Jury reaches verdict in BART police shooting caught on cellphones: involuntary manslaughter

Discuss

147 Responses to “Jury reaches verdict in BART police shooting caught on cellphones: involuntary manslaughter”

  1. RustyTrawler says:

    I don’t think he’s a murderer. But I’m not buying “involuntary”, either.

    So why do our criminal statutes revolve around the defendant’s state of mind, anyway? It just seems so vague and impossible for any jury to ever know. Essentially, we’re assessing the penalty based on whether or not the jury identifies with the accused.

    And I’m with Darran; how in the world did this case wind up with an all-white jury?

    • Anonymous says:

      Our laws consider the accused’s state of mind because it’s based on the British system, in which it factors heavily. It matters if a criminal knew they were committing a crime when it was committed, whether they did it deliberately, and with prior intent, and understood that their actions were immoral. It is indeed difficult for a jury to assess these things, and decisions can be incredibly subjective.

  2. agreenster says:

    I find it highly unlikely that he intended to shoot and kill someone in front of hundreds of witnesses. When I watched the video, it looked more like he was leaning to stand up, and while doing so, squeezed the trigger accidentally. Why they went with the “I thought it was my taser” excuse is beyond me, but maybe because it sounds more plausible (and dependable) than “It was an accident.”

    But then again…who knows. Maybe he is a murderer and thought he could get away with it. Seeing those videos of cops shooting dogs are pretty disturbing too.

  3. Teller says:

    Can’t wait to see how Dellums handles this.

  4. asuffield says:

    Even if you believe the taser explanation he could have easily been convicted of first degree manslaughter since there was no justification for using a taser in this situation.

    If the use of the taser had been justified then an acquittal would have been plausible (on the grounds of an honest mistake; not guaranteed, but the jury would have considered it). The lack of justification for his actions is what makes it involuntary manslaughter.

    Any higher conviction requires proof beyond reasonable doubt of intent to kill or seriously injure.

    (There’s no such thing as “first degree manslaughter”. You can’t just make stuff up)

    • Brainspore says:

      Corrected, I meant to type “voluntary manslaughter.”

      As stated earlier any responsible officer should know that tasers are potentially deadly so yes, I think there was proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Mehserle intended to seriously injure Mr. Grant. The closest analogy I can think of would be whacking a prostrate man across the back of the head with a baton.

    • iphinome says:

      Not necessarily. If use of the taser isn’t justified which I don’t see how it could be since the man was already retrained then you have felony murder. The felony being attacking an unarmed and retrained man with a weapon. The cop admitted that’s what he intended just with a different weapon. This crime directly lead to the death of a man.

  5. cory says:

    I don’t quite agree with the verdict, but it’ll have to be enough.

    A cop who kills a black man, in the joint for 5 years? Might as well sentence him to the 7th ring of hell.

    • Thorzdad says:

      Hardly. Cops (or any other law enforcement agent) are excluded from the general population for their own safety. Granted, it’s not like they are being put up in a luxury resort, but neither are they going to be subject to pound-me-in-the-ass prison. Cops take care of their own.

  6. agreenster says:

    …meant to say “defendable”

  7. unsub says:

    Wow…that is one accurate judgment. You can obviously see that he either absentmindedly pulled his gun instead of his tazer, or accidentally pulled the trigger.

    I’m going to go with the tazer story. It looks like he pulled his gun out and calmly fired into the guys back. It seems illogical that this officer would suddenly choose to execute a teenager for resisting arrest. He’s also obviously completely startled immediately after pulling the trigger.

    • Brainspore says:

      Even if you believe the taser explanation he could have easily been convicted of first degree manslaughter since there was no justification for using a taser in this situation. The suspect was already under control and tasers are potentially deadly.

  8. JohnCJ says:

    I’m O.K. with the involuntary manslaughter. I would have preferred he get acquitted but the jury was presented the facts and reached a logical conclusion.

    It’s the gun enhancement I have a problem with. He was issued a gun from the state and used it by mistake. He did not choose to bring a gun with him. I think there are some policy reasons with this. I don’t want police second guessing the use of their firearms in hostile situations. This could endanger their lives.

    • Avram / Moderator says:

      JohnCJ: I don’t want police second guessing the use of their firearms in hostile situations. This could endanger their lives.

      That’s their job. To do otherwise — for them not to second-guess — endangers everyone else’s lives.

    • Xopher says:

      Yep, as usual, the “anything a cop does must be OK” trolls come out of the woodwork.

      • JohnCJ says:

        Yep, as usual, the “anything a cop does must be OK” trolls come out of the woodwork.

        I’m not a troll, I just have opinions that differ from you. Calling me a troll is simply like the ad hominem charges of “racism” people lob around for those who dare question Obama’s policies. Attack the argument and not the person please.

        I just recognize that the police are a necessary element of our society, and have a very dangerous job. If a cop were to rob a liquor store I would not support them, but if there is an incident in the line of duty that could be a mistake, I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise.

        • teapot says:

          if there is an incident in the line of duty that could be a mistake, I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise.

          So if a cop is on-duty and something happens we should immediately believe their side of the story? Yeah, cos cops are never crooked.

          You are a troll, and you are an apologist for this jerk. GTFO.

          • doggo says:

            Oh, it’s the teapot calling the kettle black. Except the kettle isn’t a troll, he just has a different opinion.

            A lot of people who comment on BoingBoing have a knee-jerk negative response about cops. Cops’re bad, mmmkay?

            To hell with that. Police are involved in some of the most difficult and dangerous work there is. That doesn’t excuse corruption and bad behavior, neither does it make all cops corrupt and evil. Cops are humans just like you. They make mistakes. Sometimes they make mistakes that have grave consequences.

            I wonder if you could do your job with a hundred people standing around shouting and jeering at you. And with what you’re working on jumping around and yelling at you. Now add in firearms.

            This was a horrible incident. It’s awful that the guy was killed. I imagine the cop was horrified too. Now not only is a man killed, but another man’s life has been destroyed. No one wins.

            Spewing knee-jerk anti-cop sentiment is no better than the kind of crap we hear from Fox News. Such a serious and unfortunate incident deserves careful consideration, not childish anti-establishment rants.

          • Raj77 says:

            While I agree to an extent, people are glossing over the fact that police both in the UK and North America appear continually to behave incompatibly with their own codes of conduct. The BART cops were behaving criminally before Mehserle was shot, and Mehserle grossly flouted BART’s own regulations while his buddy was cheerfully calling someone a n*****. It wasn’t a single mistake, it was an escalation of the macho, above-the-law bullshit that police officers in many areas get away with as Dirty Harry fantasies play in their heads. As a society, we have to start holding bad cops to account, then we can praise the good ones without reservation.

            Insert obligatory my-grandfather-was-a-cop, my-father-was-a-cop, my-oldest-friend-is-a-cop-and-so-were-his-father-and-grandfathers bit. My father left eventually because he would see his colleagues committing arrestable offences almost daily and couldn’t face the quandary any more. If responsible citizens had been able to video what went on in those days, things would have changed a long time ago.

          • Xopher says:

            Mehserle wasn’t shot. Grant was shot. Mehserle shot him.

          • doggo says:

            Raj77. I know. I agree with you. I didn’t try to become a cop for those reasons. I hate the jock attitude, and didn’t think I could deal with standing by while other cops committed crimes.

            On the other hand, where would we be without police?

            The problem we have with police is the same one we have with the military. The people on the ground are doing work that smarter, more thoughtful people will not do. Only the elite of both groups have the intelligence to overcome the base power trips and “fun with firearms” to do things which are beneficial.

            What’s the answer? I don’t know. Better pay? Better training? More psychological screening? I don’t know. But to quote the poster above: “Dehumanization and lack of understanding and respect go both ways.”

          • teapot says:

            doggo:
            I didn’t try to become a cop for those reasons
            Oh, so… you mean… you are emotionally invested in the occupation of police officer? I couldn’t tell that at all from your comments… they seemed so unbiassed at first.

