After a Los Angeles jury found former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle guilty of involuntary manslaughter today, Oscar Grant’s family spoke angrily about their disappointment with the verdict.
“We as a family have been slapped in the face by a system that has denied us true justice,” Grant’s uncle Cephus Johnson said at a news conference in front of the Los Angeles courthouse where the trial was held.
Johnson said the family does not blame the jury for the verdict, but rather the system. He also said that he hopes supporters will express their First Amendment rights in a nonviolent way.
Grant’s mother, Wanda Johnson, also spoke briefly at the news conference.
“My son was murdered, he was murdered, he was murdered,” she said emphatically. “And the law has not held the officer accountable the way that he should be held accountable.”
When asked what message she wanted to send to supporters in the Bay Area, Johnson replied, “This battle is not over.”
John Burris, the attorney for Grant’s family, was also incensed by the decision.
“As you can imagine, we are extremely disappointed with this verdict,” Burris said. He said the family was hoping for a second-degree murder verdict.
Both Burris and Cephus Johnson expressed surprise at the brevity of the jury’s deliberations.
The verdict, Burris said, essentially implies that the fatal shooting was a “negligent act.”
Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums spoke in Oakland after the verdict was read, starting with an explanation about why he thinks this case in particular has garnered so much attention.
Dellums said it is a combination of elements that includes the availability of cell phone video technology, which allowed the public to view footage of the shooting.
He said racism still exists, and that many of the city’s young people identify with Oscar Grant.
Dellums then addressed the verdict, echoing the sentiments of Grant’s family. “This does not have to be the end of the road,” he said.
He then asked the people of Oakland to “show the nation” that Oakland can respond to adversity peacefully and respectfully.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued a statement of his own.
“I encourage Californians to remain calm in light of the verdict and not to resort to violence. I have spoken to Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums and have assured him we are well prepared to assist in maintaining order.”