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BART shooting trial jury can consider lesser charges against police officer, judge rules

July 1, 2010 |  7:29 am

With closing arguments set to begin Thursday, jurors in the trial of a former transit police officer charged with the shooting murder of an unarmed man in Oakland will be allowed to consider manslaughter charges, a Los Angeles judge ruled Wednesday.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Robert J. Perry rejected a defense argument that jurors should be allowed to consider only second-degree murder in the case against Johannes Mehserle. But Perry also ruled that prosecutors could not argue for a first-degree murder conviction.

Mehserle, 28, shot in the back and killed Oscar J. Grant III as the victim lay on a Bay Area Rapid Transit station platform on New Year’s Day 2009. Prosecutors have argued that the shooting was intentional. The officer told jurors that he mistakenly drew his firearm instead of his electric Taser weapon as he struggled to handcuff Grant, 22. 

While second-degree murder carries a maximum sentence of 15 years to life in prison, voluntary manslaughter carries up to 11 years and involuntary manslaughter up to four years in prison. If convicted, Mehserle could receive considerably more years behind bars under an enhancement that alleges he used a firearm.

The case was moved to Los Angeles amid concerns about extensive pretrial publicity in the Bay Area.

-- Jack Leonard