Ex-Bart Cop Gets Minimun 2 Years for Killing Oscar Grant
When a police officer breaks the law, shouldn't they be treated the same as anyone else? Or even more harshly if they abused their power as guardians of community safety? Not in Oakland, where former Bart cop Johannes Mehserle was sentenced today to the minimum two years in prison for killing unarmed 22 year old Oscar Grant. The shooting was captured on videocamera and went viral on You Tube. (Raw footage here, news version here.)
Mehserle was convicted by a jury of involuntary manslaughter. He testified he mistook his firearm for his Taser and accidentally shot Grant. The jury found he acted negligently and that he unlawfully took Grant's life but didn't intend to kill Grant.
The jury also found Mehserle had used a gun during the crime, a sentencing enhancer, but the Judge threw that out today, "saying it was not supported by the evidence." With credit for time already served, Mehserle will be eligible for parole in 7 months. [More...]
Mehserle's possible sentence for involuntary manslaughter was two, three or four years, plus three, four or 10 years for the gun enhancement. The defense pushed for Mehserle's release on probation, which state law allows in involuntary manslaughter cases that are considered unusual.
On the gun enhancement:
They said jurors had found that Mehserle did not intend to kill Grant, but that he had meant to shoot him. The gun enhancement, prosecutors noted, required the panel to find that Mehserle had fired a gun on purpose.
Defense attorneys believe the jury misapplied the gun enhancement after it was poorly explained to them.
The trial was moved from Oakland to Los Angeles due to pre-trial publicity. The feds are investigating and may bring a civil rights prosecution. Grant's daughter received a 1.5 million settlement, and other family members' lawsuits are pending.
Our prior coverage of the case is assembled here.
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