Beyond the rage - Page 4

What the Mehserle verdict says about how far we've come -- and how far we have to go

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A protestor squares off with Oakland Police officers just before being arrested
PHOTO BY RAMSEY AL-QARE

The judge will weigh circumstances to determine Mehserle's sentence, possibly including his record as a police officer, his criminal record, age, remorse, and other factors, explained Jim Hammer, a former prosecutor and current San Francisco Police Commission member. The judge could toss out the sentence enhancement for personal use of a gun — and there's a possibility he would deem extreme circumstances, such as his police record, to warrant probation rather than prison time. But Hammer said he thought both of those outcomes are unlikely.

"The judge will want to appear more than fair, not giving special treatment," Hammer said. "Judges have to stand [for] election too, and in the light of the fact that somebody's dead, I think the chance of probation is incredibly slim."

Even if Mehserle receives a light sentence and then faces prosecution at the federal level, there is a chance that information about his past record as an officer — which was not admitted as evidence, thanks to laws that afford protections for police officers in these kinds of cases — would continue to be shielded. The protection applies even though Mehserle resigned.

"The average person just wants courts to be fair," Leigh said. "And there's an inherent unfairness in a system that allows a government or a police department that has all the resources and records to ... use against you while shielding what might be much more serious and relevant acts by police officers. That's one change that would be great if that did happen."

A key legal issue in the case and any possible federal case is reasonable doubt, Hammer said. "Reasonable doubt is everything, and no one talks about it. They just say, 'Oh, he didn't have intent.' That's not the issue. Can anybody really, honestly say that they don't have some doubts about his intent?"

At the same time, Hammer tempered his legal analysis with some understanding of Grant's mother's pain in light of what happened to her son and as the verdict was reached.

"If the dictionary had three pictures of murder for a picture image, one would be shooting somebody in the back who is unarmed," he told the Guardian. "What she's saying is not outrageous. If it were my relative I would probably call it murder too. She's not crazy."

As things continue to unfold with Mehserle's sentencing and the federal civil rights investigation, civil litigation is in the works too. Wrongful death civil lawsuits will likely be filed against BART by Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris on behalf of Grant's mother, as well as another suit by five friends who were with Grant the night he was killed. BART settled a suit filed on behalf of Tatiana Grant, the slain man's five-year-old daughter, in January. That total settlement should amount to more than $5.1 million, according to a media release on Burris' website.

During an interview after the July 10 press conference, Johnson was asked how Grant's young daughter was doing. He responded: "Tatiana is still struggling with the issue of when her daddy's coming home. So it's going to take time for her, when she does understand that he is not coming back home."

Outside Grant's family, many observers hope to see systemic change come out of this tragedy. Assembly Member Tom Ammiano introduced legislation to create civilian oversight of BART police after the shooting, but was unhappy to see how it was watered down during the legislative process. Now he wants to see stronger reforms.

"I think Oscar Grant's death was inevitable based on the lack of caring about how those police were trained," he told us. "If you're going to have the kind of independent civilian oversight that's going to prevent a repeat of what happened to Oscar Grant, you can't have this namby-pamby law. The mantra has been, well, this is better than nothing. Unless they're made to do it ... it's not going to happen the way we want."

Comments

And then we should put up big signs in capital letters saying "NO TROUBLE"

Posted by Guest on Jul. 13, 2010 @ 8:57 pm

Yes. There is a long history of police brutality in Oakland. And police do pull triggers and get away with it. But if you're looking for vengeance for all the past wrongs committed, this is not that case. It was unclear to a reasonable person that Mehserle intended to kill. And one person should not have to answer for all the crimes that came before him. Our justice system works on impartiality not revenge.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 14, 2010 @ 11:05 am

what this case needs is a strong voice from the people that the police are supposed to be protecting. You and me. This verdict is bullshit and filled with sympathy. Lets not forget that no amount of sympathy will bring back Oscar. No Justice No Peace.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 14, 2010 @ 11:18 am

The bullshit is when politics gets mixed up with the criminal justice system. You didn't know Oscar. You didn't care about his life before he died. You wouldn't have given him a nickel if he asked you on the street. But now you glorify him in death as part of a cause. Well he was a person before he was an idea and I don't think he would have cared much for the idea.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 14, 2010 @ 12:05 pm

If Grant had NOT been disobeying the law with his buttheaded friends on the BART train, would there have been a reason to call ahead for police and stop the train? NO. Had Grant and his buttheaded friends NOT resisted when the police entered the car, they would have been simply cuffed and taken off the platform.

