Who Hijacked Our Country

Friday, July 09, 2010

Oakland Murder Case to be Reviewed by Federal Prosecutors

During the 1960s and ‘70s, civil rights cases were routinely tried in federal courts because redneck juries kept acquitting their fellow inbreds of arson, lynching and other good ol’ boy fun.

In 1992 the feds had to take over the Rodney King case because California jurors acquitted four LAPD misfits of clubbing Rodney King 56 times in 81 seconds.

And now federal prosecutors are investigating the involuntary manslaughter conviction of an Oakland transit police officer who shot and killed a suspect pointblank. The more things change…

On New Years Day, 2009, Officer Johannes Mehserle shot and killed Oscar Grant as he was lying face down on the ground (as Grant had been ordered to do, by other transit officers). I did a post on it at the time; the linked article and YouTube video aren’t available any more.

Mehserle claimed he thought Grant was reaching into his pockets for a weapon, so he fired what he thought was his Taser. Only it turned out he was firing his gun instead. WTF??? Does that police department have an IQ test for new applicants?

There was some rioting in Oakland (and Tacoma) after yesterday’s involuntary manslaughter verdict. (Nothing like the L.A. ‘92 riots.) Referring to the protests and riots, the Oakland Police Chief said, “This city is not the wild, wild West.”

Really? Trouble is, on January 1, 2009, Oakland WAS the wild wild West.

Maybe, someday, police departments will get tired of having federal prosecutors coming in and cleaning up after them. They might even raise the qualification standards for new applicants. HINT: a low IQ and a quick temper are NOT enough.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well this is the best verdict Mehserle could have hoped for outside of verdict.

He managed to convince the Jury that he is a stupid under-trained cop who didn't know the difference between a holster on a gun and a holster on a Taser.

- Not only are they a different feel
- He unhooked his Taser earlier that night
- It's a different draw for Gun and Taser
- In spite of doing the different draw for the Gun "still" didn't realize he had it in his hands - and then fired!

..and therefore failed Cop 101 "knowing your belt!" In which a Police Officer is supposed to know where every thing on his belt is - without looking down as it can save his life.

I also question allowing Oscar Grants minor police record to be brought in as if it justified taking him out.

Once again folks, if it hadn't been for Cell Video, this would have been another covered up Incident.

And many of us remember a time that even with evidence there was a time when a white cop never got time for killing a black man.

It should also be noted that there were many people in Oakland out there trying to keep the peace as they were gearing up for this for the past few days.

There were many angry people but our old friends the shit -disturbing Anarchist caused most of the trouble.

It could have been MUCH worse.


July 10, 2010 at 12:44 AM  
Blogger jadedj said...

Standards? We don't need no stinking standards. The desire to pack heat and a niffy, shiny badge is standard enough.

What struck me regards the transit case, is the fact that the weight difference between a Taser gun, and a Glock pistol, or any other pistol for that matter, would register with the brain of the most nim of nimwits. Total bullshit.

July 10, 2010 at 4:59 AM  
Blogger Randal Graves said...

Oh, like you never mixed up your BB gun and your TOW missile. Sheesh.

July 10, 2010 at 7:23 AM  
Blogger BadTux said...

In court, Mehserle testified that he thought he had his taser in his hand in the heat of the moment, and his defense introduced evidence that Mehserle had received no training from BART in how to distinguish between taser and service weapon in the heat of the moment. That introduced reasonable doubt. At that point, the prosecution had to prove that Mehserle knew he had his pistol rather than his taser in his hand in order to get a murder conviction, and short of a Vulcan mind-meld, there simply was no way to prove that.

In other words, I believe the correct verdict was arrived at given the facts of the case. While my personal belief is that Mehserle executed Oscar Grant, I would have voted the same way as the rest of the jurors, because in a court of law my personal belief is irrelevant -- what is relevant is what the prosecution can prove beyond a reasonable doubt. And unless the prosecution could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mehserle *knew* he had his pistol rather than his taser in his hand, there just was no way to vote for voluntary as vs. involuntary manslaughter in this case.