            /sarcasm

            Let me make one thing clear: I appreciate the hard work of the police. All I am saying is “if you can’t handle the heat, get outa the kitchen”. People need to be held responsible for the mistakes they make. If he didn’t want the potential problems that come along with carrying a gun as part of his profession, then he shouldn’t have become a cop. No one forced him, which means the ‘ooops my bad’ defence is unacceptable.

            Less restrictive weapons-carry laws would go a long way toward redressing that discrepancy.
            Notary: Somehow, I don’t think more guns is the
            answer…

            Antonious – I thought George’s post deserved a little more than that put down.
            Stumo: I thought Anti’s post deserves correct spelling of his name in the reply. Also… why does it deserve more? Credit is usually given to balanced and well-articulated responses, not one-sided excuse-making. George certainly had the well-articulated part going for him…. now just to work on the balance.

          • Anonymous says:

            “So if a cop is on-duty and something happens we should immediately believe their side of the story? Yeah, cos cops are never crooked. ”

            That’s not what he said at all, perhaps you are the troll and should GTFO. Or maybe you just lack reading comprehension. Benefit of the doubt while evidence is being collected is not blind trust. It means you are being rational and not going to knee jerk someone into jail without knowing the full story as opposed to someone like you who automatically believe a cop is wrong.

            A lot of people seem to have no idea what involuntary manslaughter is. I think the cop in this story is disgusting but the jury made the only choice they could have made given the evidence. They also know a whole hell of a lot more about this case than we do. The public are not in the court room. You can’t convict someone based on what you ‘feel’ or ‘want’. You have to use the letter of the law and evidence provided to you.

          • Grim Beefer says:

            This is utter bullshit.

            If you were a normal citizen and did the same exact crime and tried to use the same exact tazer defense, you’d probably be facing the death penalty.

            I’m not advocating that anyone be put to death, but there shouldn’t be double standards. A murder committed by a cop is still murder.

          • teapot says:

            “So if a cop is on-duty and something happens we should immediately believe their side of the story? Yeah, cos cops are never crooked.”

            That’s not what he said at all, perhaps you are the troll and should GTFO. Or maybe you just lack reading comprehension.

            I think someone is a lil cranky…. didnt get your warm milk this morning? Read his comment carefully, and think before opening your trap.

            if there is an incident in the line of duty that could be a mistake, I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise.

            His comment leaves no space for the possibility that a cop could lie to cover their ass. His words suggest that if it cannot be “proven otherwise”, any cop is automatically in the right. That is blind trust my spineless, anon friend.

            Considering this all boils down to intent (and the other guy is DEAD here) – how can we trust the person who is potentially going away for a long time to tell us their true intent? We can’t.

            Next!

          • SFedor says:

            His comment leaves no space for the possibility that a cop could lie to cover their ass. His words suggest that if it cannot be “proven otherwise”, any cop is automatically in the right. That is blind trust my spineless, anon friend.

            *******

            Remove the incendiary word “cop” and replace it with suspect. A suspect may lie indeed to save their ass, but until “proven guilty” a suspect is in the right (ie innocent). Innocent until proven guilty is a key guideline I think, no matter who the suspect is.

            In this case he was proven guilty. And I believe the verdict fits, even if I don’t necessarily believe the punishment = the charge.

      • Tim says:

        “Yep, as usual, the “anything a cop does must be OK” trolls come out of the woodwork.”

        There’s also the “any time a cop uses force for any reason they’re committing police brutality” side, too. Both extremes have their advocates.

        And for the record, I wasn’t appalled at the logic, simply responding. Appalled would have included several exclamation marks.

        Police are given/required to carry deadly weapons. They should be held responsible in the event they discharge said weapons. But as was said, they should also not be under fear of jail if a legitimate reason to use the weapon comes up.

        The issue is that it’s kind of impossible to know what a legitimate reason is during the heat of the moment. (To clarify: I’m not agreeing/disagreeing with the verdict of this case.)

        • Anonymous says:

          There’s also the “any time a cop uses force for any reason they’re committing police brutality” side, too. Both extremes have their advocates.

          I can’t help but notice another similarity: for some reason, people complain most about both extremes in cases where the force was clearly excessive. You’d think complaining about anti-cop posters would be reserved for cases where the cop was in the right, but no.

      • Anonymous says:

        Yep and anytime one does it must be ok to destroy the city, loot, and cause mayhem ….right. Just shows the ignorance of people.

    • Felton says:

      This cop shot a defenseless man in the back. What does second guessing the use of a firearm in a hostile situation have to do with it?

  9. asuffield says:

    Involuntary my ass

    No, that’s right. Involuntary manslaughter means he didn’t intend to kill the guy, but did intend to commit a criminal act and killed the guy in the process of doing so.

    Let’s not forget one very important thing, which is that Johannes Mehserle had no justification for firing a taser in the first place.

    We’re not forgetting that, because that right there is your intention to commit a criminal act. That’s what makes it manslaughter.

    To reach either of the two higher charges (voluntary manslaughter or murder) there must be evidence beyond reasonable doubt of his intentions. Such evidence simply isn’t present – as is the case in most things that happen this fast, there’s no evidence about his intentions at all. Mere doubts and speculations about his intentions are not sufficient. This is how the justice system works.

    (For reference, a murder conviction requires intent *and* an absence of provocation or other mitigating factors. It’s usually pretty easy to establish that police are provoked by a situation – this guy certainly was – so voluntary manslaughter is the highest charge that can usually be applied)

    • Anonymous says:

      You’ve made a good case for felony murder not involuntary manslaughter. The cop intended to and did commit a felony. We’re talking about California not Texas the law does still frown on attacking an unarmed person who’s face down on the ground with any kind of weapon yes?

      The cop while committing the crime did cause the death of a person, that raises what might otherwise be manslaughter to the greater crime, it doesn’t lower it to involuntary manslaughter.

    • Xopher says:

      I thought involuntary meant you didn’t mean to do the act that resulted in the person’s death. As in, you’re cleaning your gun without paying attention to the fact that it’s loaded, and it goes off and kills someone.

      This asshole INTENDED to fire his gun (or, if you believe him, his taser). He doesn’t get to hide behind the fact that he didn’t know it was loaded (in this case, a gun instead of a taser). He knew or should have known that a taser could be fatal in those circumstances.

      We need clear laws establishing under what cirsumstances a taser may be used. Damn right the cops should be second-guessed; they need to be PROSECUTED for using tasers as a pain-compliance device.

    • Anonymous says:

      ASUFFIELD: (regarding police brutality) “We’re not forgetting that, because that right there is your intention to commit a criminal act. ”

      I think you’re mistaken.

      The jury ruled that Grant had been “criminally negligent when he drew his gun.”

      You actually referring to the definition for constructive involuntary manslaughter, whereas Grant was found guilty of criminally negligent involuntary manslaughter. The difference being that Grant was not engaged in the criminal act of police brutality in attempting to use his taser (as required for it to be constructive involuntary manslaughter), he was criminally reckless in his accidental use of his firearm (as required for it to be criminally negligent involuntary manslaughter).

      Since he was found guilty of criminally negligent involuntary manslaughter, police brutality would be an additional charge, would it not?

  10. Xopher says:

    Tim, the post you got so appalled at was sarcastically turning a right-wing argument around. I don’t think he was serious.

  11. asuffield says:

    Sigh. Logical error in my earlier post. “there’s no evidence about his intentions at all” needs modifying with “except for his own testimony that he intended to fire his taser”.

  12. asuffield says:

    I thought involuntary meant you didn’t mean to do the act that resulted in the person’s death.

    No, it’s specifically that you didn’t intend to kill them. The classic example is that if you deliberately throw a brick off a bridge, and it lands on somebody’s head and kills them, that is involuntary manslaughter: you intended to throw the brick, but not to kill them.

  13. asuffield says:

    Doesn’t that admission make his action voluntary?

    The condition for ‘voluntary’ is intent to kill or seriously harm, and a taser does neither… so no.