INSTEAD, Grant had to "represent" for his crew. It is public knowledge he had a criminal record.

So instead of putting the ultimate blame on the DEAD IDIOT who started all this by breaking the law and then resisting police, we should canonize him? I think not. Mesherle screwed up...big time. No doubt. However, had Grant and his buttheaded friends not started the situation, we would not be talking about this, and instead we would be talking about the newest example of blacks feeling they are owed a living by everyone.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 14, 2010 @ 12:34 pm

Holy crap the comment above is horrendous. A cop shot an unarmed kid who was face-down on the ground with his hands behind his back. Mesherle was also talking a lot of shit like some dickhead cops love to do.

Posted by Guest LD on Jul. 14, 2010 @ 1:12 pm

You're full of crap, "Guest LD," and it ain't holy. You don't know anything about the case, and yet you feel the need to show your ignorance here. The "kid" (he was actually 22 years old) was a thug, who actually may have been armed. No one really knew, as he hadn't been searched yet. And there is no evidence whatsoever to back your inane remark about Mehserle "talking shit." Jackass.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 08, 2011 @ 3:32 pm

I'll tell you why. Because he put himself in that situation. He and his buttheaded crew rampaged through a BART car to the point where the police had to be called and the train stopped.

Had they not done that, Grant would be alive.

THEN, these "pillars of society" fought and resisted the cops. If they had not done that, they'd have been cuffed relatively easily and quickly and taken off the platform.

Had they NOT resisted, Grant would be alive.

But no...let's not mention the fact these "pillars of society" endangered a car full of innocent people. Let's not, for ANY reason, address Grant's prior criminal history. The guy was a crook...plain and simple.

All these guys had to do was when the cops showed up, put up their hands and allow themselves to be taken into custody.

But no...of course not...we can't have that. The cops are always wrong, of COURSE Grant and his buddies should be able to do whatever they want on a BART train...after all, they're black...and we all know the blacks are disenfranchised, put down, not given any opportunities. BULLSHIT.

Grant died cause he put himself in the situation where he ended up face down on the platform. He could have given up quietly. He could have NOT resisted being arrested.

End of line folks...you do a crime, you resist, you end up on the ground. Mesherle's mistake was a mistake...nothing more or less. DEAL with it.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 14, 2010 @ 1:59 pm

is not that someone was on the ground. It is that they're dead.

Posted by marke on Jul. 14, 2010 @ 2:30 pm

The issue is not that they're dead. It is WHY they are dead.

AGAIN...for those of you who are obviously slow.....

Grant broke the law.

He fought instead of submitting to be cuffed and taken in to custody.

He ended up on the ground and unfortunately shot.

Had he not broke the law the train would not have stopped and he would have been no doubt thinking about people to mug in Oakland.

But he did.

Had he simply allowed himself to be cuffed, he'd probably be selling crack in Oakland right now.

But he didn't.

Now he's dead. BECAUSE HE FORCED THE SITUATION.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 14, 2010 @ 2:51 pm

Even if a suspect creates a situation, officers have no right to kill the suspect without just cause.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 14, 2010 @ 3:54 pm

Agreed. He should not have been shot. But I don't think the officer should be convicted of murder either. It seems to me like Oscar Grant created a bad situation with his bravado, and Unfortunatly, he paid for it with his life.

Pragmatically speaking, the police are the armed force of order in our society, if one chooses to act irresponsibly in the face of that force one might find himself dead. No matter what punishment Johannes Mehserle receives, it will not bring Grant back.

The lesson to this story should be that people acting violently will have violence acted upon them. I pity both families for the horrible loss.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 19, 2010 @ 2:18 pm

amen

Posted by Guest on Jul. 20, 2010 @ 7:04 pm

Neither fighting on a BART train nor resisting arrest are capital offenses, so Grant did not deserve to be shot any more than you do, our tough-talking but anonymous Guest, for spouting your offensive, racist comments about a dead man.

