oakland.verdict.jpgAfter serving less than half of his two year manslaughter sentence for the 2009 death of Oscar Grant, former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle is expected to leave jail in a matter of weeks.

Mehserle is scheduled for a June 1 hearing, where it’s highly probable that, because of good behavior and time served, he could be a free man by mid-June say Corrections Department officials.

Grant’s family expressed hurt and shock at Mehserle’s possible early release. “It would be very painful emotionally just to see him not behind bars,” said Grant’s uncle Cephus Johnson.

Mehserle’s case drew national attention, and immediate local protests, after video was released of the officer shooting the unarmed Grant at point blank range at the Fruitvale BART station on New Year’s Day. Mehserle’s lawyers argued during the trial that the defendant was attempting to grab his Taser and only fired his gun accidentally. The jury largely agreed with the defense and cleared Mehserle of the charges of second degree murder and voluntary manslaughter–leaving only a single guilty verdict of involuntary manslaughter, which carried a two year sentence.

After the jury delivered its verdict, small riots broke out across Oakland where 80 people were arrested.

While the criminal case against Mehserle is over, a civil case litigated by Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris is currently working its way though the courts. The suit, filed by Grant’s family as well as seven friends with Grant when he was shot, is seeking $50 million in damages. Their case received a significant setback earlier this month when a District Court Judge ruled that BART, as an organization, cannot be legally held responsible for Grant’s death.

Nevertheless, the civil case against several current and former BART officers. “BART is still on the hook for damages,” says Burris, “if a jury finds that officers acted improperly.” The case is expected to go to trial sometime this fall.

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  • Cheshire

    That’s an irresponsible headline: regardless of whether you feel he committed murder or manslaughter, he was convicted of manslaughter.

  • Cheshire

    That’s an irresponsible headline: regardless of whether you feel he committed murder or manslaughter, he was convicted of manslaughter.

  • salsaman

    The jury in that case decided that it was manslaughter, not murder, so calling the killing “murder” is factually incorrect and irresponsible, regardless of what we might think about the case. In light of the verdict, please correct the erroneous headline.

  • salsaman

    The jury in that case decided that it was manslaughter, not murder, so calling the killing “murder” is factually incorrect and irresponsible, regardless of what we might think about the case. In light of the verdict, please correct the erroneous headline.

  • Eve Batey

    Thanks for your feedback! The headline has been changed to reflect your concerns.

  • Eve Batey

    Thanks for your feedback! The headline has been changed to reflect your concerns.

  • Soonerdiver

    I sounds like the family and friends have all jumped on the bandwagon! They get their “pound of flesh” and now they want there just monetary due… of course the lawyers will take their 40% off the top, then after taxes, etc. the family will not get what they feel they are owed.

    Good luck getting blood from a turnip… you stand a better chance of a big pay day by playing the Lotto!

  • Soonerdiver

    I sounds like the family and friends have all jumped on the bandwagon! They get their “pound of flesh” and now they want there just monetary due… of course the lawyers will take their 40% off the top, then after taxes, etc. the family will not get what they feel they are owed.

    Good luck getting blood from a turnip… you stand a better chance of a big pay day by playing the Lotto!

  • Karthik Rajan for Mayor

    This piece is well written and significant because many in the mainstream press are either avoiding the topic or not addressing the emotions it brings up.

    I have been reading your blog a lot more recently as I campaign for Mayor and want to congratulate you on the editorial decision-making, the reporting and, as in this example, the flexible corrections, as necessary.

    This is a space somewhere between the printed press and the wild world of blogging that The Bay Citizen so eagerly (and expensively) seeks. I would say you are succeeding at some level. keep up the good work.

    “shot to death: states it clearly, correctly and brings up some very necessary dialogue.

    It is important to note in this case that a jury of 12 found Mehserle guilty of Involuntary Manslaughter AND the handgun charge. The handgun charge was a serious element here which could have led to policy changes such as the removal of lethal weapons like guns from BART cops. (they have Tasers and nightsticks and so on).

    Instead it was thrown out unilaterally by the judge – which seems illegal to many. It’s too expensive for the family to pursue that on appeal, but it certainly ought to be the civic sector’s responsibility to make such a charge stick and to pursue such weird decision-making.

    I, for one, believe we should disarm BART police. Let local PDs be called when a gun is necessary, make it a felony to carry a gun on BART and put excessive cameras in the system. We need to de-escalate the violence and the weaponry on our streets.

    Karthik Rajan
    http://karthikrajanformayor.org

  • Karthik Rajan for Mayor

    This piece is well written and significant because many in the mainstream press are either avoiding the topic or not addressing the emotions it brings up.

    I have been reading your blog a lot more recently as I campaign for Mayor and want to congratulate you on the editorial decision-making, the reporting and, as in this example, the flexible corrections, as necessary.

