Johannes Mehserle is charged with killing 22 year old Oscar Grant in the back, as he was lying face down on a train platform in Oakland. The jurors will have to determine if grainy videotape of the shooting proves that Mehserle intended to kill Grant or if the shooting was just an accident as Mehserle says. Mehserle testified that he had intended to use his Taser but pulled his pistol instead.
The trial was moved to L.A. because of publicity in the Bay Area and the racial tensions surrounding the case.
Jurors have three possibilities for conviction: Second Degree Murder, which means Mehserle intended to kill; Voluntary Manslaughter, which means the killing was an unreasonable reaction to a perceived threat; or Involuntary Manslaughter, which meant he acted with criminal negligence.
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NBC legal analyst Royal Oakes says the jurors could have a hard time distinguishing the difference between the latter two charges.
“If it sounds subtle, and it is, the jury may be struggling with that,” Oakes said.
Jurors could also choose to acquit Mehserle, which some people believe could trigger a repeat of the violence that followed Grant’s killing.
"A case that was moved out of Oakland, a white police officer, the history of acquitting white cops, and now, on top of that, a jury with no African Americans," concerns L.A. community activist Earl Ofari Hutchinson.
Experts also tell NBC 4 prosecutors could have a very tough time getting a murder conviction. It has been 30 years since a Los Angeles jury convicted an on-duty police officer of murder.