Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Oakland Mehserle Trial/Oscar Grant

As the jury weighs the evidence against former BART policeman Johannes Mehserle, in the killing of Oscar Grant, Oakland is on high alert. Many store owners in downtown have boarded up their windows, as they anticipate violent public reaction to the impending LA County Court verdict.

Mehserle could be found guilty of 2nd degree murder, voluntary/involuntary manslaughter, or acquitted. The differences between these charges mean nothing and everything to angry people in both Oakland and LA. Many want a murder conviction, regardless of the law. Others feel the same way, for acquittal.

Let's look at the charges. Second degree murder takes away the premeditation of first degree murder (a charge disallowed by the judge), while acknowledging intent to kill, minus reasonable “heat of passion”. Voluntary manslaughter requires intent to kill with malice aforethought, but with some mitigating circumstance that reduce culpability (responsibility). Involuntary manslaughter requires no intent to kill, but rather reckless or negligent behavior that leads to death.

I suspect that jury deliberation will be between 2nd degree murder and voluntary manslaughter. Their decision will pivot on whether Mehserle’s action was influenced to the point of “heat of passion”, resulting in weapon confusion. I further suspect that he was confused, but not impassioned. Grant’s actions, while lying on his stomach, would not seem to rise to life threatening, or even taser inducing, as reflected in the behavior of the other officers subduing Grant. Involuntary is off the table, as officers are trained to only fire their weapons in life threatening circumstances.

This leaves 2nd degree murder as the best charge, except for one thing. Juries are loath to charge police officers as such, due to the inherent dangerous nature of police work. Call it the benefit-of-the-doubt effect. So, I expect a voluntary manslaughter conviction. I also expect marching and protest, but little violence in Oakland, where community organizers have worked to portray lawlessness as counter-productive to the community. The initial riots were due as much to OPD incompetence – dispersing (halting) organized assembly and protest – as they were due to violent reaction to the killing.

LA is a different story – cross your fingers people.

James C. Collier


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Anonymous said...

IMHO, police departments are getting tired of workers comp cases, so are telling officers to taser anyone they would have previously maced or hit with a baton. With pistol-grip tasers, you're using similar muscle memory to taser as you do to shoot. Also, again IMHO, tasering should be considered deadly force: too many people are dying from complications of being tasered.

I don't think that this was an execution, but I do think that there was a crime (not just an accident). I just don't know where it falls on the spectrum.

sungod said...

itz unfortunate..they gave him involuntary which was clearly wrong i agree he should have at least gotten voluntary manslaughter but he is a "pig" i thought lady justice was blind not stupid..

Anonymous said...

I don't think lady justice was blind at all. If you watch the videos online you can see that he looked shock. He looked at his hand, put the other hand to his head, then looked at the other officer. His expression clearly showed how shocked he was. But in a situation like that, police officers are taught to remain calm. So he had to get himself together. Maybe you are blind, maybe the color of his skin and the uniform he is wearing makes you upset. Maybe you are racist or prejudice. But this man was remorseful. It was clearly an accident. The videos do not show what Oscar Grant was doing, who by the way, has a history of resisting of arrest. This doesn't mean that what happened to him was okay, but the officer involved did not PLAN to kill this young adult. There were so many other young adults running around yelling being obnoxious, I am sure he was more alert and cautious then usual, being outnumbered. Why don't you try being a police officer for once and see how it feels when you have a whole bunch of people running around screaming at you when you was called to the scene for help. Why don't you put yourself in his shoes and give him the benefit of doubt and see how he must feel? Oscar Grant lost his life unfortunately, this was a terrible accident. And Johannes Mehserle is paying for his actions. He is not walking away a free man with no conviction. He was not found innocent. He was found guilty for something. But take a good look at the situation and look at both sides before you judge.

Anonymous said...

Sungod, you need to take your own advice and 'put yourself in the shoes' of Mr. Grant, his family, and the black community as a whole.
Have you ever considered that blacks in America don't feel justice is equally sought after by law enforcement for blacks. There are numerous police incidents and public policies that create this feeling. I'll admit that blacks can be hypersensitive to treatment and everyday interaction with whites. This is because it matters greatly, when you’re dealing with a person whether it be your boss, a salesman, or a cop if they have racist tendencies. It could be the difference in whether you get a job or not, get arrested or not.
Most white people that think they aren't racist and claim to be open minded still have racist tendencies. My best friend is a white guy (I’m black) and he has a test for whites to see if they are racist. It's simple, if you're a white male and are married or have a daughter. You just imagine your wife cheating. You instantly feel your blood boil a little. Now imagine it's with a black guy... notice how much more your blood boils at the thought of your wife screwing a black guy. You can get the point of the exercise, if you’re not married translate it to you daughter or whatever. However if you have an uneven reaction, it means your racist, which for a lot of whites would trigger them to work harder at getting rid of their racist tendencies.
Another test that I thought up goes this way.
You see a news article, the headline says "Man assaults and robs lady on tape". You see the video and it shows a 25 year old white male walk up to a 35 year old white lady and start punching her repeatedly in the face. Ultimately knocking her down and stealing her purse and running. You immediately feel outraged and hope the police catch this guy and brings him to justice. Now flip it and picture the assailant being a 25 year old black guy. The thought of a black guy assaulting a white lady brings about a totally different kind of rage.
Now to be fair and honest. (all of my examples above where from the white perspective) This works the same for blacks. If a white officer excessively beats a suspect for resisting arrest (example: the cop that punched the 17 year old black girl in the face for resisting a month ago) and the suspect is a 17 year old white girl, blacks can easily see and admit, the girl should have complied and is mostly (not all) to blame for her beating. However because the girl was black, blacks could only see the excessive police brutality and any thoughts of the girl being at fault for resisting arrest get unconsciously pushed out of their minds.

To sum it all up, we ALL lack the ability to really put ourselves in the shoes of others that are not like us. This is an extremely hard behavior to correct, especially when you continue to see black on white crime or white on black crime (usually in the form of cops and judges) in the media daily.

If you have a friend of the opposite race, here’s an exercise you can try.
Create different scenarios of conflict and ask each other to answer and walk through the thought process of the person of the opposite race.
You’ll get a chance to see some fundamental differences in how we think each other thinks.

Anonymous said...

Good post anon 10:39.

Only thing is your tests very likely proves just about everyone has racial tendencies.

Meaning the whole human race.

As humans they will never be totally gone.