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Ear to the Ground

BART Cop Convicted of Involuntary Manslaughter

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Posted on Jul 9, 2010
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A still from cell phone video shot by fellow train passengers shows the fatal incident on Jan.1, 2009.

The Los Angeles jury hearing the case of the BART cop who killed an unarmed Oakland man on New Year’s Day 2009 went with the least serious of three possible charges, convicting the former officer of involuntary manslaughter. He faces two to four years in prison. —JCL

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Ex-BART cop Johannes Mehserle, charged with murder for shooting and killing the unarmed Oscar Grant on New Year’s Day 2009, has been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter. It is the least serious of the three charges against him and comes with a sentence of 2-4 years, though he can now petition for probation alone.

Mehserle, a 28-year-old two-year vet with the BART police force, shot the 22-year-old Grant in the back while he lay face down on an outdoor BART train platform in Oakland. The shooting was caught on cell phone video that was widely distributed that night, igniting several nights of protests in Oakland. City officials have been frantically preparing for months for large scale protests that are now expected in the city tonight.

Merhserle maintained throughout his trial that the shooting was a tragic accident, and that he meant to pull and fire his Taser, rather than his gun. Mehserle claimed that he confused the two weapons and that Grant and several friends who were also detained with him that night presented a dangerous threat to the police as they resisted arrest. The prosecution argued that it’s inconceivable that Mehserle could have accidentally fired his gun and that Grant had been fully complaint with police orders, thus presenting no threat.

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By Tobysgirl, July 11, 2010 at 2:52 pm Link to this comment

I still say, only the Black Panthers ever dealt effectively with police brutality. And look what happened to them.

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By T. A. Madison, July 11, 2010 at 10:06 am Link to this comment

“Involuntary?” The sheer fact is that Johannes Mehserle voluntarily drew his weapon. 

The behavior of the Judge and his instructions must be called into question.

1) An all white jury in this trial establishes unfair and unacceptably limiting perspectives to be able to clearly access and evaluate the case adequately.

2) The abusive racist behavior of the Officers at the scene of the shooting was not included nor is it likely to be grasped by an all white jury.

3) The willingness to consider “accidental” behavior is altered entirely when considering when applying the term to anyone who puts a gun in their hand.  With the exception of an ignorant child this implies a vastly different context from other occasions that have tragic lethal consequence.  The use of a sidearm in itself completely changes the meaning and context of the word “unintended”.

4) Mehserle was a trained professional, licensed to carry a weapon.  Because of his training and office he must be held to a higher standard of responsibility to the public.  Given that office, “Oops” is no excuse. 

5) The obvious fact that a handgun is a lethal weapon, with a “safety” lock that must be disengaged to make the weapon operational, weighs heavily against the use of the terms “unintentional” or “inadvertent” in the assessment of the shooting.  The safety lock introduces another level of conscious responsibility into police behavior even if it otherwise could be considered inadvertent.

Therefore the options offered by the Judge were insensibly restrictive to the Jury.  They did not take into account any of these crucial mitigating circumstances that in their exclusion imply unacceptable bias.

I hope this miscarriage of justice will be appealed.

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By mike112769, July 10, 2010 at 7:28 pm Link to this comment

SOTEXGUY: From what I saw of the video, the victim was lying face-down between the cops feet with the cop standing over top of him. The cop then just reached for his gun, didn’t even look at it, pointed and fired.

The victim wasn’t posing any type of threat at all. He was talking, but not moving. The cop had no reason to even be using a taser on the guy.

This cop should’ve gotten a much harsher penalty. At least ten years. If he had been anything other than a police officer, he would. If he ever does any jail time, I expect he will probably be killed, so I’m betting he gets probation.

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By SoTexGuy, July 10, 2010 at 1:41 pm Link to this comment

Anyone with real experience of law enforcement could not label them all as ‘intelligent’ or middle class.. Otherwise I am in agreement with the outspoken Mr. Ellis on this one..

What Law Enforcement (and the Justice department) has become is a powerful Cartel or Family.. ostensibly (and in fact occasionally) serving the public and our interests.. Yet cases like this illustrate that they exist in a more rarefied climate, not held to the same moral, ethical or legal standards as are average (middle class) Americans.

Their lives and well-being are something above and beyond that of the masses.. that they may be in some danger is always to be met with immediate and lethal force.. when they die or are injured it is something beyond the crises experienced by Americans not of their fraternity.. watch the news if you doubt all this.

It seems the dead man made two mistakes.. being of color is one.. but the most egregious error was not completely submitting to the authorities.. on the streets that is a potentially capital offense.. the punishment for which is to be carried out without any interference from the judicial branch!

When this reality becomes formally encoded in our laws (as I expect could well happen soon) it’s the end of our free society..

Adios!

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PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, July 10, 2010 at 12:27 pm Link to this comment

We have too many police.

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By jr., July 10, 2010 at 6:33 am Link to this comment

Considering the circumstances, i’m still wondering why the officer was reaching for his “taser” and not for his handcuffs;  the victums was, obviously, posing no threat.

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By Tobysgirl, July 10, 2010 at 6:18 am Link to this comment

Our children needn’t make any excuses for us because Americans will never take responsibility for their violent nation. “Why don’t those black people just get over slavery!” As though the supposed end of slavery was a gate to liberty and opportunity. “We fought in Viet Nam to protect our freedoms!” Huh? “We do so much for countries all over the world and they just don’t ‘preciate it!” Odd, how people don’t appreciate being murdered and having their resources stolen.

So, no, I don’t expect future generations will have to make excuses.

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By FRTothus, July 9, 2010 at 5:03 pm Link to this comment

As if there was any doubt as to who and what the police  
protect (and who protects them), and who is getting
“served”.
We who are alive today, seeing the end of our Republic,
what excuses will our children make for us?  That we
didn’t see it because it didn’t speak German or
brandish swastikas?

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By grumpynyker, July 9, 2010 at 8:18 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Involuntary manslaughter for murdering a handcuffed man
lying prostrate on the ground.  Guess you dumb-ass,
ignorant honkies believe any bullshit law-enforcement
pr flunkies tell you.  Torch the vineyards next time
black Oakland.

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