gun with a Taser were not similar to the circumstances surrounding the Mehserle case.
In the previous incidents, Meyer said, the officers had black Tasers that were mounted on the same side of the body as the officers' guns. Mehserle's Taser was yellow and mounted on the opposite side of his body from his gun.
Most of the officers in those previous incidents also immediately told those they shot and fellow officers that they had made a mistake, began to cry immediately after the shooting, and continually asked about the suspects' conditions as paramedics worked on those shot.
Mehserle's only reaction, according to witnesses, was to put his hands to his head and say, "Oh (expletive), oh God, I shot him."
Mehserle did not tell other officers he had made a mistake and did not ask about Grant's condition during the 10 minutes he stayed on Oakland's Fruitvale BART platform after the shooting.
Stein also pointed out, through questioning Meyer, that there are more than 13,000 police agencies in the United States that use stun guns and that stun guns have been fired almost 1 million times. Yet there are only half a dozen times when an officer had confused a gun for a Taser.
In fact, Meyer admitted, his analysis of the other cases prompted him to advise Taser International, the company that manufactures the stun gun, to warn police agencies Tasers should always be mounted on the opposite of a police officer's gun.
Meyer said he made that recommendation to the company Saturday.
Stein's questioning appeared to rattle Meyer enough for the expert twice to refer to Grant as the defendant in the case.
Meyer's analysis that Grant was resisting arrest also came into question as Stein suggested Grant might have been trying to move his right hand from underneath his body but could not because Mehserle and now-fired BART Officer Anthony Pirone had Grant pinned to the ground.
Meyer said he thought about that but rejected the conclusion.
"It doesn't matter to me. The evidence in my view was that (Grant) was intentionally keeping his arm under his body," Meyer said. "I rejected it. It doesn't wash."
Meyer also said Pirone's shouting of a racial slur in Grant's face could have caused others, including Mehserle, to react emotionally and physically.
"He shouldn't have done it," Meyer said of Pirone shouting a racial slur in Grant's face. "It was unprofessional, and if he worked for me he would have been disciplined."
Meyer completed his testimony about a half-hour before court ended for the day and was followed by William Lewinski, a retired professor who studies police reactions to stressful situations.
Lewinski will continue testifying today, and it remains possible that presentation of evidence in the case will be completed either today or Wednesday morning with closing arguments being made Thursday.