Posted by steven on Jul. 14, 2010 @ 3:24 pm

Grant's shooting was an accident. Anyone who truly thinks a BART cop is going to shoot some kid on his face in front of about 50 witnesses is too stupid to be allowed a computer to post here.

The facts remain (no matter how much you may want to discount them):

1. Grant and his idiot buddies broke the law, and forced BART to stop the train and call the cops.

2. Grant and his idiot buddies would not be arrested peacefully, but forced the BART cops to take steps to put them in custody.

3. Had Grant and his idiot buddies NOT broke the law in the first place, the BART cops would not have been called, the train would not have been stopped. Grant would now be selling crack, accosting innocents, or the usual kind of career criminal thing. Look at his criminal record for gods' sake.

4. Had Grant and his idiot buddies surrendered peacefully to the BART cops they would have been cuffed and taken into custody and, with the way the law is today, probably released with a pat on the head....again, he would now be selling crack, etc., as in #3 above.

I do not really care if my responses are offensive to you....perhaps you should volunteer to be the next person robbed, shot, stabbed, or otherwise by our pillars of society in Oakland and other places, including San Francisco. I for one would not mi

Spin in all you want, bleeding hearts....GRANT broke the law. GRANT forced the situation which ended up with him on his face being cuffed.

Racist? Not hardly. I think all races of people who do these things are assholes and cause their own problems. Did Grant's mammy teach him to rampage on a BART train and/or resist arrest? I highly doubt it. Those were HIS choice...and his alone.

Posted by Ken Howard on Jul. 14, 2010 @ 3:58 pm

The problem is cops aren't allowed to shoot someone unless it's self defense or an escaping suspect poses a great danger to the community. Here there was neither because the suspect didn't have a gun, he was face down and restrained. So this cop had no right to shoot. You're arguing that cops can shoot anyone who is at fault which is technically anyone who allegedly commits a crime. That's wrong because even alleged criminals have rights. Even convicted criminals have rights.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 14, 2010 @ 4:58 pm

Situation escalated out of control and the person responsible for that is Grant. I don't really agree with that sort of deflection, but thats what he is saying.

The cop didn't set out to shoot someone, much less a black person, a poor person or whatever the strange cause for out of town rioters and studied outrage.

Posted by matlock on Jul. 14, 2010 @ 5:47 pm

Even if Grant provoked the shooting by commiting a crime and then resisting arrest, that doesn't absolve the officer from shooting Grant. Cops are given the right to walk around armed but that comes with the heavy responsibility of using a weapon only when necessary. We don't want cops to be careless with guns for obvious reasons. This officer didn't live up to the responsibility because Grant was subdued and there was no reason to shoot him. So the officer should be held fully accountable because with power comes responsibility.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 14, 2010 @ 5:34 pm

It's an odd world view that some people seem to have, I am puzzled by the people who seem to think that a mistaken death should result in 1st degree murder charges.

The cop (a BART cop no less) should pay for all the terrible and stupid behavior of all cops it seems.

Posted by matlock on Jul. 14, 2010 @ 6:32 pm

Nonetheless a man is dead. His death was caused by an officer acting carelessly. The officer should have to serve time for the criminal negligence and he should probably have to pay for the wrongful death.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 14, 2010 @ 8:08 pm

If it was an Asian or Hispanic, it probably wouldn't have made much of a difference in the media anyway! Other minorities had it hard too coming to America...they just haven't stood out long enough in our pop culture!

Posted by Guest on Jul. 14, 2010 @ 6:27 pm

As always, our readers are free to share their opinions in our comments section. However, as Mr. Howard has just learned, if you are going to include racial slurs in your post, then your comment will be deleted. We aim to facilitate substantive dialogue here; offensive language runs contrary to that goal, and what's more, it is inappropriate and unacceptable. Thanks.
FYI here is our comment policy: http://www.sfbg.com/privacy-policy

Posted by rebecca on Jul. 15, 2010 @ 10:06 am

What racial slur are you reffering to?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 19, 2010 @ 2:25 pm

You have got to be kidding me. For months I've been reading posts on various issues and "racial slurs" are the least offensive things I've seen. Perhaps it's more likely my posts are striking a nerve and the thought police at SFBG have decided it's time to stop allowing those posts to speak the truth instead of the politically correct, let's blame the cops, the poor boy didn't do anything wrong, garbage that's being spouted. There are myriad reasons why I do not read the SFBG...you have just added another one.