  14. Doctor Popular says:

    Video cameras are now ubiquitous in cell phones and consumer gadgets and the result is better checks and balances on police behavior.

    Orwell was wrong; we are big brother.

  15. teapot says:

    Thanks god the disemvowellment leaves it somewhat readable :P

    One man being raped seems less than fair for the other man who no longer lives. Maybe I’m a sick fuck, but I have no compassion if this guy ends up dripping blood from his nether-region.

    I am in total agreement with you on the whole prison-rape-being-unacceptable belief, but only because the crimes committed by the majority of people in prison are less significant than rape. Also, often the ones doing the raping in prison are the ones who have the worst RAP sheets, so retribution is doled out disproportionately. Anyway… ex-cop… murdered an unarmend black guy… we all know what’s cuming.

    In any case, until the US gets rid of the death penalty it will not be a civilized nation.

  16. adamnvillani says:

    They’re noting on TV that it’s extremely rare for a police officer to be found guilty of any homicide for an action taken in the course of his job. The guy on TV said they had searched through the records and couldn’t find any other such cases, so this is a first.

  17. Xopher says:

    That’s what disemvowellment is for. It lets people read the offending material if they really want to, while freeing the rest of us from reading it involuntarily.

    And while I cannot judge whether you’re a sick fuck, I must say that your POV about prison rape does match that of other sick fucks I have known.

  18. C White says:

    It strikes me that if a police-issued gun, and a police-issued firearm, happen to have the same weight and feel as each other… so much so that officers confuse the two… then this is a serious flaw in design.

    If, however, the police-issued guns, and police-issued tasers… do NOT in fact, have the same weight and feel… then his “excuse” is baseless.

  19. Tensegrity says:

    Well, if this is the level of unthinking, irrational incivility here on BoingBoing, then that does not bode well for the rest of society. So much anger in people and it always seems easier in the moment to unleash it on other people than do deal with it constructively.

    “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

    Oakland is screwed.

    The sad part is the independent mom and pop businesses that will be victimized in the civil unrest. In downtown Oakland, they are mostly owned by women, immigrants, and people of color. I saw it last time, and it was sad then, and it will be sad now.

    Fight the power, if that is what you are compelled to do, but why victimize more people in the process?

    • Felton says:

      I don’t see anyone here calling for riots. What are you seeing as “unthinking, irrational incivility?”

      • Tensegrity says:

        Calling people trolls and telling people to GTFO is pretty uncivil and not the level of discussion/debate I expect at BoingBoing.

        • Felton says:

          Ah, I see. From the second half of your post, I inferred that you thought people here were in favor of rioting.

  20. Wolfrick says:

    He drew his firearm thinking it was his TASER and killed the man.
    Police officers SHOULD NOT HAVE TASERS.
    They’re far to easy to use when no violence is necessary (for example against an 8-year-old girl throwing a tantrum, or an 80-something year old woman who won’t take her medicine).
    TASERs have a place in certain circumstances, but I’ve come to believe that police are far too likely to use them as a convenience, rather than at great need.

    • Church says:

      “Police officers SHOULD NOT HAVE TASERS. ”

      Amen to that. It’s a way to slough off responsibility for use of force, and apparently indistinguishable from an actual firearm. (Serious design flaw there.)

  21. Antinous / Moderator says:

    Two words: Dan White.

    • teapot says:

      We can only hope..

      I’ll even provide the hose and a cassette of The Town I Loved So Well.

      • Antinous / Moderator says:

        Literally, my first thought when I saw the headline was ‘garden hose’. I wonder if he feels any remorse.

  22. foxtongue says:

    Live footage of post-verdict Oakland: http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/livenow?id=7544444

    • teapot says:

      Thanks for the link fox.

      http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/livenow?id=7544444

      Apart from the looting, I can only describle this video feed as beautiful.

      Nxt w nd fd f Jhnns Mhsrl gttng crn-hld n prsn.

      • Xopher says:

        I just said this in another thread, but I’ll say it here too: prison rape is not a joke, and it’s not an appropriate part of anyone’s punishment.

        Many of us think Johnny Misery should be punished more than he’s likely to be, but the fact that prisoners are routinely raped and that most of the public thinks that’s OK is proof by itself that we are NOT a civilized nation.

    • Felton says:

      Thanks for that link, foxtongue.

  23. Anonymous says:

    What ever he did. On purpose or not, he still killed a bloody human. He took the life of the guy. Which is murder. He deserves life in prison I say.

    • Xopher says:

      Well, you don’t belong on any jury in the United States. We tend to like it when juries follow the law and the instructions given them by the judge.

      And there are lots of circumstances where one person causes the death of another and it isn’t murder.

  24. ifthenwhy says:

    Yeah a real “burning in Oakland”. Zzzzzzzzzzzz.

    As much as the media wanted to inspire manufactured liberal rage Oakland didn’t buy it. I know I never did.

    The only result that I saw was a bunch of people at work running home at 3:30 because they had been watching too much news.

    Then the rest of the day consisted of the dull throb of horrific traffic.

    I felt the specter of “rioting” held over my head for a week. Saw repeated emails from my employer to avoid Oakland, witnessed beefed up security at my kids day care and even saw a few plain clothes security officers walking the campus where I work here in Emeryville.

    Yep..their is nothing in the world, nothing, like scared white people.

    As for the verdict.

    Well, Justice was served.

  25. dfletcher says:

    My stop, El Cerrito Del Norte, has a little BART cop station next to it. Frequently, you see their cars parked outside it with shotguns and assault/riot gear sitting there in plain view.

    Which situation in the entire history of BART requires these guys to carry around all this crazy equipment? You’d think they were at war or something.

  26. Aloisius says:

    Then what’s the difference between voluntary manslaughter and second-degree murder?

    In California, murder requires malice aforethought. Malice aforethought is a mental state that must be formed before the homicide is committed.

    There are two kinds of malice aforethought defined in the California penal code: express malice and implied malice.

    The murder defendant acted with express malice if he/she unlawfully intended to kill.

    The murder defendant acted with implied malice if:

    1. The defendant intentionally committed an act

    2. The natural consequences of the act were dangerous to human life

    3. At the time the defendant acted, they knew their act was dangerous to human life

    AND

    4. The defendant deliberately acted with conscious disregard for human life

    • Xopher says:

      So first-degree murder is with express malice and second-degree murder is with implied malice? Because in other jurisdictions I’m familiar with, any malice aforethought gets first degree, and second is when the decision is made to kill on the spur of the moment.

  27. EH says:

    The sad part is the independent mom and pop businesses that will be victimized in the civil unrest. In downtown Oakland, they are mostly owned by women, immigrants, and people of color. I saw it last time, and it was sad then, and it will be sad now.

    Right, with all of your pity and concern, you “saw it last time” because you only go down there when the people on TV do.

    • Tensegrity says:

      Actually, it is because I’ve worked there for years and eat and shop in those places and know those shopkeepers. They are nice, hardworking people just trying to make a modest living.

      There’s really no need to go into attack mode here. It’s just as easy to think that people have good motives for what they say than to immediately assume they are full of it. But it’s up to you to decide if you want to take people at face value or approach everyone with automatic suspicion. I hope you’ll choose the former more than the latter.

  28. George William Herbert says:

    Interesting mirror this case is holding up to people everywhere.

    The unfortunate thing about horrible accidents is that human beings seek some sort of logical explanation – malign action, etc. – when in many cases there is none.

    Humans operating with firearms make stupid mistakes, in some cases the best and most professional ones, but in many more cases the new and relatively inexperienced ones. There are a simple set of safety rules for civilians, which unfortunately don’t entirely apply to police use of firearms. They carry them because they regularly (statistically, across the field) have to use them. By far most of the uses are clearly and completely reasonably justified. There are exceptions.

    I grew up and live in the San Francisco bay area, and lived in Berkeley and Oakland for decades.

