July 8, 2010 in News
California transit cop found guilty of manslaughter (Reuters):
A white transit police officer was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter on Thursday in the videotaped shooting death of an unarmed black man that triggered a night of rioting in Oakland, California.
The defendant in the racially charged trial, Johannes Mehserle, 28, testified that he mistakenly drew his pistol instead of his electric Taser weapon and shot Oscar Grant, 22, while trying to subdue him during a New Year’s Day 2009 confrontation.
But prosecutors said in closing arguments that Mehserle “lost all control” and intentionally shot Grant because he was resisting arrest.
The Los Angeles County jury of four men and eight women deliberated for about six hours over two days before reaching their verdict, indicating they essentially believed Mehserle’s account that he shot Grant accidentally.
Juries can find a defendant guilty of involuntary manslaughter if they believe he lacked the intent to kill but that his actions were so grossly negligent that he should be held criminally responsible for them.
Legal experts have said involuntary manslaughter is generally punishable by two to four years in prison. It is rare for a law enforcement officer to be charged with murder in connection with an on-duty shooting.
Schwarzenegger urges calm following shooting trial (San Francisco Chronicle):
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is urging Californians to remain calm following the verdict in the shooting death of an unarmed man by a San Francisco Bay area transit officer.
Schwarzenegger issued the statement Thursday asking residents not to resort to violence in the aftermath of the racially charged case.
A Los Angeles jury convicted former Bay Area Rapid Transit officer Johannes Mehserle, who is white, of involuntary manslaughter in the 2009 shooting of 22-year-old Oscar Grant, who is black. It carries a sentence of two to four years, falling short of the punishment sought by prosecutors and Grant’s family.
Schwarzenegger says he has spoken to Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums to assure him the state is prepared to assist in maintaining order.
Live blog: Mehserle could face up to 14 years in prison (Silicon Valley Mercury News):
6 p.m. BART releases statement
BART released a statement with Board President James Fang noting how BART’s response to the Grant shooting included revamping transit police training, doing audits of police department, and getting a state law passed to allow BART to establish a police auditor position to investigate complaints against transit police officers
5:40 p.m. Sitution heating up in downtown Oakland
A girl was either run over by a police car or hit by a bottle at 11th and Broadway. She declined medical attention. The incident happened when an AC Transit bus was trapped by a crowd and police were attempting to free the bus. Police in riot gear have blocked off the intersection of 11th and Broadway.
The Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration, and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration, and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary is calling for a rally at 14th an Broadway to call for:
1. The maximum sentence for Mehserle
2. Jail Officers Tony Pirone and Marysol Domenici
3. Disarm and disband the BART Police.
4. Provide massive funding to Oakland for education and jobs for Oakland’s black, Latino, Asian, and poor and working-class white youth.
5. Stop police/immigration racial profiling of Latina/o, black, Asian, and other minority youth with and without papers.
6. Oakland Mayor Dellums and other governmental authorities in Oakland to declare that this verdict does not render justice to Oscar Grant and to act on the demands of the movement.
5:30 p.m. Oakland mayor speaks, small fire started at police station
Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums spoke to the media following the verdict. He said he would stand with the family of Oscar Grant if they were not satisfied with the verdict and want to explore other options for getting justice for their son, such as through federal channels. Dellums said people have a constitutional right to express themselves, their anger, their pain, but he hoped they would do it in a manner that is respectful to Oscar Grant III, his family and to the community, and “show the nation that we can handle adversity.” Meanwhile, someone set a fire in a shrub in front of the Oakland Police Department at 7th and Broadway. Flames shot 7 feet into the air before it was put out by authorities. No one has been arrested.
5:20 p.m. Mother of Oscar Grant and family attorney speak, governor issues statement
It was peaceful outside the L.A. courthouse after the verdict was read. There was a strong police presence in and outside the courthouse before and after the verdict was read.
Wanda Johnson, Oscar Grant’s mother, was not going to speak following the verdict but changed her mind. “My son was murdered and the laws did not hold the officer accountable. He was murdered. He was murdered. He was murdered,” said an emotional and crying Grant. “God will not fail us or let us down and I will trust in Him.”
John Burris, the attorney for the family said he is disappointed with the verdict. “The verdict is not a true representation of what happened to Oscar Grant or what the officers’ actions were that night,” he said. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued a satement regarding the verdict, saying “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.”
5 p.m. Grant’s sister-in-law reacts
Yolanda Nesa, who identifies herself as Oscar Grant’s sister-in-law, is outside Oakland City Hall. “This is not justice, they rushed everything,” she said of the jury’s decision. The mood at Frank H. Ogawa plaza is calm, but it seems as though people are waiting for something to happen.
4:50 p.m. Mehserle could face up to 14 years in prison
The jury has convicted Mehserle of involuntary manslaughter and found that he used a gun during the shooting of Oscar Grant III. He could face two to four years in prison for the involuntary manslaughter conviction and an additional 10 years for the gun enhancement. He will be sentenced Aug. 6. He will not be ineligible for probation. Mehserle will also be forced to serve 85 percent of his eventual sentence, a much higher standard than most crimes.
4:30 p.m. At Fruitvale BART and in front of Oakland City Hall
At Fruitvale BART, it is crowded but calm. Four Oakland police officers are stationed at the entrances and metal gates are up. People reacted to the verdict. “Ah, so he’s doing time? He should be doing time. If it was someone else on the street we wouldn’t have to wait for this verdict. Justice is served,” said Pe’i Sevaaetasi of Oakland.
Nicholas Kleeb of Alameda said “All and all I believe the jury did their job,” he said.
At Frank O’gawa Plaza there is calm as well, though shortly after the conviction was announced, one woman screamed about the injustice of the verdict, while another woman had a more optimistic response, noting the jury brought back a rare verdict against a police officer for shooting a black man.
4:20 p.m. Mehserle being taken into custody
Former BART officer has been free on $3 million bail. Will be sentenced Aug. 6.
All quiet at BART headquarters in downtown Oakland.
4:05 p.m. Mehserle guilty of involuntary manslaughter
Verdict in the Johanne Mehserle case just announced in Los Angeles. Could get two to 14 years in prison.
3:55 p.m. Grant’s mother arrives
Oscar Grant’s mother, Wanda Grant, has arrived in the courtroom.
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