Censorship lives. Unfortunately.

Posted by Ken Howard on Jul. 15, 2010 @ 10:36 am

Or didn't your "mammy" teach you about cultural sensitivity and empathy, Kenny boy?

Posted by steven on Jul. 15, 2010 @ 1:59 pm

You bitch about blacks "complaining" about real-life issues that they face, yet cry "censorship!" when someone on a message board calls you on your racism.

And, by your twisted logic, you'd probably blame a rape victim for wearing skimpy clothing.

You make me sick

Posted by Guest LD on Jul. 15, 2010 @ 3:34 pm

Cultural sensitivity...I'm supposed to be sensitive to blacks who sell drugs, rob, burglarize, drive-by, etc.? I live in a neighborhood where I see that every day. When they stop doing that, I may be sensitive to their culture. And PLEASE don't hand me the slave garbage.....the only ones who had the right to complain about that were the slaves themselves....no gangbanger with his pants 3/4 down his ass can talk to me about reparations for slavery or that he has no opportunities. Get off your ass, get back in school, fricking learn something, then go get a job. Or would that get in the way of their crack dealing, or their robbing and killing? True....I guess they have priorities.

I have already stated above that I don't condone the crack-dealing, killing, etc. by ANY race....but if you care to actually look at crime statistics...blacks do seem to be the majority...and why are there so many blacks in prison....cause they do the crimes and GET CAUGHT! If they didn't do the crimes they would not be in prison.

Spare me from this PC world where we have to be sensitive to the gangbangers because of the plight they put themselves in. And you can keep the idea that blacks can't get hired to yourselves..it's patently a lie. You have the ability, the motivation, and the education to get a job, you generally do...current economic times notwithstanding. What are the numbers for black dropouts and non-graduates? Bet they're pretty damned high.

And really sorry to disappoint you...racist, far from it; I have numerous black friends, my best man at my wedding was black, I was best man at his....I look at people by their actions..not their skin color....what YOU people are doing with your "cultural sensitivity" is perpetuating what is going on with these black kids feeling everyone owes them a damned living.

Posted by Ken Howard on Jul. 15, 2010 @ 3:57 pm

Have fun waking up angry every morning, Ken.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 17, 2010 @ 8:32 pm

Ah, hello. Someone should let the media know that you can't be a THUG MARTYR in California unless you have at least 5 albums out. Just ask EAZY, PAC, or MAC DRE. "And now in this weeks revolution to make America a better place; Let's riot on a FootLocker" - that equals justice, and will bring O.G. back, right?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 15, 2010 @ 4:23 pm

Sorry, you're right. LOL! Grant wasn't even in the league to be a Thug Life Martyr.

Posted by Ken Howard on Jul. 15, 2010 @ 4:54 pm

Berkeley Daily Planet has a photo of a sign- "pointblank is not involuntary". Says it all.

I seriously doubt that any reform will come from within BART, even with Tom Amiano's being in a position to bring pressure on them. Nor do I believe that the Alameda County DA made a good faith effort, any more than S.F. DA did with Dan White. So individual action is what those who give a damn will have to respond to this obscenity.

My response will have three parts 1) Stop using BART as totally as possible. 2) Vote to end MS. McCarthy's career in November 3) Oppose anything BART desires, i.e. Oakland Airport connector forever.

Damn Little, but all that's within my power.

Posted by Guest Tom Lowe on Jul. 15, 2010 @ 9:20 pm

So you are going to refuse to use BART. Gee. That is really going to make a difference. How much do you spend on BART a month? $50? More? Even if it's $100.00 it's not even measurable...nobody is going to care.