    I have seen new police officers and Navy SEAL firearms instructors with decades of experience put their fingers on the trigger of a gun by instinct when they should not have, and in one case watched a neglegent discharge that followed. I saw an officer faced with a suspect with a knife draw and aim his radio at the suspect instead of his gun (fortunately the quite literally psychotic man with the knife didn’t realize that, and dropped the knife anyways).

    I’ve seen driving safety experts back into a pedestrian, and run into something trying to answer a cellphone text message while driving. I saw an aviation safety expert crash a 747 simulator when they were distracted by a conversation.

    There was nothing in Mehserle’s history that indicates a tendency towards violence or abusive behavior. One physical arrest in 2 years of police service is a lower than average rate. No evidence has come forwards of any coworkers or anyone else having seen behavior of his in the past that seemed either malign or negligent.

    There was nothing in the videos or testimony on the incident that would make any sense as an intentional shooting. Grant and the others were drunk and being disruptive – but not violent to the point of requiring a gun being drawn or fired. None of the other officers, at least two of whom were much more aggressive (both historically and in that incident), thought it necessary.

    The attempted use of a taser may not have been justified either, but Grant was being moderately disruptive at the time and the situation was not entirely under control. It is at least a credible explanation.

    Those of you who believe this was clearly murder have to explain what about becoming a police officer for 2 years would turn a mild-mannered business major and expectant father into a cold-blooded premeditated murderer. As a rule, people with no history of violence have a nearly zero record of turning suddenly into killers. What you’re saying is that a police officer who was apparently usually the calm one at an incident would lose it when faced with an uncooperative drunk and simply shoot him in the back, in front of many other officers and dozens of onlookers.

    Police aren’t robots. People with his background and no tendency towards violence take a lot of training to get them to the point where they will reliably and safely use their firearms in self defense in the course of their police duties, which is necessary for them to safely be police. Nothing about being a police officer dehumanizes you. One of my former coworkers was IT by day and police officer at night, and told me of an incident in a hospital ER in San Francisco where a mentally unbalanced patient had thrown a couple of chairs and hurt someone badly, and was threatening to throw a third at Dave and doctors. Dave had his gun on the man and was telling him “I don’t want to shoot you!”. The doctors were yelling “Shoot him! Shoot him!” Dave spent minutes talking him down safely and explaining that he had to get the patient away from the now-crazy doctors for his own safety, which by the end the patient agreed with. Everyone else I know who are police have similar stories.

    I wasn’t there at the BART situation Grant died in, and I can’t read minds. Oscar Grant clearly deserved to grow up with his kid and girlfriend and not die on the platform, and his death was (in both moral and California legal terms) clearly unjustified and almost certainly unexcuseable. That’s a very different thing than believing that Mehserle knew what he was about to do in the second before he fired.

    If you believe that it absolutely must have been intentional, I grieve for your lack of faith in the humanity of police officers. Dehumanization and lack of understanding and respect go both ways.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      Dehumanization and lack of understanding and respect go both ways.

      The bullet, however, was unidirectional, and that’s the salient fact of this story.

      • Notary Sojac says:

        “The bullet, however, was unidirectional”

        Less restrictive weapons-carry laws would go a long way toward redressing that discrepancy.

        • Xopher says:

          Lovely. You think a shootout on BART would be preferable?

          • Notary Sojac says:

            When I saw a carefully reasoned and worded post replied to (by a moderator) with a snarky one liner, it was hard to resist a snarky one line followup.

            Having said that…if a cop had to consider, before assaulting someone, that the assaultee might have armed friends in close proximity, I’m not 100 percent sure that would be a Bad Thing.

    • Church says:

      “Those of you who believe this was clearly murder have to explain what about becoming a police officer for 2 years would turn a mild-mannered business major and expectant father into a cold-blooded premeditated murderer.”

      Er no. The reverse actually. Why is someone who is supposedly trained in the correct use of firearms and (whatever Tasers are) suddenly unable to (a) deploy them correctly and (b) apparently unable to distinguish between the two?

    • stumo says:

      George – good post, very well written.

      Antonious – I thought George’s post deserved a little more than that put down.

  29. Anonymous says:

    •Balu Says:
    July 16th, 2010 at 5:49 am
    There is no credible information to suggest Mr. Grant was a “Thug.” Desecrating the dead is wrong.
    It is true, the DA misled the jury with instructions on firearms enhancements.

    The jury was instructed with:

    CALJIC 17.19 — Personal use of a firearm. (“The term “personally used a firearm,” as used in this instruction, means that the defendant must have intentionally displayed a firearm in a menacing manner, intentionally fired it, or intentionally struck or hit a human being with it.”)

    as a possible verdict choice along with involuntary manslaughter; this misled the jury. This instruction was error, and Judge Perry allowed it, ADA Stein did not object. It allowed the Jury to entertain the possibility of an enhancement conviction when none is possible. Thus they felt they were giving him more serious convictions. Any lay jury will guess an enhancement yields more time. Thier verdict was thought to be in between Man 1 and Man 2. They were initially attempting to aggravate to Man 1 by using “heat of passion” the opposite way; that fact is mitigating to murder 2, not aggravating from Man 2 to Man 1. The Jury was instructed improperly there as well; evidence that Stein was letting the defendant off is seen by the fact he allowed the judge to instruct on “heat of passion” as emotionally charged circumsatnce that could be caused by others than the victim. Clear proof that Stein let the defendant off with Man 2 is seen by the instructional error that cannot be appealed by the prosecution, as any error is waived by lack of objection; and of course, the DA cannot appeal a guilty verdict, since jeopardy has already attached.
    Thus, the only rational conclusion is the DA put on a show trial, knowing the defendant could do no worse than Man 1; and created erroneous instructions leading the Jury to think that Man 2 would yield more time than it did, allowing for a greater likelihood of a conviction there; a likelihood increased by the poor presentation of state of mind evidence that would have proven the voluntary aspects of Man 1.

    What needs to be understood here is this could have never been a complete accident without malice. That is because the defendant could have applied mechanical restraint to a non-resisting suspect with hands behind his back; instead he rose to bravely electrocute the suspect; and in the process “swapped” with Sig Sauer P226; this is of course very unlikely, but reasonable doubt requires us to believe this without other proof; (highly unlikely because the defendant fired his 9mm many times at the range; it weighs three times as much; and I am biased as to this because I have owned the exact same Sig Sauer P226, and it is not only very heavy, you know you are holding a powerful lethal weapon; it is nearly impossible to believe the weapon could be confused with a light Taser weighing 1/3 as much; this was not a Glock 19. Go to Target Masters in Milpitas, rent these guns, fire them, and see for yourself; then order a Taser for $250 online, now freely available, and compare. There are rare situations when a gun does seem lighter, however). So even with all reasonable doubt, there was malice; that is because the defense admits an attempt to use the Taser. There was no cause for use of the Taser. The suspect was face down and not resisting; it is disturbing that Mr. Rains brought in Mr. Schott, a video expert to lie to the Jury and testify that the victim had “punched” the defendant; Mr. Schott being one of the experts from the Simi Valley trial that helped aquit Koon and his thugs, ultimately leading to 100 innocent deaths. The defense brought in men with blood on their hands. Again, to desecrate the dead, to portray a young man killed in front of an audience of 500, as the aggressor, without any real proof, is sacrilege. At the time of the shot fired, the victim was not resisting in any way. Thus, the defendant’s choice to rise and fire, rather than apply restraints to a man with hands behind his back, in itself constitutes a crime, even if we assume it was a Taser being fired. That is because in CA:
    Penal Code 244.5. (a) As used in this section, “stun gun” means any item, except a taser, used or intended to be used as either an offensive or defensive weapon that is capable of temporarily immobilizing a person by the infliction of an electrical charge.
    (b) Every person who commits an assault upon the person of another with a stun gun or a taser shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for a term not exceeding one year, or by imprisonment in the state prison for 16 months, two, or three years.
    (c) Every person who commits an assault upon the person of a peace officer or firefighter with a stun gun or taser, who knows or reasonably should know that the person is a peace officer or firefighter engaged in the performance of his or her duties, when the peace officer or firefighter is engaged in the performance of his or her duties, shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail for a term not exceeding one year, or by imprisonment in the county jail for a term not exceeding one year, or by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years.
    (d) This section shall not be construed to preclude or in any way limit the applicability of Section 245 in any criminal prosecution.

