Prison for killer cop - Page 2

Disappointed by the lenient sentence, Grant supporters vow to continue fighting for justice

Activists march down 14th Street in Oakland protesting a lenient sentence for former BART cop Johannes Mehserle
Ramsey El-Qare

"The evidence was presented regarding the use of the gun, and in discussing the use of the gun in the jury room, somehow or another the jury decided he had used the gun illegally," criminal defense attorney and National Lawyers Guild observer Walter Riley told the Guardian. "One has to believe the jury expected him to have exposure to a greater amount of jail time because of that."

Perry said he believed Mehserle suffered a "muscle memory accident" that led him to draw and fire his service weapon instead of his Taser, a cornerstone of the defense's case.

Rains wrote to the court prior to sentencing that jurors should never have been allowed to apply the firearm enhancement to an involuntary manslaughter conviction "because in this case, there is no logical way to square a verdict of involuntary manslaughter and a finding that Mehserle intended to use his gun."

Prosecutor David Stein of the Alameda County District Attorney's Office countered that the jury's conviction showed they believed Mehserle intended to shoot, but not to kill, Grant. Yet Perry agreed with the defense, conceding he had mistakenly permitted the jury to enhance Mehserle's sentence.

Riley said he sympathized with frustrations over the gun enhancement getting dismissed. "The use of guns is too prevalent in circumstances where law enforcement comes in contact with young black people," he said. "Our society — our civil society, our judicial authority, and our communities — have to hold government and law enforcement officers to a higher level of accountability in their interactions with citizens. When people with guns shoot an inordinate number of people of one group, it's worth tremendous scrutiny."



Twice before, activists took to the streets in furious protest over this case. In January 2009, things escalated to the point where cars were set ablaze. In July 2010, a street rally gave way to rioting and looting. So on Nov. 5, many downtown Oakland storeowners boarded up and closed business early in anticipation of a third wave of vandalism.

Yet the turnout was smaller than the previous events. And while there were reports of smashed car windshields and other instances of vandalism along the circuitous path of the march, there was far less property destruction.

The community affair outside Oakland City Hall ended around 6 p.m., when the permit expired. Soon after, activists spilled into the intersection of 14th and Broadway streets, then began advancing down 14th Street chanting "No Justice! No Peace!" and "The whole system is guilty!" The march turned right onto Madison Street, then left onto 10th Street.

A police helicopter with a spotlight kept pace overhead while it progressed, and when protesters reached Laney College, police officers in riot gear blocked them in. So protesters cut through a park and wandered in a pack until they reached the intersection of East 18th Street and Sixth Avenue in a residential neighborhood. Once again, police surrounded the protesters. This time, the crowd was trapped.

Rachel Jackson, an activist who was barricaded in, began sounding off. "We were going to Fruitvale," she explained. "We wanted to go to the scene of the crime. All night the police have been trying to suppress our free speech." When a nearby TV news reporter asked her about windows that had been busted along the march, she was incensed. "We will not equate glass with Oscar Grant's life!" she responded. "If we have to come out ourselves and board up windows, we'll do that. But what we are concerned with right now is murder."

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