You want to help? Get off your duff and stop the ultimate reason for this....criminals like Grant who put themselves in the situation in the first place. Work to get the bangers out of here, or better yet into prison where they belong. Three strikes their ass and we are rid of them forever.

Oppose everything BART desires...oh now that's even better. The airport connector will make things better for those who have to fly out of Oakland...who are absolutely disconnected from any of this...but of course we need to hurt them because YOU can't deal with a perfectly legitimate jury verdict.

That's the real problem you have, eh Tom? They didn't buy into your "a cop has GOT to be guilty if he shoots a black man" idea. Tough. If accidental deaths did not happen, the involuntary manslaughter law would not be on the books. You want to get rid of it? Work to change it. WORK...not sit back, bitch, moan, and cry about injustice. You don't like our justice system? MOVE. You don't like BART? MOVE. Please. We'll wave bye bye at the border.

Posted by Ken Howard on Jul. 16, 2010 @ 6:03 am

having a record qualifies as a good enough reason to get murdered, god i love this country. i feel very safe!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by Guest decentliving on Jul. 16, 2010 @ 11:04 am

Murdered? Did I misread the jury's verdict?

INVOLUNTARY MANSLAUGHTER, decentliving. INVOLUNTARY MANSLAUGHTER. Had they thought Mesherle murdered Grant they would have so found. They did not. GET OVER IT.

Having a record? Grant had one. He (oh god, again) CHOSE to break the law and CHOSE to resist arrest. Had he done neither, he'd still be alive to add to his arrest record.

If you want to continue to be delusional about this "murder", by all means go ahead. Just keep away from the people who live in the REAL world. Go live with the guy who wants to boycott BART.

Posted by Ken Howard on Jul. 16, 2010 @ 12:26 pm
Ken

I think you blame the victim a bit.

But when dealing with the SF progressive you have to keep in mind they are big fans of people like Foucault and other kooky post modernists.

Go look at Foucault's kooky wikipedia page to see what I'm talking about.

Posted by matlock on Jul. 16, 2010 @ 12:43 pm

"Work to get the bangers out of here, or better yet into prison where they belong."

Mehserle belongs in prison.

End of story.

Posted by Guest LD on Jul. 16, 2010 @ 1:26 pm

The Judge is not an idiot. Only an idiot would give Mesherle probation. He'll do somewhere between 4 and 12 years, and get credit for time served while waiting for sentencing, and time off for good behaviour, same as everyone and anyone else in prison does unless of course they are serving their time without possibility of parole.

Involuntary manslaughter still carries a prison sentence. Additionally, Mesherle may get the additional possibility of years because he used a gun. However, as the verdict was "involuntary" manslaughter, it may not end up that way. The judge has a HUGE amount of discretion.

Again...this is YOUR judicial system. YOURS. You voted for it. That means you put the people in the Legislature who make the laws. You don't like what they do, vote em out, vote for different judges.

matlock: I despise wiki....I will only look at it under duress. And yes, the liberal powers that be have contributed to the whole "cultural sensitivity" crap that lets criminals think they can do what they want, scream "racism!!!!!" and get away with what they're doing. Bullshit. I don't care what color you are - do the crime, do the time. Have I EVER said that Mesherle does not deserve to do time? NO. He fucked up, he pays.

And again, matlock.....do you really think Grant is blameless? See my myriad number of responses above regarding his culpability here. He did the act, refused to be arrested without resisting. Mesherle did not force him to rampage on a BART train. Mesherle did NOT force Grant to resist arrest.

Posted by Ken Howard on Jul. 16, 2010 @ 1:52 pm

I was very irritated by the cavalier Bay Guardian coverage of the demonstration/ mini-riot that occurred after the verdict. The businesses in Uptown Oakland, where I work, that were attacked were not big fancy establishments. Davy D's nonsense noitwithstanding, some of these people will have deep trouble getting back to normal, getting restocked. Many are minority-owned businesses. They are terrified of what will happen next and have left their boards up.

So Oakland has been made a victim here too. Oakland will lose jobs and tax revenue, which could have helped poor youth. Oakland's shaky reputation will get worse and businesses won't want to locate there. They'll have plenty of other places to go in this market.

