Former BART officer faces 40 years in prison

By Alex A. Alonso
July 5, 2010 |10:00 p.m.
updated: July 6, 2010 | 10:41 p.m.

On Wednesday Judge Robert Perry went over jury instructions with the attorneys outside the presence of the jury and discussed all possible charges that Johannes Mehserle would be eligible for if the jury decided to convict the former Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) officer of an offense.

Judge Perry did not offer first degree murder as an option, but based on the evidence and testimony, Judge Perry found that second degree murder was a viable option that the jury could consider. If found guilty on second degree murder, Mehserle would be sentenced to 15 years in a California prison, plus 10 to 25 years for the gun enhancement. With that conviction, Mehserle faces a maximum of 40 years in prison and according to Loyola Law School professor, Laurie Levenson, Judge Perry would not hesitate to give the former BART officer the maximum allowed by law for second degree, the most serious of the charges he is eligible for.

Mehserle is also eligible for the lesser and included offenses of both voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter. According to Deputy District Attorney David Stein, there are two ways that the jury can find Mehserle guilty of voluntary manslaughter. If the shooting of Oscar Grant was motivated by Mehserle having his emotions driven by something that Grant provoked, then there is a possibility of the jury agreeing on that selection. The other way to voluntary manslaughter is an imperfect self defense claim where the defendant intentionally killed, because he unreasonably believed that there was an imminent threat of death or great bodily injury. Both these paths to voluntary manslaughter are possible if the jury believes that Grant was resisting arrest or was actually reaching for a gun as the defense has argued. If found guilty on the voluntary manslaughter, Mehserle will be sentenced to seven, nine or a maximum of 11 years in prison.

The jury also has the option to come back with an involuntary manslaughter conviction if they believe that Mehserle acted criminally negligent when he shot Grant but was acting lawfully when he was attempting to place Grant under arrest for resisting an officer. If found guilty of this lesser offense, Mehserle would be sentenced to a minimum of two years to a maximum of six years in prison.

The last possibility is an acquittal, and if the jury accepts defense attorney Michael Rains’ argument that defendant Mehserle was actually attempting to use his TASER at the time of the shooting, then they must find the former police officer not guilty on all charges.

There is also the possibility of a hung jury if the 12 jurors cannot all agree on one of the previous four options.

Alex Alonso is an author, film maker and founder of He is also a contributing author in the 2010 book entitled “Black Los Angeles: American Dreams Racial Realities” (New York University Press). He can be reached via email, toll free at 800-249-1324 or on Twitter.

Posted by on Jul 5 2010. Filed under Features, People of CA v. Johannes Mehserle. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

1 Comment for “Former BART officer faces 40 years in prison”

  1. […] Former BART officer faces 40 years in prison By Alex Alonso STREETGANGS.COM STAFF WRITER July 5, 2010… […]

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