ZERO.

That's how many African-Americans were selected to sit on the Los Angeles County jury that will determine whether Johannes Mehserle is guilty of murder for shooting Oscar Grant III New Year's Day 2009 on the BART Fruitvale train platform.

There are seven whites, four Hispanics and one East Indian. Eight women, four men.

How's this for an ironic twist?

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Morris Jacobson ordered a change of venue in the racially charged case because he believed the former BART officer could not get a fair trial in the jurisdiction where the alleged crime occurred. The stupid protesters who vandalized downtown Oakland should give themselves a round of applause.

Mehserle's attorney, Michael Rains, asserted that African-Americans in Alameda County were too biased against the white former BART officer to be trusted to serve on a jury.

He made the preposterous suggestion that most of us blacks are so weak-minded, we would buckle under community pressure to convict — regardless of the facts.

I guess the defense won't have to worry about that in Los Angeles. Rains used three of his peremptory challenges to remove the final three potential black jurors.

In recent days, there have been loud protestations over the racial composition of the Mehserle jury.

Grant's family members and friends are outraged. They worry that a jury without blacks guarantees that Mehserle will walk.


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The fact is, in this day and age, it's naive, and frankly racist, to assume that a person will think and act a certain way based solely on his or her race.

Race is part of who we are, but it is not the entirety of our being.

There is no guarantee that black jurors would have been more inclined to convict Mehserle of murder.

In the "Riders" case, an African-American was foreman on a jury that voted to acquit the officers.

There are African-Americans — trust me — who'd probably be more inclined to give Mehserle a medal than to convict. Unless you're the defense, would you really want any of them seated on the jury just for the sake of having a black face present?

A half dozen of the jurors have law enforcement connections, either through family, friends or working with police. Yet does that mean they'll automatically side with Mehserle?

Cops can be some of the harshest critics of misconduct in other cops. They know that every instance of bad behavior reflects badly on the entire profession.

A lot of those who protested Grant's killing were white.

Are we to presume that because their skin doesn't have as much melanin as mine, they would vote to acquit due to "white think?"

News flash!

There is a black president in the White House.

Barack Obama would never have been elected if every white person in this country who voted cast their ballot for the white candidate.

This is 2010.

Not 1955 Mississippi, where an all-white jury seeking to preserve the "Southern way of life" rushed to acquit two white men accused of kidnapping and brutally murdering 14-year-old Emmet Till.

Nor is it 1992 Simi Valley, where an all-white jury impaneled from a bastion of white flight acquitted four police officers accused of beating Rodney King.

The absence of blacks on the Mehserle jury is not part of a racist conspiracy to enable him to get away with murder.

It's mostly a matter of demographics.

The number of black Angelenos has been steadily dwindling. African-Americans now make up about 9 percent of the population. Asians are 13 percent, whites 28 percent and Hispanics 47 percent. Blacks are also more likely to have financial hardships that prevent them from serving.

When you've only got 12 African-Americans in the group of 100 potential jurors, is it that surprising when none make the final cut?

The real problem is not that there are no blacks on the jury.

I'm more concerned about how the absence of African-Americans will be perceived.

Will some assume that the process is rigged if Mehserle isn't convicted of first-degree murder by a jury without African-Americans? Will they use that as an excuse to create more mayhem?

I doubt that Alameda County prosecutors would have allowed white supremacists to sneak onto the panel.

In the end, it's going to come down to what's in these people's hearts.

You can't tell that just from the color of a person's skin.

Tammerlin Drummond is a columnist for the Bay Area News Group. Reach her at tdrummond@bayareanewsgroup.com or on Twitter/Tammerlin