    This is a space somewhere between the printed press and the wild world of blogging that The Bay Citizen so eagerly (and expensively) seeks. I would say you are succeeding at some level. keep up the good work.

    “shot to death: states it clearly, correctly and brings up some very necessary dialogue.

    It is important to note in this case that a jury of 12 found Mehserle guilty of Involuntary Manslaughter AND the handgun charge. The handgun charge was a serious element here which could have led to policy changes such as the removal of lethal weapons like guns from BART cops. (they have Tasers and nightsticks and so on).

    Instead it was thrown out unilaterally by the judge – which seems illegal to many. It’s too expensive for the family to pursue that on appeal, but it certainly ought to be the civic sector’s responsibility to make such a charge stick and to pursue such weird decision-making.

    I, for one, believe we should disarm BART police. Let local PDs be called when a gun is necessary, make it a felony to carry a gun on BART and put excessive cameras in the system. We need to de-escalate the violence and the weaponry on our streets.

    Karthik Rajan
    http://karthikrajanformayor.org

  • Karthik Rajan for Mayor

    Oscar Grant has a small child and Johannes Mehserle’s first child was born the day after the crime. Many families have been rent by what happened New Year’s morning of 2009. But in the larger picture we must address the issues that create an atmosphere where this kind of thing could easily happen again. It isn’t about Mehserle or Grant as much as a flawed environment. The race issues are left out of the conversation in public, but they are a huge part of the word on the street. The issues here are systemic.

    10 Things to Consider

    1. BART, the State and Officer Mehserle immediately agreed that the officer terminated his service literally the morning of the crime, speaking to no one – negating culpability for higher-ups and ultimately resulting in a lack of culpability for BART itself. In this case Mehserle ran to Nevada across state lines before his arrest to kill time in those first days of 2009.

    This negotiation between Mehserle’s defense and the state in his absence prevented the state or BART from having to respond for the murder. It took place between the private attorney of Mehserle and the State. Did Mehserle’s representation ask: “What are you going to do to protect my client, your employee, if he does this for you? if he quits voluntarily?”

    Is it the case that once his attorney agreed Mehserle would resign, the institutions at large then agreed to protect the officer as much as possible? How exactly? Mehserle’s defense is being paid for by a statewide fund for police officers. The BART police union pays into the fund. From when was the Union involved?

    2. Moving the trial out of the neighborhood.

    In what must be considered a pattern now [Rodney King the case was moved out of South Central, Amadou Diallo the case went from the Bronx to Albany] the state moved the trial to a supposedly neutral location that is in fact far better for the officer in question. Again what keeps coming up is that the officers in all these cases do not live where they are policing. They come from suburbs to cities to police.

    3. The state introduced excuses and the mental state of the Officer to the public far more than that of the victim and did this through the channels of the state’s collusion with the media.

    The local cops and the local tv stations and newspapers collude morally, ethically and racially to create the illusion of a balanced coverage, but which subtly turns the public opinion toward an acquittal. It’s all designed to create the atmosphere that we, the people, want the state to be so empowered and that we believe, ‘well, a few eggs have to be cracked to make a safety omelette for the rest of us.’

    4. the state’s process creates a jury that clearly favors the cop to the victim.

    5. the state allows, and even encourages, immaterial historical evidence from the VICTIM’s past into the case, but resists the same in the case of the cop.

    Again, a pattern here – Patrick Dorismond in NYC 2000. The idea is to paint the victim as a criminal and the cop as an unfortunate agent for good caught in an impossibly difficult to understand spot. So ANYthing in the victim’s past no matter how irrelevant is dredged up – sometimes illegally as Giuliani did in the case of Dorismond. Think about Mumia – it is now known that the cop, Danny Faulkner, that Abu-Jamal is charged with killing, was, in fact, running prostitutes and drugs in the area where the crime took place. Mumia killing Faulkner in Self-Defense is really what it is all about.

    6. during the trials of these cops, the same colluding press created an atmosphere of INSECURITY concerning any outcome that doesn’t condemn the cop. Riots are inevitable. This emphasizes the need for good security and basically demands acquittal in the public mind.

    7. The State scheduled the trial so the verdict would arrive exactly at 4th of July weekend. This both rushed the jury – would you hang a jury for Oscar Grant when you are trying to spend time with your family on 4th of July weekend? – and confirmed that coverage of the story reached a limited audience of the property owning class because it’s the Independence Day Holiday.

    8. By contrast, the State actually changed the sentencing date for a public display of protest to be widely observed and feared in civic space. In this case from the low-key silly season August 5th to the high-profile publicly charged week of the Mayoral election, November 7th. The “small riots” were then shown to a public as representative of the unruly class from which the victim comes.