So anyhow, Mehserle is going to spend a minimum of 2 1/2 years in prison (minimum 5 year sentence, has to serve half of that in detention) and will have a felony record which will shut him out of any law-enforcement-related career for the rest of his life, so it's not as if he's getting away scot-free for his crime. But in this instance, I believe the justice system worked the way it is supposed to work, and making comparisons to the situation in the old South is just ridiculous -- I'm a native Southerner, and I *know* what things were like back then, and what just went down in Los Angeles is *nothing* like that. The jury voted according to what the prosecution could prove beyond a reasonable doubt -- i.e., that Mehrsele *should* have known that he had his pistol rather than his taser in his hand -- but couldn't vote to convict on something the prosecution *couldn't* prove beyond a reasonable doubt -- i.e., that Mehrsele *did* know he had his pistol rather than his taser in his hand. That's just how the law works when it comes to reasonable doubt -- and is supposed to work, because how many of us can prove we're innocent, anyhow? Where were *you* on November 22, 1963? Can you prove it?

- Badtux the Law Penguin

July 10, 2010 at 9:51 AM  
Blogger Lew Scannon said...

Mehserle must be a conservative. Look at lack of personal responsibility. Never own what you can blame on someone else is their pass word.

July 10, 2010 at 1:36 PM  
Anonymous Tim said...

I'll read the other comments after I submit mine..
Here's the thing that bothers me, The guy was laying down on the ground in the so called position. There were several other officers there at the time. WTF..The cop was going to taser him...for what...Practice? getting his jollies? No this thing stinks the high heaven. Whoops wrong gun my ass.

July 10, 2010 at 1:48 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Erik: That's the most chilling part of this. If that cell phone hadn't captured the incident, there would've been a tiny news story on page 47, "police officers shoot crazed assailant in self defense."

jadedj: Yup, a gun and a shiny badge, that seems to be the only "standards" that department has.

Randal: I hate when that happens.

BT: I won't argue with your legal points. But the fact remains, this incident was horrifying and unacceptable and somebody is responsible. A manslaughter slap on the wrist doesn't cut it. If Mehserle isn't to blame because he's either dumber than a post and/or had zero training, then it's the fault of the department for hiring him and not providing the proper training. Heads need to roll, and hopefully a federal investigation will determine whose head(s) that will be.

Lew: Yup, Mehserle certainly exemplifies those conservative traits.

Tim: That whole incident was totally unacceptable. A suspect is lying face down on the ground, surrounded by cops, and one of them shoots him pointblank, thinking his gun was a Taser. The Justice Dept. needs to investigate this.

July 10, 2010 at 6:58 PM  
Blogger BadTux said...

The legal points are the same ones that you better hope hold true if you're ever before a jury -- the primary one being the presumption of innocence in the face of reasonable doubt. That is, the prosecutor has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty. In this case once Mehserle introduced reasonable doubt, Mehserle's defense did not have to prove he was innocent, the prosecutor had to prove he *deliberately* fired his weapon, as vs. "negligently*, in order to get a murder vs. involuntary manslaughter conviction. It was impossible to do that. And I'm glad that the jury upheld the law as vs. ruled according to what they "thought", because if you or I are in front of a jury for something we didn't do, that gives us that much more possibility that justice will prevail.

As for the notion that this is a slap on the hand for Mehserle: He will spend a minimum of 2 1/2 years in prison on a 5 year minimum sentence (and that's assuming he gets the minimum -- he *could* get up to 20 years). That is no slap in the hand, especially since he will spend the majority of that in solitary confinement in order to protect him from other prisoners (cops don't tend to fare well in the general population). His career is over. Any public safety career is over. He is a convicted felon, and ineligible to ever purchase or own a firearm, ever. Most employers once he leaves prison will not hire a convicted felon. He will never, ever, be able to obtain a job with the government at any level. In other words, he is going to be paying for this for the rest of his life.