So the rioters and looters hurt the city that they are supposedly standing up for. Great. Just what Oakland needs, especially an Oakland so fiscally desparate that it's laying off cops, normally the last thing a city would do.

I feel that Oscar Grant's killing was a terrible wrong. Deaths are wrongs that can never be righted, because we'll never know if Grant would have straightened up and flown right, turned into a productive citizen. Many less than sterling young men do that.

But there's a basic, elementary principle of ethics and justice here with the trashing of Oakland: Two wrongs don't make a right.

Posted by Guest wanderer on Jul. 28, 2010 @ 9:06 pm

Blacks are always crying racism. 150 years of slavery ok. I didnt have nothing to do with that. But the Jews face 5000 years of hardship. Do they complain? Do they pull the jew card? No, they bettered themselves and make something of themselves. I'm tired of people using "I'm black" as an excuse. "I cant" because I'm black. Stop it already. This case wasnt race motivated. Just the aftermath with the black people being racist to whites and anti police people. This wasnt murder. I've been at these "Justice for Oscar Grant" protest and while covering it heard at least 75 percent of the people there saying "Fuk these white crackers" "Fuk these kkk" while talking to eachother.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 10, 2010 @ 10:42 am

isn't helping you make your point any. also, lol @ 150 years.

Posted by marke on Aug. 10, 2010 @ 11:39 am

No one is surprised at the verdict. Many of us just wonder how long will we continue to allow anyone who is part of what historically, to current day, in this country, has been the greatest oppressive force to individuals of color, (not just the police, the entire American justice system. From law schools to the court room, and pretty much everyone in it,) to be any determining factor on life. Politicians are the lowest scum of all, not one spoke up.

We know if this were their child, the entire event would be different, that’s a maybe, especially if that child happened to be considered of color. More so than not, the American justice system is happy being so antiquated that in 2010, it is still going on 1892, the year of the most recorded lynchings of black people in America. With no consideration of, and for a change in sight, site, or cite.

Do not expect any major outcry from our churches or the NAACP for the reasons listed on this web site. http://hushmoney.org/501c3-facts.htm

Posted by Guest on Nov. 05, 2010 @ 2:52 pm
So?

Lynch em. I've been for that for years. OR ship them back to the homeland they're always crying about. COD

Posted by Ken Howard on Nov. 05, 2010 @ 4:15 pm

talk of lynching from a "C-i-V-i-L sidewalks" supporter.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2010 @ 11:16 pm

The sentence handed down was appropriate and reasonable given the circumstances of the shooting. There was no intent to kill on Mehserle's part, so the conviction for involuntary manslaughter was entirely appropriate. He was a cop doing his job in a volatile, high pressure situation and he made a horrible, tragic error. He has lost his job and two years of his life, that's enough.

Oscar Grant was a criminal who started a fight on a BART train and then resisted arrest when the police tried to contain the situation. While he certainly didn't deserve to die, there is no denying that he was, in large part, the instrument of his own demise. If he had behaved peaceably on the train, or surrendered without incident he would still be alive today. I feel compassion for his family and friends, but can muster little pity for him personally. He was a violent thug who died as he lived.

And just for the record, if Mehserle had received no punishment whatsoever I would have considered that to be a great injustice. He wasn't trying to kill Grant, but his incompetence and the severity of his error reached criminal proportions.

It's said that the best and most equitable compromises are the ones that make everybody unhappy. That's what has happened here. Mehserle's supporters want no punishment whatsoever, Grant's want a capital conviction. Both are in the wrong. This is a textbook case of involuntary manslaughter and the punishment handed down is appropriate. Intent is a core component of the crime of murder. If you think Grant should have been convicted of 2nd degree murder, you have let outrage and bias blind you to one of the fundamental principles of justice.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 05, 2010 @ 4:54 pm

I think it may be an honest accident. He did look surprise after he heard the gun go off. They should change the shape of the taser to prevent any further accidents between taser and gun. They should make it shape like a lollipop.

Posted by Buckwheat on Nov. 06, 2010 @ 8:55 pm

It does not depend on any weapon they have on hand. I think it depend on the officer and his judgement.

Posted by SimpleSimon on Nov. 06, 2010 @ 9:07 pm

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