    The victim was not resisting in any way that could even remotely jsutify use of a Taser. Thus, the potential felony above was committed even with the defense’s excuse defenses.

    It should be noted, that Taser’s are sub-lethal, and capable of producing death in people that have heart defects, such as murmurs.

    Also, the mentally ill may be severely harmed by a Taser. These are not toys to assault people with for sadistic pleasure. It is a crime to misuse a Taser. Thus, a review of the numerous videos available online of the shooting leaves no doubt that defendant Johannes, now a felon, had no reason to fire the Taser when he could have applied the handcuffs and neutralized any threat; any rational person can see he is guilty of PC 244.5 at the least. This malice and intention to assualt means mens rea culpa is there, and Johannes must be punished for his own dignity. There is no defense of “accident” here. The only possible “accident” was the choice of weapon. The finding of negligence applies not only to that lack of necessary distinction (if some policeman runs a red light, and has perfect vision and color distinction, and a child coming home from school is killed, even if it is an accident, meaning not intentional, or voluntary, would a rational Jury say there was no negligence?) but the underlying criminal conduct under PC 244.5. Were this statute not available, one could even charge torture:
    torture involves the intent to inflict severe pain; a Taser does just that; and the injuries need not be all that severe:
    See People v. Pre (2004) 117 Cal.App.4th 413, 420. (“[California Penal Code] Section 206 does not require permanent, disabling, or disfiguring injuries; “[s]ection 206 only requires ‘great bodily injury as defined in Section 12022.7’…. ‘Abrasions, lacerations and bruising can constitute great bodily injury.’
    There are factors in the use of a Taser unlawfully without any defensive purpose that support a torture charge; the indisputable facts caught on tape present only one conclusion: If Johannes did not want to assualt the victim Grant, there would have been no death. The assault was voluntary-there was a crime; perhaps the killing involuntary; of course, only one man knows the truth. SInce he can’t be retried, he should tell the truth.
    And new technology needs to be developed to prevent the frewquent “accidents,’ especially those involving Glock/Taser mix ups-both plastic, lightweight weapons.
    As to those that ridicule Oakland as ignorant and socioeconomically worse off than the suburbs, they are sadly mistaken. The “hood” home prices are the same as the median prices in Walnut Creek or Concord; and North Oakland, such as Montclair, Piedmont area, Crocker Highlands, Trestle Glen, are far higher end than Walnut Creek or Concord with a very high level of education and income; the areas less well off are more blue collar because they operate the port and shipping systems, for example, that serve the bay area; someone has to do these jobs, they do not pay as much. However, people in East Oakland are far from poor, and it is not a real “ghetto.” The youth are also highly intelligent; the asians and blacks are no less educated than average suburban youth. It is ignorant to insult them, after they all feel insulted by what they perceive to be a “public execution.” Most people that speak poorly of minority races never grew up around diverse populations, and thus feel nothing towards other people. Living near Piedmont, having been to Berkeley, with many African Americans in the area (20%) I can tell you this all felt very unhealthy to people of color. Rather than “support” Johannes, you should be paying your respect to the victim(s), all young men of color; it was due to hate this thing started. A blonde hair blue eyed boy, like the dozens that live near me, would not have been subject to electrocution under the circumstances; would not have been exposed to the lethal Sig Sauer. This all begins with aggravated agression and rage towards a black in East Oakland; this is also called xenophobia. Johannes most likely also has the violence gene; one can be equally xenophobic to his Van Der Sloot type family tree.

  30. Anonymous says:

    I read the CA Penal code just now as well, but thanks to Aloisius for the quote.
    Seems like this is rock solid within implied malice to me.
    The officer in question is four for four on the criteria.

  31. Anonymous says:

    Now some states have made it ILLEGAL to videotape cops. People have been ARRESTED for doing so. Sounds crazy but it’s true, look it up, Illinois and Maryland do it. Bye bye freedom, it was good while it lasted…..

  32. asuffield says:

    Battery is dangerous to human life.

    People don’t die from any injury, that doesn’t count. But that’s beside the point, because battery is not a felony unless the victim loses a limb or is permanently disfigured. A taser can’t do either of those, so unlawfully tasing somebody is at most misdemenor battery. Obviously the felony murder rule requires a felony.

  33. Anonymous says:

    People become cops so they can commit crimes without being punished. And if they do get caught the police unions and coworkers will protect them no matter what they did. The people in school I knew who wanted to be cops were always the bullies, wanna-be tough guys, and jock-types.

  34. Mark Gordon says:

    It almost doesn’t matter whether he actually serves any time. He’s now a convicted felon, which means he’ll never again legally carry a gun, and he’ll never again work as a police officer. At that point, the rest of us are safe from Johannes Mehserle. Moreover, the threat of that same punishment may be sufficient to make other officers more careful in the future, and for that, I am grateful. If only more unfit officers could be convicted of felonies, I’d be that much happier.

    FWIW, I suspect the prosecutors were gaming the jury in giving them a choice of guilty verdicts, all felonies. Involuntary manslaughter would seem like a moderate verdict. The murder charge was little more than a bargaining position.

    • Xopher says:

      IIRC the defense wanted the jury to have to decide between Murder One and acquittal. Of course, that would have ensured an acquittal, since the facts clearly don’t support Murder One. The judge wasn’t stupid enough to let that happen, and gave them the alternatives we know of.

  35. Anonymous says:

    I, along with many professional police officers, are still trying to figure out how someone could possibly not be able to tell a gun from a Taser? Poor, inadequate training, perhaps? A gun vs a Taser has a vastly different feel to it. Maybe someone’s skimping on the training of these obviously incompetent officers and putting them out there to wreat havoc on primarily poor and minority poor citizens. These tragic, citizen and police encounters are happening more and more all across the nation.

  36. brix says:

    Everybody who’s already said something to the effect of “it’s so stupid how these riots are going to happen”:

    maybe, in talking about the irrational violence and unproductive nature of riots, we could restrain ourselves from talking in hypotheticals.

    because otherwise, that could make us sound like we already have a picture in our heads of how The Population Of Oakland thinks about and responds to things. And that we don’t even need to wait for The Monolithic Population Of Oakland to do anything before we start talking about how irrational and unproductive and tragically thoughtless it is.

    and that could sound sorta fucked up, to have prejudged an entire group of people like that

  37. Anonymous says:

    I agree, there was no reason to pull and fire even a Taser since the victim was already in handcuffs and not being combative in any way. Cops in my town were fired and convicted for using a Taser on an already handcuffed and subdued victim. This man used a gun, mistakenly or not. He should have never pulled a taser or a gun. There was simply no reason to.

  38. brix says:

    apologies. i meant “sorta shpxrq up,” that other thing was a typo, and i don’t even know what that word means.

    and i also meant to put a period at the end of the last sentence.

    clearly not on my A-game folks. sorry.

  39. Anonymous says:

    For those wondering what the differences were between 2nd degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, etc. Julianne Hing over at Colorlines did a great breakdown and analysis of what the prosecution would have to prove for the various verdicts here http://colorlines.com/archives/2010/07/oscar_grant_trial_what_the_jury_will_consider.html

    Apparently for it to have been voluntary manslaughter, the prosecution would have to prove he killed Grant in the “heat of passion” as a result of irrational reaction to the threat level present/perceived.

    For involuntary manslaughter the prosecution had to prove that BART officer was criminally negligent in other words that “his mistakes and deviations from training were so profound they were criminal”

    She puts it a lot better than I do though, and adds some other things the jury had to consider with a breakdown of the evidence.

  40. Anonymous says:

    Why do cops get away with murder?
    I’m not anti-cop or anything like that but why is it that cops can shoot people in the back, or who are unarmed or running away and not get the death penalty or even convicted.

