Thursday, December 3, 2009
George Assigns Local Judge to Try BART Shooting Case
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Chief Justice Ronald M. George has assigned Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert J. Perry to preside over the murder trial of a former Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer who shot an unarmed passenger in the back on the floor of a train platform in Oakland.
George on Tuesday assigned Perry to the trial of Johannes Mehserle, who is charged in the fatal shooting of 22-year-old Oscar Grant at the Fruitvale BART Station in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day this year.
Alameda Superior Court Judge Morris D. Jacobson last month ordered that the case be tried in Los Angeles County, following a written order granting a change of venue request by defense counsel in October.
George assigned Perry pursuant to his authority under Article VI, Sec. 6 of the California Constitution after Jacobson also ruled that an Alameda trial court judge could not be assigned to preside over the case in Los Angeles due to inadequate judicial resources at the Alameda court.
Mehserle and other officers detained Grant and several other passengers on the platform after responding to reports of a fight on a crowded BART train returning from San Francisco. Mehserle and another officer were restraining Grant, who was prostrate and allegedly resisting arrest, when Mehserle stood, drew his gun and shot Grant once in the back.
Mehserle subsequently resigned from the BART police force without speaking to investigators. His defense attorney, Michael Rains, has maintained that Mehserle meant to fire his Taser stun gun, not his pistol.
Perry, 66, has served on the Superior Court since his appointment by then-Gov. Pete Wilson in 1992. Before that, he served 11 years in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Los Angeles office as an assistant U.S. attorney and headed the narcotics section and later financial investigations.
A Republican, he was born in Glendale and attended Claremont Men’s College before serving in the U.S. Army from 1965 to 1967. Perry worked as a soap salesman for Proctor & Gamble in Los Angeles after leaving the Army and then in market research for wheelchair manufacturer Everest & Jennings while attending Loyola Law School.
After graduating in 1972 and earning admission to the State Bar, Perry joined the Department of Justice the following year.
In 1976, he entered private practice with Marshall, Lawthorp, Richards & Hibbs in Oxnard, but returned to the Justice Department the following year and served as chief of narcotics from 1978 to 1980 and then as chief of financial investigations the next five years.
Perry re-entered private practice in 1985 with Epstein, Becker, Mulkeen & Green, specializing in unlawful termination defense until his appointment to the bench. He also specialized in white-collar criminal defense as an associate of attorney Douglas Dalton.
On the bench, Perry recently presided over the case against a boyfriend of former Playboy model Anna Nicole Smith and two doctors accused of providing her with sedatives and opiates. He also presided over the trial of Rafael Perez, a former LAPD officer who pleaded no contest in 2000 for his role in the Rampart corruption scandal.
A writer, Perry has penned “Dirty Money,” which dealt with the most sensational cases he prosecuted while supervising narcotics investigations as an assistant U.S. attorney, and the recently-published “Sharpening Your Trial Skills: What To Say—How To Say It.”
He also writes screenplays, and at one time grew avocados on a 40-acre orchard in Ventura County.
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company