    9. KTVU actually interviewed Mehserle after his conviction and before sentencing. They had him sitting in soft light with a compassionate, blonde woman, am extremely friendly television host.

    10. perhaps most shockingly, the judge unilaterally threw out the handgun charge that Mehserle was convicted of.

    [as noted above]

    and again, I, for one, believe we should disarm BART police. Let local PDs be called when a gun is necessary, make it a felony to carry a gun on BART and put excessive cameras in the system. We need to de-escalate the violence and the weaponry on our streets.

  • Karthik Rajan for Mayor

    Oscar Grant has a small child and Johannes Mehserle’s first child was born the day after the crime. Many families have been rent by what happened New Year’s morning of 2009. But in the larger picture we must address the issues that create an atmosphere where this kind of thing could easily happen again. It isn’t about Mehserle or Grant as much as a flawed environment. The race issues are left out of the conversation in public, but they are a huge part of the word on the street. The issues here are systemic.

    10 Things to Consider

    1. BART, the State and Officer Mehserle immediately agreed that the officer terminated his service literally the morning of the crime, speaking to no one – negating culpability for higher-ups and ultimately resulting in a lack of culpability for BART itself. In this case Mehserle ran to Nevada across state lines before his arrest to kill time in those first days of 2009.

    This negotiation between Mehserle’s defense and the state in his absence prevented the state or BART from having to respond for the murder. It took place between the private attorney of Mehserle and the State. Did Mehserle’s representation ask: “What are you going to do to protect my client, your employee, if he does this for you? if he quits voluntarily?”

    Is it the case that once his attorney agreed Mehserle would resign, the institutions at large then agreed to protect the officer as much as possible? How exactly? Mehserle’s defense is being paid for by a statewide fund for police officers. The BART police union pays into the fund. From when was the Union involved?

    2. Moving the trial out of the neighborhood.

    In what must be considered a pattern now [Rodney King the case was moved out of South Central, Amadou Diallo the case went from the Bronx to Albany] the state moved the trial to a supposedly neutral location that is in fact far better for the officer in question. Again what keeps coming up is that the officers in all these cases do not live where they are policing. They come from suburbs to cities to police.

    3. The state introduced excuses and the mental state of the Officer to the public far more than that of the victim and did this through the channels of the state’s collusion with the media.

    The local cops and the local tv stations and newspapers collude morally, ethically and racially to create the illusion of a balanced coverage, but which subtly turns the public opinion toward an acquittal. It’s all designed to create the atmosphere that we, the people, want the state to be so empowered and that we believe, ‘well, a few eggs have to be cracked to make a safety omelette for the rest of us.’

    4. the state’s process creates a jury that clearly favors the cop to the victim.

    5. the state allows, and even encourages, immaterial historical evidence from the VICTIM’s past into the case, but resists the same in the case of the cop.

    Again, a pattern here – Patrick Dorismond in NYC 2000. The idea is to paint the victim as a criminal and the cop as an unfortunate agent for good caught in an impossibly difficult to understand spot. So ANYthing in the victim’s past no matter how irrelevant is dredged up – sometimes illegally as Giuliani did in the case of Dorismond. Think about Mumia – it is now known that the cop, Danny Faulkner, that Abu-Jamal is charged with killing, was, in fact, running prostitutes and drugs in the area where the crime took place. Mumia killing Faulkner in Self-Defense is really what it is all about.

    6. during the trials of these cops, the same colluding press created an atmosphere of INSECURITY concerning any outcome that doesn’t condemn the cop. Riots are inevitable. This emphasizes the need for good security and basically demands acquittal in the public mind.

    7. The State scheduled the trial so the verdict would arrive exactly at 4th of July weekend. This both rushed the jury – would you hang a jury for Oscar Grant when you are trying to spend time with your family on 4th of July weekend? – and confirmed that coverage of the story reached a limited audience of the property owning class because it’s the Independence Day Holiday.

    8. By contrast, the State actually changed the sentencing date for a public display of protest to be widely observed and feared in civic space. In this case from the low-key silly season August 5th to the high-profile publicly charged week of the Mayoral election, November 7th. The “small riots” were then shown to a public as representative of the unruly class from which the victim comes.

    9. KTVU actually interviewed Mehserle after his conviction and before sentencing. They had him sitting in soft light with a compassionate, blonde woman, am extremely friendly television host.

    10. perhaps most shockingly, the judge unilaterally threw out the handgun charge that Mehserle was convicted of.

    [as noted above]

    and again, I, for one, believe we should disarm BART police. Let local PDs be called when a gun is necessary, make it a felony to carry a gun on BART and put excessive cameras in the system. We need to de-escalate the violence and the weaponry on our streets.