Do I wish that we could have proven he *knew* he had his gun in his hand rather than his taser? Sure. But how do you prove that? I can't figure out any way to prove it. Can you?

So anyhow: I do agree that he should not even have been reaching for a taser in this situation, given that the perp was on the floor pretty well restrained. But widespread misuse of tasers by police officers are another issue separate from the one of whether it can be proven that Mehserle committed murder. (Thus the tag "don't tase me bro" on my own blog where I semi-regularly point out misuse of tasers by police officers).

As for the training that the BART police receive... bwahahah! Yeah, their training appears more along the lines of how to best shine your jackboots than anything that should resemble police training in a free nation. And that differentiates them from the majority of police forces in the United States, err.... how? We have a problem Houston... unfortunately, the majority of Americans don't seem to think it's a problem, because the majority of the victims of these thugs with badges are brown, meaning that to the majority of Americans, they're not even human. Siiiiiiigh!

- Badtux the Law Penguin

July 10, 2010 at 7:21 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

BT: No argument with any of that. So I still say the problem is with the department's training and hiring practices. And this is what the feds need to investigate. If it's as prevalent as you say (and I agree it is), that's all the more reason to start investigating and making changes. It'll be a slow process but it's gotta be done.

July 10, 2010 at 7:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bad Tux
"Most employers once he leaves prison will not hire a convicted felon. He will never, ever, be able to obtain a job with the government at any level. In other words, he is going to be paying for this for the rest of his life."

Maybe, we shall see. There are a lot of people who think Cops going to jail for just "Doing their Jobs" is a raw deal.

Look at those two border patrol cops who shot the drug dealer in the back, hid the evidence and then faked the report. The outpour of sympathy from the public, I believe, got them a reduction in sentence. I think they will be be well taken care of after they get out. After all they only shot a drug dealer and Mehserle shot a black man with a record - "Don't punish the poor kid for one little mistake, after all he's a family man!"

We shall see


July 11, 2010 at 12:42 AM  
Blogger Beekeepers Apprentice said...

The difficulty lies in convicting a cop. Prosecutors don't want to do it, because those are not the perceived "bad guys" - and the prosecutors have to work closely with the police force to get convictions of the "bad guys." It's kind of a case of damned if you do, damned if you don't, but damned worse if you do, so you don't. So, when you get a case like this one, there are any number of factors involved, and I'm just thinking out loud here.

The cop had plenty of time and legal counsel to get his story down pat - Barney Fife accidentally pulled the wrong weapon. I don't believe it, I think probably Oscar mouthed off, which is not a crime, and the cop executed him for it in the heat of the moment and from anger, which is at least homicide, but not 1st degree.

How far does a prosecutor go to insure that a bad cop gets the maximum sentence? I don't think any have ever gone that far, at least not that I'm aware of.

Get the right jury, and they won't want to convict a cop at all, and it seems they got the "almost" right jury.

July 11, 2010 at 6:30 AM  
Blogger TomCat said...

To add to Erik's list, police wear tasers and guns on opposite sides. So Mehserle would have us believe that he does not know right from left.

Sadly, even with much needed review, the worst he can receive is a civil rights conviction, far less than the murder conviction that was clearly warranted.

July 11, 2010 at 9:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I also remember there were big charity drives to take care of the families of the cops who went to jail for Rodney King. Seems many of the whites still treated them as "unfortunate" heroes in spite of the direct evidence.

How do we know the support just went to their families Hmm?

I get the sense those cops will be taken care of when they get out. Maybe they can't get police jobs again, but I don't think the community will scorn them as it does black ex-cons who try to blend back in to society, find they can't get jobs (In many states can't even vote) and then usually resort back to crime and find themselves back in prison.


July 11, 2010 at 12:56 PM  

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