    I also know that cops only have like a short amount of time to react when someone pull a weapon on them and attacks, but very few people ever go as far as to shoot cops (without a good reason). Most the people who do attack cops are either: (1)mental -as in have a mental disease (2) were attacked by the cops first and the cops were undercover and did not identify themselves as cops until they started shooting. (3) Just psycho criminals.

    If someone genuinely comes at a uniformed office then the cop has the right to defend himself. But self defense works both ways. I wouldn’t suggest shooting a cop even in self defense unless your willing to move cities. Every person who has ever been found innocent of defending themselves from a cop has ended up shot by police at a later date or killed by prison guards. Then again police murder the other witness in their so-call justify shooting!

    Why is it that cops can kick down your door and shoot you in your own house and just make up stories like they saw you reaching for your waist, and then they find nothing but a wallet, which everyone has on their body. (RIP–Mr. Diallo and Ms. Johnston)

    Lets be honest no one wants to go to jail for murder so when cops shoot people because they are over aggressive they are just going to make up some BS story, anyone in that position would do it. Why is it for example that when cops see there own colleagues shoot people they don’t arrest them and treat them like everyone else.( RIP–Mr. Sean Bell)

    Worst of all the judges are too scared of cops to ever convict them of a crime even if they are obviously guilty. No other person in society, not even Texas could shoot someone in handcuffs in the back or 50 times and claim that they were under pressure, stress, and it was some form of self -defense and not get the death penalty. AGAIN( RIP–Mr.Sean Bell and Oscar Grant)

    I think all cops should be forced to wear video cameras in their hat so everyone can see who the real criminals are. I’m sure spending all your day around people who commit illegal act must have some kind of effect on you.

    Rodney King was beaten by three white cops under the supervision of a white police Sergeant! BUT upwards of 27 male and female white cops witness the crime. And did nothing to stop the crime BUT watch. Why haven’t they been charge with a crime? Why didn’t the prosecutors go after them?

    Kathryn Johnston was a 92 year old black woman murder by three white cops! Only two where prosecute and receive less then 11 years! After they shot a 92 years old black innocent female 39 times 6 bullets hitting the target then they handcuff her .Didn’t call for an ambulance let her bleed to death! Then they planted drugs then they tried to get someone to lie and say they purchase from the home of Ms. Johnston!

    Aiyana Jones just 7 years old and innocent of any crimes was asleep and was burn and shot by a cop and many other cops stood by and let it happen! Where is the judges and prosecutors? WHERE IS JUSTICE FOR THAT CHILD?

  41. baywhlr says:

    Here’s my eyes on the ground view:
    I live in Berkeley and work in Oakland
    about 5 blocks from MacArthur BART & Telegraph.

    We have been paying very close attention to this case
    and my boss (out of state at the moment)
    gave me the head’s up that the verdict was about to come down.

    Before the verdict was released, I heard Sirens and helicopters (we are less than 5 blocks from BART MacArthur, a Major transfer station for BART
    and only 1 block from the Oakland Technical High School)

    I left at 4:30 and traffic out of Oakland was bumper to bumper – the on ramp to highway 24 was jammed the second you turned on to it from Telegraph Ave.
    (Gave a whole new definition to the term White Flight)
    I dont drive and take public transit and frankly waiting for a bus was nerve wracking. Never mind an accessible bus.

    I am disabled and use a wheelchair – I work in a property management company (Yippee Landlords – everybody’s favorite folks)
    and businesses in this district have Oscar Grant’s picture in their windows in an attempt to stave off violence.

    For the record, I think it should have been 2nd degree murder – I have sympathy for Mr. Mehrsle.
    However any group that has the right to stop me and ask where I am going
    to ask me to identify myself
    to carry tasers
    and to carry firearms
    should be held to a higher standard of the law.

    Mouthing off to a cop when
    you are on your belly
    on the ground
    with your hands tied behind your back
    on New Year’s Eve
    is not a good enough reason to be shot in the back.

    Stick and stones.

  42. ChickenDelicious says:

    As you consider involuntary manslaughter/voluntary manslaughter/murder, keep in mind that each element must be proven to the jury beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a very high burden. If the jury felt that there was any reasonable alternative theory, they were required to go with the lesser charge. I’d be interested to read the trial transcripts.

  43. Anonymous says:

    Point of order: People need to stop using the word “troll” when referring to other people on Boing Boing. I’ve never seen anybody (Even the authors and editors) us it in the correct sense. Troll doesn’t mean “person that disagrees with me”.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      Troll doesn’t mean “person that disagrees with me”.

      No, but it does mean a pattern of deliberate and malicious provocation.

  44. Xopher says:

    Well, there was some rioting and looting overnight, but not nearly as bad as it could have been.

    The delay makes me think the looting was by a) people who had a few too many after the verdict and b) the sort of people who would loot anytime they had an excuse.

    I don’t think it reflects badly on most of the people of Oakland.

  45. Raj77 says:

    Welp, at least it’s a safe conviction. It’s better that than the equivalent case in the UK of Jean-Charles de Menezes, where no-one was held responsible.

    I’d like to think the affair will lead to a culture shift in BART; safe to assume that the sort of misbehaviour happening that night is/was routine.

  46. dculberson says:

    Hey, it’s something. More than some expected!

  47. ADavies says:

    Citizen video FTW!

  48. Kerov says:

    Another case that would have never seen the light of day if it weren’t for the recent proliferation of citizen-owned video cameras.

    Video is the best weapon against police abuse.

    • straponego says:

      Yes. But since police and other powers that be are, via real and fabricated laws, trying to make it impossible to document crimes by authority figures, we need to stream the videos live. Well, live if possible, possibly followed by a higher quality upload when bandwidth permits.

      The problem with that is that in crowded situations (like G20 or other large protests) bandwidth contention on cell networks will be a serious problem. Not to mention that AT&T et al have proven very receptive to illegal directives from the government. If they’re told to shut down service in an area so the System Pigs (hat tip to Jeff Somers) can get their beatings on, they’ll be happy to do so… in fact, they’ll probably introduce a law to require such compliance, if there isn’t a secret one already.

      Also, I’d want to use a video capture program that doesn’t contain identifying data, as police have often retaliated against their critics. Most likely that will require a third party app for Android phones.

      And to those who say this is overboard– if you have nothing to hide, you shouldn’t have a problem with being recorded, right?

      • Anonymous says:

        I absolutely agree! Taser International has already introduced video recording device wear that police will be wearing in their hats. The thing is the police gets to decide what if anything he/she wants to record. Now, that’s going to lead to a lot of crooked cops out there still beating up on and abusing citizen, then just record the citizens reacting to it, and not they, the police instigating the issue.

      • Anonymous says:

        It’d be great to have public video of the actions of authority figures. The problem is that with these high-stress jobs you have to slack off or self-medicate at times or you will go bonkers and start mowing innocent people down. I suspect this is why they do not drug-test teachers.

      • Tim says:

        “And to those who say this is overboard– if you have nothing to hide, you shouldn’t have a problem with being recorded, right?”

        While I don’t disagree with you on the cell phone thing and all that, this line of mentality is exactly the same one used to argue that the police or FBI or any other agency should have 24 hour access to your computer files or to putting a camera in your living room. While it’s not incorrect logic, it’s horribly invasive.

        Watching the video I couldn’t make much out, but it does look like he’s holding a taser already in that photo. If that’s the case (and lets be fair, it’s not the clearest photo so we can’t be sure) then it’s pretty obvious the shot wasn’t an accident.

        • aeroplane says:

          This is a garbage argument. Public servants should expect to be held accountable by the public they serve. Documentation of their actions while on the job should not only be encouraged, but if they are carrying deadly weapon(s), required.

          • Tim says:

            You’re right; public service, especially those who carry deadly weapons, should be held accountable and video records can do that.

