After 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.