Los Angeles or San Diego?



The question of whether ex-BART cop Johannes Mehserle will ever be convicted of murdering Oscar Grant may come down to whether the case is moved to Los Angeles or San Diego counties. According to the Trib, state officials have recommended those two locales to Alameda County Judge Morris Jacobson, who is expected to make his decision on where to move the trial on November 19. Jacobson had previously ruled that Mehserle can't get a fair trial in the East Bay because of extensive media coverage and the possibility of jurors being faced with protesters each day at the Oakland courthouse.

Of the two counties, Los Angeles is more like Alameda County, both in terms of demographics and skeptical attitudes about police - considering its history with the Rodney King beatings. By contrast, San Diego County is far more conservative, and thus more likely to be sympathetic to Mehserle, the Chron notes. Not surprisingly, Grant's family wants the case to be in Los Angeles, while it's a safe bet that Mehserle's defense team will lobby hard for San Diego.

The stakes are high because the makeup of the jury will likely have a significant impact on the outcome of the case. The reason is that the fatal shooting was captured on videotape, and so the question of whether Mehserle mistakenly shot Grant, as he contends, or killed him in a fit of rage will likely come down to the jurors' attitudes both toward police and black suspects. In addition, if Jacobson selects San Diego, and the case ends up in front of a mostly white, conservative jury that votes for acquittal, a significant portion of the population, particularly in Oakland, will view the outcome as being illegitimate - much like the Rodney King verdict.