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An open letter to readers about our BART Shooting trial project

To our readers:

Eighteen months later, after dozens of protests through the streets of the Bay Area and a polarizing outcry from Bay Area residents, opening statements are expected to begin this week in the second-degree murder trial against former BART Police Officer Johannes Mehserle, who shot and killed Oscar Grant on New Year’s Day 2009.

This Tuesday, jury selection continues in Los Angeles County Superior Court in Downtown Los Angeles, where the trial was moved because the defense argued Mehserle could not receive a fair trial in Alameda County. A jury, selected from a pool of potential jurors who filled out questionnaires distributed in court last week, will be seated by Wednesday.

On Thursday, opening statements in the long-anticipated trial will begin.

Fueled by graphic videos recorded by passengers on the Fruitvale BART platform when Mehserle shot and killed Grant, the case has attracted intense publicity that touched off violent rioting in Oakland and ignited a fierce debate about why the former officer shot and killed the unarmed passenger.

The California Beat has partnered with The Campanil to provide unbiased and thorough daily courtroom reporting from inside the Mehserle trial to bring you those developments. Because of the distance and a court order barring cameras from recording legal preceedings, we recognize that news information from the trial may be limited.

Our reporting will connect Bay Area residents who have followed the story from New Year’s Day 2009 to legal developments that are crucial to being an informed citizen in the San Francisco Bay Area.

We recognize the significance of this historic trial: never before has a police officer been charged with a murder committed on duty in California.

The racial undertones of the shooting — Mehserle is white, Grant was black — have generated friction and an continuing debate about relations between police and Oakland residents that elicited passionate reactions from throughout the community.

This public service journalism project has been months in the making. Our goal is to allow our online audience to be a witness to the court’s pursuit of the truth in determining whether Mehserle murdered Grant, or if it was an accident.

Our reporting will be featured on a special BART Shooting page where you’ll find previous reporting from Los Angeles and the Bay Area. Breaking trial updates will be sent out by reporters in Los Angeles via @californiabeat and @oaklandbeat on Twitter. You can also track our stories on our special Facebook page created for supporters of the project.

Coverage of the trial is funded in part through Spot.Us, a non-profit website that allows independent news organizations and journalists to raise money through reaching out to community members and asking them to support a specific story.

We continue to fund raise for this project to cover the continuing costs associated with providing reporting from Los Angeles. We ask for a donation in any amount payable through Spot.Us, or directly to the California Beat via PayPal.

We also invite your perspectives and contributions to enhance our coverage too. Contact us at mehserletrial@californiabeat.org, or feel free to comment on our articles via our comments system.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Courtney
Editor in Chief
The Campanil
eic@thecampanil.com

Steven Luo
Project Editor
California Beat
sluo@californiabeat.org

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