Verdict in Oscar Grant Murder Case

[Trigger warning for violence.]

Oh, excuse me. There has been a verdict in the Oscar Grant involuntary manslaughter case.

Rage. Seethe. Boil.

In case the name Oscar Grant is unfamiliar to you, he was the victim of a police shooting in the Bay Area, sometimes known as the BART shooting. The shooter, former officer Johannes Mehserle, was arrested on suspicion of murder, which was a reasonable charge to anyone with an internet access and a functional sense of decency. Kevin has video of the incident here, to which I direct you with a strong trigger warning. It is very upsetting to watch.

In the subsequent trial, the jury could have found Mehserle guilty of second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, or involuntary manslaughter. After six and a half hours of deliberation, they convicted him of the least serious charge.
A jury found former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle guilty Thursday of involuntary manslaughter, concluding that he did not intend to kill train rider Oscar Grant when he shot him in the back on New Year's Day 2009 but acted so recklessly that he showed a disregard for Grant's life.

...The jury also found that Mehserle, 28, had used a gun during the crime. In all, he could be sentenced to five to 14 years in prison.

The jury took 6 1/2 hours over two days to decide that Mehserle was guilty of a crime, but not guilty of the other options it had been given - second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter.

Their verdict suggests they believed Mehserle when he testified that he had mistaken his pistol for his Taser as he sought to subdue the 22-year-old Grant at Fruitvale Station in Oakland following a fight on a BART train, a shooting that was captured on video by five other riders as well as a platform camera.
The whole taser-gun switcheroo is on what the verdict rests. It was Mehserle's contention that he had accidentally pulled out his gun (located on his right hip) instead of his taser (located on his left hip) and fired a round into Oscar Grant before realizing he'd "grabbed the wrong weapon."

Which, in my estimation, is all a red herring even irrespective of its alleged veracity (which is a whole other issue). The fact is, Mehserle could not have justifiably used his taser in that situation, either. Grant clearly hadn't come close to resisting, and thus Mehserle's intent was to hurt him, plain and simple. That he hurt him until he was dead doesn't make it involuntary. Fuck.

This is just rage-makingly heartbreaking.

Eastsidekate and I were just talking about this by email, and she noted (which I'm including with her permission:
What's really bothering me is captured in this awful, condescending editorial from the San Jose Mercury News. They've obviously learned nothing.

The thought running over-and-over in my mind at 3 am last night was that there will undoubtedly be calls for communities to come together and have dialogue and fix things together, which is bullshit, because the Grant family and communities of color don't have the power to end racism or convince people that there's a reason not to trust all law enforcement personnel at all times (in that, yes, there are in fact some bad cops). Also the whole police not murdering people thing isn't going to be solved by dialogue, but rather by police not murdering people.
Indeed so.

And yet another round of "you don't even KNOW what it's like to be a police officer!" is already in full swing—a reliable bit of apologia from privileged people (who would never find themselves in Oscar Grant's position), behind which the police are willing to stand every single time something like this happens.

It's true; I don't know what it's like to be a police officer. But I am the granddaughter of an NYPD cop who retired from a lifetime career working in New York City without ever having discharged his weapon or hurt a suspect in his charge. My grandfather was a small man, 5'8" and slender, not a cop who muscled suspects. He just did the job without fear or entitlement, and he did it without the expectation that he could do whatever the fuck he wanted and be protected by his badge.

I daresay if I had asked him while he was still alive if he'd have used a weapon (any weapon) against a young man detained for a fight on a train, even if there was a chance that not using the weapon might mean he got away (which are not the facts of the Oscar Grant case, but let's pretend), my granddad would have told me that letting go a kid who got into a scuffle on the train was an okay exchange for not killing him.

Because protecting the life of any suspect in a minor crime has to be more important than detaining hir at any cost. Anything else is an unreasonable priority in a healthy community.

And I don't need to know what it's like to be a police officer to know that.

My condolences, again, to Oscar Grant's family and friends. I'm so sorry for your loss. I'm so sorry that real justice eluded you.

[Related Reading: luthersrock's got two posts on the media coverage of the verdict, here and here.]

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