Wrist-slap in Grant case

Steven Greenhut: It’s easy to understand why many people in Oakland believe that it’s impossible to get a fair shake from the justice system, after a Los Angeles jury came back with an involuntary manslaughter verdict in the murder trial of former BART officer Johannes Mehserle. He shot to death a young man, Oscar Grant, who was face down on a train platform. I expect conservatives to side with the police, but they shouldn’t. Grant was no threat. The police were the ones reportedly acting like toughs when they stopped Grant and his group. Mehserle never said he made a mistake, but that became his defense and the jury bought it.

Here a government officials shot to death an unarmed man who could not possibly have posed a threat to him. Conservatives should be outraged at this abuse of government power. They should be demanding new oversight of the agencies and police forces that have become far too aggressive and indifferent to the lives and liberties of the American population — especially as an outgrowth of a federal drug war.

The good news is there was some conviction — a rare event when it comes to police who kill people. But involuntary manslaughter?

If it were your loved one, what would you think?

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  1. Fred Mangels
    Fred Mangels 9 July, 2010, 06:34

    Conservatives and libertarians would also realize that it was an accidental shooting. We should also realize that few of us are tasked with the job of carrying guns around and being put in the position where we’re often required to get involved in physical confrontations where just about anything can happen.

    Let’s recognize this for what it was: A tragic accident. The last thing Mehserle would have wanted to happen was what did happen. I think a verdict of involuntary manslaughter was totally appropriate, assuming criminal charges- rather than civil charges- were warranted at all.

    Now, you want to talk about some deliberate abuse of authority, like police arresting citizens for taking videos of them, I think I’d be more sympathetic.

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  2. Steven Greenhut
    Steven Greenhut 9 July, 2010, 07:08

    I’m far from convinced that Mehserle’s story was accurate. I’ve written about a number of police shootings and am always amazed by the creative explanations that surface after the fact. Because of the emphasis on officer safety, police have basically carte blanche to use deadly force. And many of the officers are abusive and disregard the safety of the public. They are rarely held accountable. I’ve talked to police and they are quite clear that they would much rather kill an innocent person than face any risk to themselves. They should at least dispense with the “we’re heroes” talking points, then. Hoover’s Joe McNamara offers interesting insight into the way police overblow the sense of danger the face — something that endangers the public and leads to frequent loss of life.

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  3. John Steel
    John Steel 9 July, 2010, 07:20

    It was an accident, no doubt. Getting 5-12 years in the slammer is NOT a wrist slap. The family is getting a huge amount of cash and the Bart cop’s life is destroyed. A tragic mess without any good outcome.

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  4. John Seiler
    John Seiler 9 July, 2010, 08:22

    That was an execution. Mehserle should have gotten 30 years.

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  5. Steven Greenhut
    Steven Greenhut 9 July, 2010, 09:23

    There’s a good chance the killer cop — whose thuggish behavior snuffed out a young life — will get no jail time. Isn’t it amazing how cop supporters sound like liberal excuse-makers whenever one of their own gets caught doing something illegal? “It’s a tragic mess all around,” they say, even though the police supporters have shown little compassion for the victim in this case (Grant, not the killer Mehserle). Give me a break. Next time some street thug kills someone, let’s see if these folks take the same line — It was a tragic affair all around and the young man’s life is ruined also. Mehserle’s life is not ruined. He will be out of jail soon, will have the full backing of the police Brotherhood and will simply go on with his life.

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  6. Fred Mangels
    Fred Mangels 9 July, 2010, 09:24

    I’m far from convinced that Mehserle’s story was accurate.

    I base my opinion simply from watching the video. Mehserle clearly looked surprised, if not shocked, when he realized he fired his gun and not a taser. I also find it a stetch- if not completely over the top- to think that a cop is going to deliberately shoot a man lying on the ground in front of dozens, if not hundreds, of people.

    He realized he made a tragic mistake as soon as it happened. I believe his actions after the shooting show that. He didn’t clam up and try to let the department cover for him. He resigned and clammed up. He knew his life was ruined from that moment on. His worst nighmare had occurred and there was nothing he could do to change it.

    Should there have been criminal charges filed? I don’t know. With the exception of his being in a position of authority, this reminds me of something that happened up here in Northern California a while back:

    An uncle accidentally shot and killed his nephew while they were camping one night. The uncle thought his nephew was a bear breaking into their ice chest. The uncle was charge with manslaughter of some sort- if memory serves me- by the Trinity County District Attorney. I don’t recall the disposition of the case but, needless to say, the uncle felt bad enough about what happened as it was. Should he have been charged for making a horrible mistake? I don’t know.

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  7. StevefromSacto
    StevefromSacto 9 July, 2010, 13:10

    Guess you never saw the Rodney King video, eh, Fred?

    I can possibly buy the argument that this wasn’t a murder. But no way in hell was it “involuntary.” It is hard to believe the far-fetched argument that the cop forgot that his gun was on his right side and the taser was on his left (remember, the dude was right-handed so the gun would logically be on his right side). But regardless, the man pulled his weapon and used it.

    If he was cleaning his gun and it went off, or if it fell to the ground and discharged, that’s an accident. If he was in a struggle and the gun discharged, that might be either an accident or “involuntary” manslaugthter.
    But he consciously pulled a weapon and used it. Period.

    Looting and rioting is wrong. But how many times does the black community have to have its collective nose rubbed in the mud before they say “enough”?

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  8. Steven Greenhut
    Steven Greenhut 9 July, 2010, 13:13

    I agree with you completely. It’s absurd to suggest that this was an accidental shooting. Would these same folks who make excuses for this shooting do so if it were one of their loved ones?

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  9. Fred Mangels
    Fred Mangels 9 July, 2010, 14:17

    Steve wrote, Guess you never saw the Rodney King video, eh, Fred?

    Actually, unlike what you might have seen, I saw the entire Rodney King video. That included the segment at the beginning that the mainstream media left out where King got up to his feet and lunged at the Officer Briseno.

    And, FWIW, I saw that video at the Los Angeles Police Academy the first day we arrived there for deployment to the L.A. (Rodney King) Riots. I was in the National Guard at the time and we were housed at the Los Angeles Police Academy for most of the time we were down there.

    And, yes, Mehserle was right handed. He drew the weapon he was used to pulling out the most with the hand he was used to using the most. That’s how mistakes can happen.

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  10. Fred Mangels
    Fred Mangels 9 July, 2010, 14:19

    Steve wrote, It’s absurd to suggest that this was an accidental shooting.

    And I’ll say again that it’s absurd to suggest that cops are so bold and brazen in their use of force that they’d deliberately pull out a gun and shoot a man lying on the ground in front of dozens or even hundreds of people.

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