            I simply meant the logic used in the post was a dangerous one. It seems fair to admit it was a rather weak response on my part seeing as how he wasn’t applying it to everyone everywhere, but using that logic (“if you have nothing to hide then you shouldn’t mind being watched”) to justify one thing means it’s valid to use when justifying another.

            I do not disagree with police being filmed. I didn’t mean to imply that.

        • Anonymous says:

          So let’s use different logic.

          How about, the police are given extraordinary latitude to do things that normal citizens cannot in the interests of “public safety”. Whether or not they should have that latitude i another debate entirely, but if the do, we have a moral obligation to make sure it is not being abused.

          at cory — he will be in protective custody, not in general population.

        • querent says:

          Cops aren’t citizens. Not in their official capacity. They’re employees. We rule. We can film them.

  49. Brainspore says:

    He’s looking at 2-4 years. Tonight I’m glad I no longer live in Oakland, because this is going to get ugly.

  50. tobergill says:

    Is that a taser he’s holding in the pic taken “just before” he shot Grant?

    • Xopher says:

      Sure looks like it. So he already had his taser out. REAL plausible that he put it back and drew his gun without noticing.

      Murdering asshole.

  51. Alessandro Cima says:

    I think the main thing that should become obvious from this horrific episode is that these police are extremely dangerous people. It doesn’t matter why. It should just be in everyone’s mind up there in Oakland that these police are very very dangerous.

    If I were up in Oakland and saw a police officer draw a weapon for any reason whatsoever I would instinctively want to react in self-defense. No question about it.

    What happens in a city when the average citizen logically assumes every cop on every subway platform to be a threat to one’s life? What happens in courts when criminals shoot those cops? The lawyers would argue that the person acted out of fear for their own life. Right? Logical assumption?

    • Brother Phil says:

      This reminds me of Peter Watts’ recent interview on the Sofanauts.

      Apparently one of the criticisms of him wasn’t that he acted wrongly, but that customs patrols and the like are known to be as dangerous as wild animals, and that he should have known better than to argue with them.
      Not, he emphasised, that this was in any way an appropriate situation, but that it was thought to be the way things were.

      It’s funny, I thought that this sort of sht from the British is why you chucked us out in the first place.

      Perhaps holding police (and anyone else permitted / required to be armed amongst civilians) to a higher standard of behavior than the general populace, rather than a lower one, would help? Naah – it would never work. That would contradict the basic rule that the state (and its servants) can do what the hll it likes.

  52. Xopher says:

    Involuntary my ass. There will be burning in Oakland tonight.*

    Proving once again that LA juries (it was moved to LA due to publicity in Oakland) think it’s OK a) for a cop to kill an unarmed civilian; b) for a white man to kill a black man; or c) both.

    Dammit.

    ____
    *Please note, I do not live in Oakland nor have any personal interests there. This is a prediction, nothing more.

    • Rissa says:

      I’d stand by that prediction of burning/rioting/mayhem, too. I live in East Oakland up from the Coliseum station and we’ve already heard one shooting tonight.

      My husband and I clocked the police response time (presumably from the Eastmont station) at about 4 minutes.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’ve looked at several versions of the incident from different angles and I see reasonable doubt for murder. It looks to me like the cop and the cops near him look surprised by the shot, that he didn’t intend to murder the guy. I don’t doubt that there are dirty cops in the world and maybe even cops who would straight up decide to murder a detainee, but it makes no logical sense for a cop to choose to do this in a BART station with plenty of witnesses and cell phones around. It really does appear to be involuntary manslaughter.

      I think you’re being a bit reactionary and proclamations about LA juries thinking it’s okay for cops to kill civilians help no one. Justice is decided in a court room, not on the street by a mob.

      • Blaine says:

        It really does appear to be involuntary manslaughter.

        What I disagree with is, and it varies by jurisdiction, is manslaughter is applicable where you had no intention to kill or create a deadly situation.

        A taser is a deadly weapon.

        Manslaughter is applicable when there is no intent to harm (malice).

        He might not have meant to kill him, but he meant to hurt him.

        Having a pistol loaded, chambered with the safety off is also not responsible.

        IANAL… closer to homicide than manslaughter. Second or Third Degree Murder.

  53. timbuktukathmandu says:

    Every badge and every gun and tazer should come equipped with a micro-camera, recording and relaying live video and audio to central command.

    There is no excuse not to have a camera in every badge.

    And what the hell do you do when the police riot?

    Better call in the national guard!

    • GH says:

      Cameras are mandatory with Taser in France.

      Basically, in France there is a hudge debate on weither a Taser (or flashball) is a weapon or not.

      A police officer in France is allowed to use his firearm only if his life or someone else’s life is immediatly threaten.

      I always find it intersting with reading blog from out of my native country (France if you didn’t guess) how cultural distance can come sometimes. At the moment there is a hudge debate regarding police brutality (triggered by 10 years of “security” populism) but even when you look at the big riots in 2005 in France, they were triggered by 2 younsters taking refuge from the police in a high voltage electrical facility and getting electrocutted. They were not shot by the police.

      Yet, a part of the population (immigrant and tehir descent mostly) feel persucuted by the Police “like in America”. (Not counting that the countries were they come from are mostly not known for their civilised police)

      The threshold on what is acceptable or not is indeed different from one culture to another.

  54. Doug Watt says:

    Murder in cold blood and he’ll probably get 5 years. There is plenty of outrage in the SF Bay Area tonight, justifiably.

    • Notary Sojac says:

      I am outraged by this verdict as well. Second degree murder would have been completely appropriate.

      Yet I believe I’ll be able to express my outrage without any looting whatsoever.

  55. grimc says:

    The verdict includes a gun enhancement–might add years, but i think it’s completely up to the judge.

    The guy literally got away with murder.

  56. Xeni Jardin says:

    I was noting the same thing about that cellphone shot.

  57. Church says:

    Jeebus H. Christ, with all that advanced cop training he just blanks out and shoots a guy? Holy crap, what is he going to do once he’s back on the street?

  58. Anonymous says:

    So, what kind of a jury gives that kind of finding?

    • Xopher says:

      You mean the finding the previous Anon was looking for, or the one the real jury found?

      The one real jury found: well, for starters, an all-white jury.

      • Brainspore says:

        I’m not saying that the jury was as diverse as it should have been, but never assume that “no black people included” means “all white.” Especially in a place like L.A.

  59. tim12s says:

    All together, like ABC, after 123, ACAB.

  60. Anonymous says:

    I’d say justice has been served as well as it could be given the circumstances.

    I’m glad he was convicted of something, anything at all, that’s a huge step.

    Had this not been filmed, he might have only gotten suspended with pay, if even that. A cop being convicted of manslaughter in the line of duty is extremely rare.. Most times when an officer kills an innocent man they’re given mild disciplinary action at best. A slap on the wrist and a stern scolding from a superior, no pay cut, no demotion, no discipline, just a furrowed brow saying “don’t do that again kay?”

    If a police officer brutally murders someone for no reason while in uniform, they’re usually pardoned. For an ambiguous case like this to actually get involuntary manslaughter is an accomplishment, and justice has been served better than usual.

    I don’t agree with the pig’s actions, I don’t agree with the sentence, but as far as these cases usually go, this is cold hard sentencing which is pretty much unprecedented.

  61. asuffield says:

    If use of the taser isn’t justified which I don’t see how it could be since the man was already retrained then you have felony murder.

    The representations of the ‘felony murder’ rule that you see on TV are extremely inaccurate. Here’s the actual rule for California (ie, the applicable one here):

    First degree felony murder is a homicide occurring during the commission of arson, carjacking, burglary, robbery, mayhem, kidnapping, train wrecking, any sexual crime, or drive-by shooting. None of them seem applicable here. (Oddly, firing a gun is only first degree felony murder if you are inside a car when you fire it)

    Californian second degree felony murder is “any felony which is inherently dangerous to human life”. According to the Californian authorities and the training of this officer, tasers are safe.

    (You can’t convict the guy for murder on the basis that his training was wrong, because that’s not his fault)

    • iphinome says:

      Battery is dangerous to human life. The defense was that he intended to use a different weapon on an unarmed restrained person. How is that not dangerous to human life?

