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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  • Display: Sort:
    Wow (5.00 / 0) (#4)
    by squeaky on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 07:06:43 PM EST
    Not surprised. Rigged system.... the scarier people are running around loose with a license to kill.

    Jeralyn, venue was changed to (none / 0) (#1)
    by oculus on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 05:01:19 PM EST
    Los Angeles County.  Judge Robert Perry is L.A. County Superior Court, assigned to criminal courts in downtown L.A.  

    Pleaze (none / 0) (#2)
    by ScottW714 on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 05:47:28 PM EST
    He seriously claimed he mistook his gun for a tazer ?

    Think about how inept a person must be if they can't distinguish between the two.  The obvious conclusion is he lied, because if he didn't, his supervisors would be punished severely for allowing that sort of incompetence to carry a gun.

    One can only hope he never testified, because it's clear he has identification issues.

    Even in conviction... (none / 0) (#3)
    by kdog on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 06:27:47 PM EST
    there are favors to be had.

    I don't mind the short sentence one bit, if Joe Blow got that kinda sentence, and not John Law exclusively.

    "You have the right not to be killed
    Murder is a CRIME!
    Unless it was done by a
    policeman or aristocrat
    Know your rights"

    And the public wants Lindsay Lohan (none / 0) (#5)
    by MKS on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 07:57:05 PM EST
    to serve more time for two non-injury DUIs in 2007.

    If Mehserle were African American, I think many would believe he would get life or the death penalty.  Maybe, but I tend to think in that scenario he would be dead long ago.....

    Folks, lest we forget, (none / 0) (#6)
    by oculus on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 08:27:14 PM EST
    this is the same venue (and jury pool) where O.J. Was acquitted in his trial for murdering his former wife and her friend.

    Yeah (none / 0) (#7)
    by squeaky on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 08:50:36 PM EST
    Well it is not so corrupt that blatant police tampering with prime evidence gets a pass too.

    I thought it was Oakland, not SF? (none / 0) (#8)
    by nycstray on Sat Nov 06, 2010 at 05:23:09 AM EST

    Yes, it was Oakland (Alameda County) (none / 0) (#9)
    by domer5000 on Sat Nov 06, 2010 at 08:48:38 AM EST
    Not SF

    thanks, I changed it to Oakland (none / 0) (#10)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Nov 06, 2010 at 11:00:18 AM EST
    if you don't like the minimum... (none / 0) (#11)
    by diogenes on Sat Nov 06, 2010 at 11:51:41 AM EST
    If you don't like that someone gets the minimum sentence, then raise the mandatory minimums.  

    I have to be honest (none / 0) (#12)
    by nyjets on Sat Nov 06, 2010 at 12:07:50 PM EST
    I honestly beleive that this was not cold blooded LWOP murder. However, 2 years does seem to be way to light considering the nature of the crime.

    Maximum term for invol. manslaughter (none / 0) (#13)
    by oculus on Sat Nov 06, 2010 at 04:59:20 PM EST
    is 4 yrs.  10 year enhancement for true finding by jury defendant used a firearm.  The amazing part of this sentencing, given the jury's verdict of invol. manslaughter and the enhancement, is that the judge struck the enhancement.  This seems to invade the province of the jury and it will be the prosecution's burden to justify that on appeal.

    Intent... (none / 0) (#14)
    by diogenes on Sat Nov 06, 2010 at 07:56:57 PM EST
    I somehow think that the sentence enhancement for using a gun assumes that it is proven that the person "intended to use a gun" in the commission of the crime.  The verdict itself indicates that the jury did not believe that the officer "intended" to pull out his gun but believed the mistaken taser story--thus, involuntary manslaughter.

    I don't recall intent is a necessary (none / 0) (#15)
    by oculus on Sun Nov 07, 2010 at 12:59:36 PM EST
    element of a true finding of use of a firearm (which must be operable):

    California Penal Code section 12022

    See the final subsection, however, which gives the sentencing court discretion to strike the jury's true finding:

    f) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the court may
    strike the additional punishment for the enhancements provided in
    subdivision (c) or (d) in an unusual case where the interests of
    justice would best be served, if the court specifies on the record
    and enters into the minutes the circumstances indicating that the
    interests of justice would best be served by that disposition.