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Officer Mehserle Guilty in Racially Charged Oakland CA Grant Killing

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by hearit

hearit's picture
In The News

White (BART) Oakland police officer Mehserle has been found Guilty of Involuntary Manslaughter by a Los Angeles jury—after a nearly execution-style New Year’s 2009 Oakland shooting death of an unarmed black man, Oscar Grant. The killing—captured on video by fie witnesses--triggered riots and violence in what has been dubbed a racially motivated slaying and another example of police abuse.

Defendant in the racially charged trial, Johannes Mehserle, 28, swore in court testimony that he mistakenly drew and shot his gun--instead of his electric Taser weapon that the police officer claims he meant to use. The shooting death of victim Oscar Grant, age 22, was captured in video by five witnesses in the underground BART station. The New Year's Day 2009 confrontation of a black man, by a white police officer, caused rioting and damages in Oakland—as the community claims that the Grant shooting was racially based.

Prosecutors stated in the Court’s closing arguments that BART Officer Mehserle "lost all control" and intentionally shot Grant because Grant was resisting arrest.

In a rare move, the Mehserle court trial was physically moved all the way from Northern California to Southern California—to Los Angeles—following the racial tension and rioting in Oakland. Oakland residents expressed unhappiness over the trial move to Los Angeles—in a court trial that included only racially white jurors.

The Los Angeles County jury, which included four men and eight women deliberated only six hours--over just two days--before reaching its final verdict. The final jury included an alternate juror—who filled in for the final verdict--after the Mehserle trial was stopped for four days following the leave of an original juror who left on vacation.

Following verdict delivery, the Los Angeles-based jury expressed that it believes police Officer Mehserle's account--that the police officer had shot the unarmed Grant accidentally.

Four options were available to the jury for consideration: Second-Degree Murder, Voluntary Manslaughter, Involuntary Manslaughter, or Acquittal. The jury chose the least ‘Guilty’ charge of Involuntary Manslaughter—meaning officer Mehserle will probably be sentenced to only two to four years jail time in the Grant slaying.

The judge of the Mehserle trial had taken First Degree Murder off the table, and that decision had been upheld by the court—expressing no reason for First-Degree Murder charges to be considered for the verdict.

A jury can find a Defendant guilty of Involuntary Manslaughter if they believe the Defendant lacked the intent to kill, but that actions were so grossly negligent that the person should be held criminally responsible for the actions.

The Mehserle trial holds historic significance in the state of California-- the first time in state history that a law enforcement or police officer has been charged with Murder in the line of duty.

Protest has been planned in Oakland at the intersection of 14th and Broadway—City Hall—for weeks, awaiting the moment the Los Angeles jury verdict has been read. Police in Oakland, across the Bay to the east of San Francisco, were moved to a tactical alert status—fearing more riots and violence following the Mehserle verdict reading. Meanwhile, civic leaders and Grant’s attorney have appealed for calm from the community.

Demonstrations by supporters of Grant, a young father who worked as a grocery store butcher, were planned in Oakland and Los Angeles cities, following the verdict reading.

"We don't know if we're going to have a riot or a celebration, but either way we're going to have one," a protestor in downtown Los Angeles—at the courthouse—stated before the verdict was announced. In Los Angeles, news and media crews actually outnumbered protestors by four-to-one.

Video footage by five witnesses—taken on mobile or cellular phones--shows Mehserle shooting Grant in what appears a nearly execution-style gun shooting. Grant was lying face down on the train platform when he was simply shot in the back by Oakland BART Officer Mehserle—the officer then shown on video as holstering his gun immediately, and placing his hands on his head in seeming disbelief.

The Grant killing unleashed charges of police brutality and racially charged chaos—the night of Grant’s burial sparked a night of civil unrest in Oakland. Protestors smashed store windows and set cars on fire, vandalism throughout the Northern California city. Oakland Police Department arrested over 100 people on charges of vandalism, unlawful assembly and assault charges.

The initial Alameda County Superior Court judge in the Mehserle case—where the trial was physically moved to Los Angeles because of heavy pretrial publicity in Oakland, riots and potential riots--ruled that the jury could not consider a First-Degree murder charge. Judge Robert Perry held that there was too little evidence to show that the Grant killing was premeditated.

Had he been convicted of Second-Degree murder by the Los Angeles jury, officer Mehserle faced a sentence of 15 years to life in prison.

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