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Grant family attorney asks Mehserle judge to block defense testimony request

The lawyer for Grant's family, John Burris (front), and Grant's mother, Wanda Johnson, speak with reporters outside the Los Angeles courthouse on May 7, 2010. (James Keith/California Beat)

The attorney for BART shooting victim Oscar Grant’s family has filed a request to be removed from the potential witness list of the defense for Johannes Mehserle, the former BART Police officer charged with second-degree murder in the shooting.

Mehserle’s defense attorney, Michael Rains, had asked to subpoena Grant family attorney John Burris, saying that Burris could provide “testimony concerning threats or intimidation” of witnesses who “may be reluctant to give testimony which would ostensibly be helpful to Mr. Mehserle and harmful to Mr. Grant.”

At a Feb. 5 news conference, Burris blasted BART for disclosing the personal information of some of his clients who are potential witnesses in Mehserle’s trial, saying that the disclosure potentially endangered his clients’ well-being.

Acording to California Beat legal analyst Preston Thomas, any knowledge of threats to Burris’s clients is information that the defense could potentially use during the trial to hold the witnesses that he represents to the stories they previously told.

But Burris said that he was speaking in “general terms about the possibility” that his clients could be labeled as snitches, and that he had heard of “no specific threats” to his clients when he made those statements.

“I don’t have any relevant evidence” for the defense, Burris said.

While Burris said that Rains’s subpoena request had been denied by the court, he remains on the list of potential witnesses for the defense.

“I want my name to be removed,” he said, in part because as long as he remains on the witness list, it’s possible he may be covered under the gag order which prevents trial participants from sharing information with reporters.

“Feels like it,” Burris said, when asked whether he believed that Rains had made his request in order to silence him. Burris has so far been outspoken in his criticism of BART and Mehserle in the media.

Burris has hired attorney Carl Douglas, who worked with Johnnie Cochran on O.J. Simpson’s defense, to represent him when his request is heard at a pre-trial hearing June 1 in Los Angeles, where the trial has been moved due to concerns about whether Mehserle could get a fair trial in Alameda County.

Contact Steven Luo at