Volatile Bay Area Trial Moving to Southern California

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The Mesherle trial will reportedly move to Southern California.

    The trial of a former BART police officer accused of killing an unarmed man early New Year's morning will take place in Southern California.  

    The state Judicial Council informed Alameda County Judge Morris Jacobson that he can move the trial to either Los Angeles County or San Diego County, according to KTVU Channel 2 News.

    Johannes Mehserle, 27, allegedly shot 22-year-old Oscar Grant on the platform of the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland. The death sparked protests, that at times turned violent.  It has also renewed debate over the current state of Bay Area race relations.

    The shooting and legal proceedings that followed have been among the most watched stories of 2009.

    Mehserle's lawyers admitted during his client's preliminary hearing that Mehserle killed Grant, but claimed it was "a tragic accident." He says Mehserle meant to use his Taser, but fired his gun by mistake. Police were called to the station in response to reports of a fight on a train.

    Judge Jacobson put himself in the position of moving the trial when he granted a motion for a change of venue back in October.

    In his ruling, Jacobson cited extensive media coverage and noisy protests outside previous court hearings as factors in his decision.

    Mehserle's lawyer, Michael Rains convinced the judge that because of the intense focus on the case "justice won't be done" if the trial stayed in the Bay Area. Prosecutor David Stein's failed to argue that the move was "premature, unwarranted and unjustified."

     Oscar Grant's uncle, who serves as the family spokesman, told NBC Bay Area's Jodi Hernandez that his family is hoping the trial will be held in Los Angeles.

    Hernandez says the judge could make his final decision public Wednesday.