Looks like we're in for a lot more mania swirling around the trial of former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle, who is accused of committing murder when he shot Hayward resident Oscar Grant in the back on New Years Day. Let's go through the three-ring circus.
Ring #1: The BART board of directors, recognizing that much of the public has no confidence in its ability to investigate the incident fairly, has appointed an outside law firm to probe just what happened on that fateful night, who was to blame, and the degree of culpability. Oakland law outfit Meyers Navel has gotten the job, and Jayne Williams, who once served as Oakland's city attorney and is presently San Leandro's city attorney, will lead the investigation. In addition, BART has asked Reginald Lyles, an expert in civilian police review boards who has worked with the cities of Berkeley and Novato, to help it set up its own review board.
Ring #2: Mehserle's lawyer, veteran cop defender Michael Rains, appeared in court and asked the presiding judge to lift his gag order on the incident. As it stands, Rains told Judge Morris Jacobson, his client has no opportunity to present his side or even any remorse to the public, and the cumulative effect of the constant stories would poison any potential jury pool. Jacobson sternly refused Rains' request and went so far as to claim that Rains was actually seeking to try this case in the court of public opinion. In fact, the Chronicle reported, Morris claimed that Rains "wishes to influence a potential jury pool not in a controlled environment of a courtroom but in the press." Rains had some interesting company: the California First Amendment Coalition filed a separate motion to lift the gag order, but to no avail.
Ring #3: The Oakland civil rights organization ColorofChange.org has submitted a petition to Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff, asking him to file additional charges in the Oscar Grant case. Just before the shooting, BART cop Tony Pirone was caught on video racing up to Grant and punching him in the side of the head; Grant slid down the wall he was leaning against. ColorofChange.org is demanding that Orloff charge Pirone for his alleged role in the events that led to Grant's death. Orloff refused to talk to the press about the petition, but his office is still investigating the incident.
But wait, there's more. Ring #4: Last week, Oakland City Councilwoman and impulse-control-impaired poster child Desley Brooks was one of several people who shouted and screamed and generally raised hell over l'affaire Grant at a meeting of the BART board of directors. As some folks unfurled a banner with Grant's picture on it, others demanded that both BART's police chief and general manager be fired for their actions following the Grant shooting. At one point, Brooks and BART director Joel Keller got into such a heated exchanged that an incensed Keller flashed a flier with pictures of murdered Oakland residents on it, and demanded to know what Brooks was doing about their deaths. The sight of the flier so provoked the mob that several men and women charged toward Keller, and BART cops poured into the room. Keller calmed everyone down, told the cops to "back off," and later apologized to Brooks.
And that's your week in lethal BART news! We're just glad there weren't any bomb scares lately.
Take This Job and Love It
More news on the bad news that is our lives. Alameda and Contra Costa County leaders commissioned a study on just how long the recession will last in the East Bay, and the answer, courtesy of UCLA economist Levan Efremidze, is at least till the end of the year. In addition, the initial momentum out of the recession will be mighty slow and sluggish. But Efremidze adds that the East Bay's extensive green energy industries leave it well positioned for the long term. As for the short term, the Bay Area Business Confidence Survey has published a survey that indicates 48 percent of Alameda County businesses and 41 percent of CoCo firms plan to lay off more employees in the next few months. So get ready for shabby chic, East Bay residents — it's the new black.
The Environmental Protection Agency is about to declare a majority of the Bay Area's shoreline "impaired," a designation that means it's filled with piles of disgusting garbage, and local cities will be fined if they don't get serious about cleaning it up. Before this, only Oakland's Lake Merritt was blessed with such federal attention. ... Oakland solar energy firm BrightSource Energy has signed a massive contract with Southern California Edison, in which the company will build solar plants in the Mojave Desert and provide enough electricity to light 845,000 homes. ... Oakland City Councilman Larry Reid tried to get the City Council to enact a 10 p.m. curfew for minors during the week, but the proposal failed amid jeers and catcalls.
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