Former BART police officer found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in shooting death of Oscar Grant
By Alex Alonso
STREETGANGS.COM STAFF WRITER
July 8, 2010 | 11:49 p.m.
updated: July 9, 2010 | 8:43 p.m.
LOS ANGELES — On Thursday, a jury of eight women and four men found former Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police officer Johannes Mehserle guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the shooting death of Oscar Grant. According to Alameda County prosecutors and video shot by five passengers, Mehserle murdered Grant on January 1, 2009 after he was being detained with a group of friends for an alleged fight that occurred on the train.
The jury started deliberating on the case last Friday afternoon, but had to restart deliberations on Wednesday when a juror was replaced because of a scheduled vacation. In all, the new jury deliberated for 6 hours and 30 minutes over two days, spending four of those hours deliberating on Thursday.
Apparently they had decided on the involuntary manslaughter conviction sometime in the morning before they took their lunch break after 11:45 a.m., because 10 minutes into their afternoon deliberations they sent out a note asking about the personal use of the gun allegation that enhances the involuntary manslaughter from three to 10 years. The jury did find that Mehserle personally used a firearm in the course of committing the felony as described in Penal Code Section 12022.5(a).
§ 12022.5 Penal
(a) Except as provided in subdivision (b), any person who
personally uses a firearm in the commission of a felony
or attempted felony shall be punished by an additional and
consecutive term of imprisonment in the state prison
for 3, 4, or 10 years, unless use of a firearm is an element
of that offense.
The guilty verdict on involuntary manslaughter means that the jury completely rejected the “TASER confusion” defense attorney Michael Rains introduced during opening statements and argued throughout out the trial through several experts. This verdict also mean that the jury believed that Mehserle beat Grant under color of authority, without lawful necessity and found him to be criminally negligent for his actions.
The family was extremely disappointed that the jury did not find Mehserle guilty of the more severe 2nd degree murder, but Grant’s uncle, Cephus “Bobby” Johnson, told the media that he did not blame the jury but expressed that the system is culpable for not providing the jury with other incriminating evidence that may have tipped the jury’s decision to one of the other more serious charges.
Streetgangs.com conducted their own survey of the media that were present during the trial for all the testimony, and there was a slight edge for involuntary manslaughter, so this verdict was certainly not a surprise to the media.
Press verdict choices
Not Guilty Involuntary Manslaughter Voluntary Manslaughter 2nd Degree Murder Undecided 0 6 5 2 1
After the verdict was read, Judge Robert Perry remanded Mehserle to the custody of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. Defense attorney Rains asked the judge to reconsider the remand of Mehserle based on his attendance during the trial and all other court dates including the $3 million dollar bail that he posted, but Perry stated that he had already considered that and he told Rains, “I am going to remand him.” Mehserle was taken to the Los Angeles Men’s Central Jail by a Sheriff Deputy cruiser while wearing a bullet proof vest.
The next court date is scheduled for August 6, 2010 in Los Angeles, where defense attorney Rains is expected to file several motions on behalf of his client. There is the possibility that Judge Robert Perry will sentence Mehserle on this date depending on the motions. Rains will most likely file an appeal on the involuntary manslaughter conviction and request that Mehserle remain free on bail until that date. If Judge Perry decides to sentence Mehserle in August, he is expected to give Mehserle the maximum allowed by law, which would be 14 years in a California prison, four years maximum on the involuntary manslaughter plus an additional 10 years for personally using a fire arm.
Rains is expected to argue that Mehserle does not pose a threat to the general public and does not have a criminal history and that the minimum sentence of five years would be appropriate.
All the possible sentences that Mehserle could receive are five, six, seven, eight, 12, 13 or 14 years. Because the jury found the gun allegation to be true, the possibility of Mehserle receiving probation in a Perry court room is unlikely.
Alex Alonso is an author, film maker and founder of Streetgangs.com. 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.
Tags: 1022.5, 149, 2nd degree murder, criminally negligent, custody, guilty, involuntary manslaughter, Johannes Mehserle, Judge Robert Perry, Oscar Grant, prison, remanded, second degree murder, voluntary manslaughter