      I understand where #139 is coming from but I see this as more than an oversight. We’re talking about someone who considered it perfectly acceptable to brutalize a man because he didn’t respect his athoritah. That may or may not be common in police personal but it is unacceptable and as a consequence a man is dead.

  62. Anonymous says:

    Let’s not forget one very important thing, which is that Johannes Mehserle had no justification for firing a taser in the first place. Manslaughter or murder, whatever the case, it is also police brutality.

    Tasers are an alternative to a gun or baton. They are for self-defense only. They are not to be used as “pain-compliance devices”.

  63. adamnvillani says:

    For all those predicting that people in Oakland would riot and torch the city… It’s now 9:27 PM, more than 5 hours after the verdict, and all reports are that the demonstrations and protests have, by and large, been quite peaceful, with just a few scattered incidents of violence.

    One interesting aspect is that they (I’m not sure who, maybe the city, maybe community organizations) set up microphones and PA systems for people to speak out and be heard. It’s a very interesting tactic and it seemed to have worked.

    And it’s also worth noting that while people are obviously frustrated and angry, and rightfully so, there was a guilty verdict today— even though it’s for a lesser charge, that’s a remarkable difference from what we’ve come to expect from police brutality cases.

  64. amgunn says:

    Why BART cops need guns is beyond me. The whole department should be stripped of them for this.

  65. HouseofNina says:

    Involuntary my Black ass.

    A cop’s holster has at least one and usually three different actions a cop must perform (snaps, usually) in order to remove their gun.

    The Court hedged it bets on the verdict and that guy’s probably going to do 18 months.

    I’m disgusted and truly frightened for the people of Oakland. That City has became a beautiful and stately example of what community redevelopment can do. If there are riots, rest assured that the folks that suffer will be miles away from the institutions that deserve it.

  66. Xopher says:

    I tend to expect the worst. I’m glad to have been wrong in this case, and I hope things remain peaceful in Oakland.

  67. RevEng says:

    Let’s put aside our love or hatred for police officers and think objectively about this for a moment. What are the questions the jury needs to answer?

    - Did he intend to kill him?
    - Did he know he was using a pistol or did he think he was using a taser?
    - Would the use of a taser have been justified?
    - Would the accidental use of a pistol instead of a taser, resulting in death, be sufficiently negligent to be criminal?

    These are all difficult questions to answer. Some depend on what was going through the officers’ mind, others depend on our own interpretations of the very general rules that the law provides. When is the use of a taser justified? Could it have been an honest mistake? Can we hold police to a high enough standard where accidents are considered criminal negligence, and if so, what kind of mistakes are criminal?

    Here are the facts as we know them. The officer had no record of violent, racist, or any other behavior that would suggest he would intentionally kill this man. To the best of my knowledge, official policy is that tasers are to be used to enforce compliance if deemed necessary, but I don’t know if that’s true in this particular case. The defendant admitted that he knowingly fired a weapon, but claims that he thought he was firing his taser. Assuming using the taser would have been deemed appropriate given official policies, it’s reasonable to suspect that this was an accident (or, more importantly, it can’t be shown that it was intentional beyond a reasonable doubt). This is what the jury decided, and given what evidence we have available to us (the jury obviously had much more), this is all we can say.

    Now, the remaining questions come down to our own standards. Unfortunately, these things are not well-defined: there are official policies, general guidelines in the laws, and the jury’s own beliefs for what the expected level of diligence is for a police officer when using a weapon. If he did, in fact, mean to draw and fire a taser, and accidentally fired his pistol, is this a reasonable accident or is it criminal negligence? I can’t answer this, because there is no right answer: it comes down to our own interpretation of the laws and our own beliefs.

    On the one hand, I would hope an officer would be highly aware of the situation any time they draw a potentially-lethal device and aim it at somebody, and especially so when they pull the trigger. On the other hand, I know how easy it is to make a mistake, whether repeating a well-practiced routine or making a split-second decision in the heat of the moment. Without knowing what the typical error rates are in this situation, and without knowing what kind of training an officer goes through, I would be hesitant to say this accident was the result of him being irresponsibly negligent. In my mind, it is worse to punish an innocent man than to acquit a guilty man.

    Personally, I think tasers are dangerous weapons which are always damaging and quite possibly fatal and they should only ever be used if an officer is in clear and present danger. However, the laws aren’t written that way at this time. I also think that a person shouldn’t serve years of jail time, lose their livelihood, and be ostracized from society, all because of a non-conscious oversight, irrespective of the cost of that mistake. Given the evidence, it’s not at all clear that he intended to kill this man, and other than making a mistake as to which weapon he drew (which I can’t say is or isn’t criminally negligent), it’s not clear that he was behaving in a negligent way. There is no clear intent, no clear motive, and no clear negligence. This looks like a terrible, but honest accident.

    That said, I can relate to the people who are quick to denounce him as a malevolent pig. On the one hand, we have good reason to suspect a white police officer of intentionally killing a black suspect: there are many documented cases of violent, abusive, racist police taking advantage of their position. On the other hand, there’s good reason to believe that this was a good man, doing his job, who made an honest mistake that cost a man his life. Is this the kind of man you want to send a lynch mob after?

    Please let me be clear: I’m not a police apologist. I think police are given far too much power, are far too happy to bend the rules, and should be expected to put themselves in harm’s way, rather than rely on dangerous weapons to enforce compliance. But given what evidence we’ve heard, and watching that video many times over, I don’t think this was at all intentional. If I were in his shoes, and I had made the same mistake, I would be begging for your mercy. I think you’re asking for the head of an innocent man.

    As reasoned, civil people, the worst thing we can do is let our gut-feelings dictate our actions. Even if the outcome is horrible and our prejudices tell us that these things are often malevolent, we need to take the time to understand what really happened before judging him. Burning cars, threatening the lives of other police officers, and going outside the rule of law to exact our revenge is doing nothing to make our lives better: it only makes us into the same abusive, malevolent police that we loathe.

    Please, put down your pitch forks and consider the evidence. I don’t think this was intentional and I don’t think this is a mistake we can’t reasonably expect to happen once in a while. I think this was an honest mistake that could have been avoided if dangerous weapons were never sanctioned for use in non-life threatening situations. It was his mistake, but it was an accident, and nobody should be punished for that. Justice is a means to penalize those who would do wrong, not to exact revenge.

    • Anonymous says:

      I think the problem with this incident is that there are at least four clear cases of (let’s say) negligence:
      1) a weapon was drawn when it was clearly not needed,
      2) it was drawn on an incapacitated subject lying on one’s stomach (and not eg. on any of his friends who were in a much better position to cause problems or on some outside threat),
      3) a wrong weapon was drawn, and
      4) that weapon was discharged.

      So, even if we are forgiving, the fact is that a well-trained officer of the law didn’t have enough presence of mind to handle a weapon in any responsible way. Considering that policemen should be held up to higher standard due to the authority trusted to them, the weaponry they carry and routinely handle, and their knowledge of the law, I don’t think the four cases, when put together, can amount to an honest accident.

      I’m quite sure that civilians involved in even clearer cases of accident have been found guilty to murder in second degree.

  68. Darran Edmundson says:

    Question: how did he end up with an all-white jury? Is it the demographics of where he was tried? Or does the defence just refuse to accept any black jurors?

  69. brassandlace says:

    The day the incident happened, I never heard a single peep going home from SF to Ashby and didn’t even know there had been riots until I went into work the next day. I have a feeling I won’t be as lucky going home tonight.

    • Brainspore says:

      The last round of riots happened about a week after the initial shooting. I remember that distinctly because it was the first time I smelled tear gas or saw armored riot vehicles from my apartment balcony. When I walked to the BART station the next morning I saw that many of my neighbors’ cars, businesses and windows had been trashed by the angry crowd.

      Like Nina @17 says, it’s usually the innocent who suffer when someone decides to throw a riot.

Leave a Reply