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Jury deliberations postponed in racially charged murder trial

By the CNN Wire Staff
Oakland residents demand justice at a March rally honoring Oscar Grant.
Oakland residents demand justice at a March rally honoring Oscar Grant.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Deliberations postponed due to a sick juror; expected to resume Wednesday morning
  • Oakland police and mayor warn people not to react violently to any verdict
  • Johannes Mehserle, a former BART police officer, is accused of shooting unarmed man
  • Trial was moved from Alameda County to Los Angeles, California

(CNN) -- Jury deliberations in a racially charged murder trial of a white former transit police officer accused of killing an unarmed black man al in Oakland, California, were postponed Tuesday because of a sick juror.

The deliberations are expected to resume Wednesday morning in the case, according to the Los Angeles Superior Court.

Jurors deliberated for nearly three hours Friday afternoon without reaching a verdict in the case against Johannes Mehserle. Court was closed Monday due to the extended holiday weekend.

Mehserle is accused of fatally shooting 22-year-old Oscar Grant on a California train platform on January 1, 2009. Mehserle was a Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer at the time.

He could be found not guilty, guilty of murder, or guilty of a lesser offense, such as manslaughter.

The shooting was captured on a bystander's cell phone video camera. The video was widely circulated on the internet and on news broadcasts, and it spurred several protests and riots in and around Oakland.

The trial was moved from Alameda County to Los Angeles due to pretrial publicity.

Bay Area Rapid Transit police were called to Oakland's Fruitvale station after passengers complained about fights on a train. Officers pulled several men, including Grant, off the train when it arrived.

The video showed Mehserle pulling his gun and fatally shooting Grant in the back as another officer knelt on the unarmed man. Mehserle said at the trial that he intended to draw and fire his Taser rather than his gun.

Video: Verdict near for racially charged trial
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Mehserle resigned his position a few days after the incident and was later arrested in Nevada. He was released on a $3 million bond.

If the juror who called in sick Tuesday is not able to attend Wednesday, a court official told CNN deliberations could once again be postponed. A separate juror -- referred to as juror 4 by court officials -- is being replaced Wednesday by an alternate juror. Juror 4 was excused due to a pre-planned vacation.

Meanwhile, police in Oakland are bracing for riots as a verdict nears in the racially charged trial. An Oakland Police Department website has messages from the police chief and the mayor of Oakland warning people not to react violently.

"We anticipate that regardless of the verdict reached by the jury, demonstrations could occur in downtown Oakland, and potentially throughout the city," one of the messages said. "We will not tolerate destruction or violence. We live here, and we love Oakland. We understand that the community is grieving, and we are in this together. We will get through this together."

Grant's family filed a $50 million wrongful death lawsuit against the officers involved in the incident.

In January, the transit system agreed to pay $1.5 million to settle the suit. The money will provide financial support to Grant's young daughter.

CNN's Stan Wilson contributed to this report.