I watched the shooting of Oscar Grant online before I saw it played in court. Grant, a young black man, was shot while lying facedown on the platform at BART's Fruitvale Station in Oakland by Johannes Mehserle, a white BART police officer. The incident was caught on video with cell phones by several passengers on the BART platform and replayed thousands of times on YouTube.
In the first few days of Mehserle's trial, the video of Grant's shooting has played repeatedly. It is not an easy thing to make sense of what happened that night and why. It is not an easy thing to sit in court with Grant's family. You see family members wince each time they view his final moments, over and over again. Grant's uncle, Cephus Johnson, told me "It's very stressful to sit in court. The old wound is being reopened."
The trial of the former transit officer Mehserle, moved to Los Angeles after protests and intense media scrutiny in the Bay Area, involves this simple question: Was the shooting intentional or accidental?
The prosecution, led by Alameda County Deputy District Attorney David Stein, wants to prove that Mehserle's training and discipline took a back seat to anger and aggression.
Michael Rains' defense strategy is to prove that this was a tragic accident, and that Mehserle meant to shock Grant with a Taser, not shoot him with his gun.
There is something missing at the trial, something that made the case what it was: There are no cameras, no cell phones, no computers and no audio recordings in the courtroom.
Judge Ronald Perry ruled against a media request to televise the case. Each day I go into court, I turn off my computer and my phone. I take out a notepad and a pen. While it would be easier to use technology to capture this trial as it unfolds, I'm glad that cameras and recording equipment aren't allowed in the court.
Don't get me wrong - we have the responsibility to report on the trial. But it is vitally important that the jury weigh the facts of the case without the pressure of cameras. This way, no side can play to a television audience. And frankly, this trial, chock full of gore and expletives, would be rated TV-MA.
Just because there are no cameras in the courtroom doesn't mean I want this trial to go quietly. It is an emotional case, and it needs to be tried on the merits. Fairness requires transparency and that means the public needs to pay attention to the case. An incident like this can easily happen anywhere, not just Oakland.