LOS ANGELES — A former San Francisco Bay area transit police officer should be convicted of murder because he lost control and intentionally shot an unarmed black man on a train platform, a prosecutor told jurors Thursday.
Alameda County Deputy District Attorney David Stein gave an impassioned two-hour closing argument, saying the actions of defendant Johannes Mehserle on New Year's Day 2009 don't jibe with his contention that he mistakenly pulled his handgun instead of his Taser stun gun.
Stein pointed to testimony by two other officers who said Mehserle, 28, told them he thought Oscar Grant was going for a gun during the incident that was videotaped by bystanders.
"The defendant's desire to punish, to belittle, and to mistreat Oscar Grant not only resulted in chaos, distrust and disorder, it resulted in the death of an innocent person," Stein said. "For that he must be held liable."
Stein said Mehserle let his emotions get the better of him when he arrived on the platform and saw a raucous crowd watching other officers detained Grant and his friends after a report about a fight.
"He lost all control," Stein told the jury. "That's why you are here."
Mehserle pleaded not guilty to murdering Grant, 22, and resigned from the Bay Area Rapid Transit police force after the shooting.
His trial was moved from Alameda County to Los Angeles because of excessive media coverage and tensions that have boiled over into violence in Oakland.
Defense attorney Michael Rains began his closing argument before the lunch break, saying jurors shouldn't convict Mehserle as payback for a shooting that the lawyer called a tragic accident.
"It's not a forum to address or redress social injustice," Rains said. "That's not your duty."
After arguments by both sides, the jury will begin deliberating whether Mehserle should be found guilty of second-degree murder or the lesser offenses of voluntary or involuntary manslaughter.
Rains told jurors his client should be acquitted.
Stein methodically went through his case, posing three questions to jurors: did Grant resist arrest just prior to being shot; did Mehserle believe Grant was going for a gun; and did the defendant intend to pull his gun?
A dozen people, some aboard the train, said they didn't see Grant resist arrest, Stein said. Some said they saw another officer, Tony Pirone, strike Grant, he added.
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Pirone was fired from the transit agency in April and is appealing the decision. He is not facing criminal charges.