LOS ANGELES – LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jurors in the upcoming trial of a former transit officer charged with murdering an unarmed man can hear about an incident in which police reported the man ran from officers and resisted arrest, a judge ruled Friday.
Superior Court Judge Robert Perry granted a defense motion to allow some details about the arrest history of Oscar Grant, who was shot in the back and killed at an Oakland transit station on New Year's Day 2009.
Ex-Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer Johannes Mehserle, 28, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Grant.
The trial was moved from Alameda County to Los Angeles due to widespread media coverage and racial tensions sparked by the case.
Attorney John Burris, who represents the family of Grant, vehemently disagreed with the judge's decision.
"We think it's very hurtful and should not be included because Mehserle was unaware of Mr. Grant's background prior to the fatal shooting," Burris said.
Mehserle's attorney Michael Rains argued Grant's prior run-in with the law was relevant to his client's case, although the issue wasn't brought up at length during a preliminary hearing last year.
Perry read from a police report accusing Grant of running from San Leandro officers during a traffic stop in October 2006. He was shot with a Taser stun gun and resisted arrest as officers tried to handcuff him, the report states.
Perry said the incident would help shed light on Grant for jurors.
"I must allow some evidence of this prior incident," Perry said. "The fact he resisted before, and the way he did it before" is important.
Authorities said Grant was carrying a gun in that incident that he tried to get rid of during the foot pursuit.
A .380 pistol was found about 20 feet from the site of the arrest, and Grant was later sentenced to 16 months in state prison for a gun possession charge.
Perry, however, refused to allow testimony that Grant, 22, had a gun or that he was on probation.
Central questions for jurors in the upcoming trial involve whether Grant, who was black, was resisting arrest before he was shot in 2009 and if Mehserle, who is white, properly used force.
The shooting was videotaped by several bystanders and triggered riots in the San Francisco Bay area. The footage also was shown across the Internet and used as evidence during the preliminary hearing.
Rains has argued Mehserle mistakenly pulled out his handgun instead of his Taser gun before the New Year's shooting.
Perry also denied a defense motion to allow police officers to be part of the jury pool. Among his other rulings:
— Spectators at the trial can't wear supportive ribbons, buttons or T-shirts. "This is not a sporting event," the judge said.
— Prosecutors can refer to Grant as a victim, and defense attorneys can refer to him as a detainee or arrestee but not as a suspect.
The attorneys involved in the case are under a gag order and cannot discuss the proceedings outside the courtroom.
Jury selection is expected to begin June 1, with opening statements on June 14.
Associated Press Writer Terry Collins in San Francisco contributed to this report.