Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Jury deliberations a critical stage for family of Oscar Grant III

Jury deliberations stalled today in People vs. Mehserle, the murder trial of the former Bay Area Rapid Transit District police officer (Johannes Mehserle) who shot and killed 22-year-old Oscar Grant, III. on January 1, 2009.

Today some activists and media reported to the courtroom before hearing that one juror called in sick and community activists/leaders in L.A. and Oakland stand ready to give their reactions to the verdict.

But the family of Oscar Grant, who mostly addressed media about trial proceedings over the last three weeks, took a rare opportunity to voice their concerns over other issues surrounding the trial.  Cephus Johnson, Grant's uncle, said today that they are in a very critical stage for various reasons.

"At this point it's very stressful.  There's much anxiety and, of course, much sleepness night.  This issue concerningthe fact that the jury has to start all over again regarding the deliberations has brought to our attention that we may have to stay another week," said Johnson, also referred to as "Uncle Bobby".

A lot of their stress also stems from financial hardship caused by taking time off work, the expenses of back-and-forth travel from Oakland to Los Angeles for more than 3-4 weeks now, and just the entire ordeal, from Grant's shooting, to having to hear the former BART officers lie in court, he said.  

For one, he told the Final Call and L.A.-based journalist Jasmyne Cannick (on this issue for the Los Angeles Sentinel Newspaper and KJLH Radio) during an exclusive session in the Sentinel's conference room this morning, they are disappointed that they have not received support from the political sector, especially those that seem to be utilizing their names and the name of Oscar Grant.

Their claims "that they've actually been with this movement since the beginning has caused us to raise some questions of their true motives.  Besides the issue of the jury and the question of these new faces that we're seeing now that seem to have taken notice of the case causes us to raise questions as to what this is all about," Johnson said. 


Grant's mother, Wanda Johnson, attended the session, however, under advisement of her attorney, could not interview.  She was also accompanied by Student Minister Keith Muhammad (Muhammad Mosque #26B/Oakland), her brother, Kenny Johnson, Jack Bryson/father of 2 sons-Grant's friends/involved in the incident, Beatrice Muhammad (Student Protocol Directress, MM#26B) and Aidge Patterson (organizer with the L.A. Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant).

"There have been people that have stood with us, a coalition of activists from Oakland and Los Angeles, they've stood with us, been with us, supported us, embraced us, loved us, even financially helped us in ways they could, been to court with us, and utilized their 1st Amendment right to speak to the injustice of police brutality and for that we are much indebted and thanks go forward to that community, and to that very few politicians and clergymen, and I mean very few, thanks, but to all of the others that have risen to the occasion now it really bothers me that now they can proudly state our name, and what they're doing, and how they're helping, and yet, we haven't even met them," Johnson said.

One of the 'new found friends' includes a non-profit organization out of the Bay Area that has so far raised some $5,000 in the name of Oscar Grant, Johnson said.  They found out about the foundation that is geared to help youth in Oakland over the 4th of July weekend. 

"That could be a good thing but the sad part is we knew nothing of this yet the solicitation of money has been advertised and implemented and thereby actually given, yet we're starving, trying to get here to L.A. without any real financial help.  It does affect us personally when Oscar Grant's name can be used for that purpose, but no one speaks to us as a family and even ask us or give an idea that this is something they might consider, so it's hurtful because we're straining to be here and we might have to be here another week," he said.

Johnson then openly thanked those who have backed the family and the movement for justice for Oscar Grant:

Councilwoman Desley Brooks-Oakland, Lynette Sweet and Carol Ward Allen (BART Board of Directors), Assemblyman Sandre Swanson for AB1586, J. Alfred Smith, Pastor, Allen Temple, Rev. Tommy Smith of Hayward, and the most faithful that they have come to truly love, Min. Keith Muhammad, whom he said has been at their side from the very beginning.  Grant said that others, like Pastor Gordon Humphreys, who kept his church doors at Olivet Missionary Baptist Church open for free since the incident, has allowed the community's town hall meetings to flow.

"The community needs to know that these are the types of people they can go to when there are true issues in the community that need to be expressed and for support," Grant said.

In Los Angeles, he and Min. Keith pointed out the L.A. Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant, Student Minister Tony Muhammad (Nation of Islam Western Region Representative), Dr. Anthony Asadullah Samad (the Urban Issues Breakfast Forum), and Dominique DiPrima (the Front Page @ KJLH), Rev. Lewis Logan (Ruach Christian Community Fellowship) among others.

Min. Keith proceeded to point out that the L.A. community needs to be as informed about the case as the Oakland community has been but the media has done a good job of keeping much of it out of the local press.

People need to know that Oscar Grant was killed within 3o seconds of a police officer yelling racial epithets at him.  The videos and other courtroom testimony contradicts much of the officers' statements and defense claims, he said.

"The devil is in the details and you'll find that there was a lot of devilishment that went on in this case. The coverups began immediately.  If there were not a video tape we would not be sitting here right now," Min. Keith said.

Jack Bryson, whose two sons, Jack and Nigel, were with Grant when he was killed almost 19 months ago, said he can't let this one go and that the system must hold BART and its former officers accountable (referring to since-fired officers Anthony Pirone - whose aggressive acts prompted 5 witnesses to begin filming his interaction with Grant and his friends on the train, and who called Grant a b---h a-- n----r, and Marysol Domenici.  Trial evidence and other videos revealed that there was no angry mob blocking her from reporting to the platform as she told investigators. 
"Each police officer and each expert that took the stand committed big time perjury just to stick together on White supremacy.  Remember Marion Jones?  They took her from her baby for six months because she said she didn't use steriods.  Oscar Grant was murdered and these officers were able to come into court and tell lie after lie after lie and I think this is something that the Justice Department should look into," Bryson said.

The L.A. Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant has set up an info line for anyone wanting information on activities once the verdict hits.  

Text message the word TRIAL to 213-973-3434.  

At 5 p.m. on the day of the verdict there will be a mass action in Leimert Park in Los Angeles at 43rd and Degnan.

In Oakland, according to Final Call sources, a mass action is planned to take place at 14th and Broadway.

Look for post verdict coverage in the print edition of the Final Call Newspaper next week and back here.

Also, more on this interview will run in this week's issue of the L.A. Sentinel.


Photos/Charlene Muhammad, Beatrice Muhammad

(White cap - Cephus "Uncle Bobby" Johnson / Grey suit-tan tie, Min. Keith Muhammad / Blue warm up jacket, Wanda Johnson / Blue t-shirt/Oscar Grant tattoo, Jack Bryson / Grey Oakland sweatshirt, Kenny Johnson / light blue t-shirt, Aidge Patterson / tan shirt/brown head wrap, Beatrice Muhammad)  Sis. Jasmyne Cannick (white shirt/hair locks) and I (headpiece) are at the other end of the table)

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