"Involuntary" verdict for BART cop defies logic

The death of Oscar Grant has a completely reasonable explanation: A cop shot him in the back

July 9, 2010 4:15PM (UTC)
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FILE - This cellular telephone image provided by the Los Angeles County Superior Court shows an image taken, according to lawyers, by Oscar Grant, of former San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer Johannes Mehserle shortly before Mehserle shot Grant on New Year's Day 2009. Mehserle testified Friday June 25, 2010 that he mistakenly pulled out his pistol instead of a stun gun when he shot and killed an unarmed black man who was lying face down on an Oakland train platform. A jury has reached a verdict in the trial of a former San Francisco Bay area transit officer accused of murdering Grant, an unarmed man on an Oakland train platform. The eight-woman, four-man panel is scheduled to read the verdict on Thursday, July 8, 2010. (AP Photo/ Los Angeles County Superior Court) (AP)

This originally appeared at Hullabaloo:

He thought he was only tasering a man on the ground with his hands behind his back, but he grabbed his gun and shot him dead instead. So, it was an "involuntary" manslaughter:

After a tense wait in the trial of Johannes Mehserle, a Los Angeles jury has found the former BART police officer guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the January, 2009, death of Oscar Grant. Mehserle was accused of having shot the 22-year-old Grant in the back as he lay face-down on the platform of Oakland's Fruitvale BART station after an altercation broke out on a train. Mehserle pleaded not guilty, claiming that he mistook his gun for his Taser stun gun.

According to reports from the courthouse in Los Angeles, the involuntary manslaughter verdict, along with Mehslere's additional conviction for the use of a gun in Grant's death, could carry a sentence of 5 to 14 years. The other options before the jury included acquittal, voluntary manslaughter, which would have carried a penalty of 3 to 11 years,and second-degree murder, which would have carried a penalty of 40 years to life.

Last week, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Perry ruled that Mehserle could not be convicted of first-degree murder, saying that evidence in the trial proved that Mehserle did not plan to kill Grant by shooting him once in the back. 

No, he didn't "plan" it. That would be murder. But you would have thought the story of what happened that day would have made a difference:


Anthony Pirone took the witness stand this morning at the murder trial of a former colleague on the BART police force, explaining to jurors how and why he detained train rider Oscar Grant minutes before the colleague shot and killed him.

Pirone, a critical witness for both the prosecution and defense in the trial of Johannes Mehserle, said Grant and four of his friends fit a vague description of suspects in a fight aboard a train that had pulled into Fruitvale Station in Oakland early Jan. 1, 2009.

A police dispatcher, relaying information the train operator had gotten from a passenger, had said the suspects were black men in black clothing on the lead car. Grant was African American.

Pirone said he began cursing at the men almost immediately after spotting them on the platform, and threatened to shock them with a Taser as a means of "intimidation" to gain compliance.

Pirone said he had ordered three men to sit against a wall. Grant and a second man initially tried to hide inside a train car, Pirone said, but he found them and pulled them out.

He said he had found Grant walking from one car to another using the interior doors, then had directed the laser light of his Taser at Grant through a window. He said he had ordered Grant off, then had told him to "get the f- off the train."

Grant soon came out, Pirone said, and cooperated as he was escorted to the wall, though he complained and swore as he went.

This afternoon, Pirone is expected to testify about why he ultimately decided to arrest Grant for allegedly resisting officers, and about what happened in the moments before Mehserle shot Grant while trying to handcuff him. Grant was unarmed and on his chest.

Witnesses at the trial have said Pirone's profanity and aggressiveness in detaining the men angered other BART riders. Grant's relatives believe Pirone escalated the situation, and that racial profiling was a factor in his initial detention of the five men. 

He was just trying to teach the little bastard a lesson by swearing at him and then shooting him full of electricity while he was already on the ground. People have to learn to obey transit police officers unquestioningly and when they curse you out and threaten you out of the blue you have an obligation as a citizen to take whatever they mete out --- including death if they accidentally pick up their torture device instead of their killing device. Shit happens.

Apparently, San Francisco and Oakland are anticipating that there might be some kind of Rodney King verdict reaction. Waiting to see if it materializes. Let's hope not.


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