Lawyers Clash Over ‘Taser Confusion’ in Mehserle Trial

Lawyers Clash Over ‘Taser Confusion’ in Mehserle Trial

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Monday's proceedings in the trial of former police officer Johannes Mehserle for the killing of an unarmed man in Oakland, Calif., began with the testimony of Greg Meyer, a veteran police consultant.

Meyer retired from the Los Angeles Police Department in 2006. He was called by the defense to offer his expert opinion in arrest procedures. He is also certified as an instructor of M-26 and X-26 Taser weapons.

The X-26 is the model that was carried by Mehserle on Jan. 1, 2009, when he shot and killed Oscar Grant on a subway platform in Oakland.

Mehserle was an officer with Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART). 

Under questioning by Mehserle’s attorney, Michael Rains, Meyer stated that based on his analysis of the videos, testimony and statements, Oscar Grant was resisting lawful arrest that early morning on the Fruitvale station platform.

 Meyer stated more than once throughout the morning that Grant was “physically resistant” to both former officers Tony Pirone and Mehserle. “When a person will not show their hands, they are physically resistant,” he said.


Rains, the defense attorney, has maintained that the resistance Grant put up to Mehserle’s lawful attempt to arrest him is the reason for Mehserle’s decision to deploy his Taser on Grant.

Mehserle has testified that instead of drawing his Taser, he mistakenly drew his service revolver and shot Grant in the back.

 As Rains went through Mehserle’s other options for subduing Grant (kicking, baton, pepper spray), Meyer answered, “He could have, but he did not. The Taser was an acceptable use of force.”



Meyer said he would not advise the use of a baton or standing up and kicking a person in the ribs because it “might inflame the passions of those around you.” 

Meyer, who said he was familiar with Mehserle’s Taser training, authored an article on a number of cases where officers could have used their firearms but chose the Taser instead. He also said that the Taser training the former BART officer received was not adequate enough to prevent “Taser confusion.”



As an expert on Tasers and their use, Meyer said he had identified at least two common themes in cases of “Taser confusion”: the individuals involved always drew their firearm with their dominant hand, and only one round was fired each time.

“Police training is two or three rounds until you can tell if a person has been subdued,” he said.



On cross-examination, Alameda County Deputy District Attorney David Stein asked what Meyer’s relationship was to Taser International, the company that makes the model X-26 that Mehserle was using. Meyers answered that he teaches at the company’s nationwide academy and “kind of” acts as an adviser.

“They call me and I answer questions,” he said, but added that he is not on their board and draws no salary from them.



Meyers does however, get compensated for being an expert witness in Mehserle’s defense: $5,000 as a retainer, $3,500 per court appearance, and a fee of $300 per hour. 

As a consultant, Meyer also testified for the defense in the trial of officers who were accused of beating Rodney King in 1992. Meyer’s testimony was that those officers did not use excessive force in subduing their suspect, King.



Stein asked questions about the other officer present, Pirone. Did Pirone use excessive force against the 22-year old Grant? Stein asked.

“I don’t recall anything where he was over the line; in viewing the video tapes, nothing jumped out at me as, ‘Why did he do that?’”

Stein questioned Meyer’s opinion that Grant was resisting. “Did you consider the extent to which another officer was restraining Mr. Grant? Did you consider Mehserle’s and Pirone’s weight with vests and gear – 500 pounds?” asked Stein.

“I considered it and rejected it,” said Meyers. “It was very clear to me that Mr. Grant was using his muscles over several seconds to keep from giving his right arm to Officer Mehserle.”

 Mehserle weighed approximately 250 pounds and stood 6-feet-four inches on Jan. 1, 2009.

Closing arguments in the case may be held on Thursday, July 1, 2010. The defense is scheduled to call its last witness today, Tuesday, June 29.
 

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