Reacting to the Mehserle Sentencing

Photo from a protest in Oakland directly following Grant's shooting, taken by Thomas Hawk.

The kids outside of Mission High and at Seven Teepees haven’t heard about it. The adults on the street don’t know much about it – only that there might be a riot later. But a public defender and a community member who follows up on crimes committed in the Mission District said that the decision to give former BART officer Johannes Mehserle the absolute minimum sentence for voluntary manslaughter in the fatal shooting of Oscar Grant was surprising and disappointing.

Rebecca Young, a lawyer with the San Francisco Public Defender’s office, finds it inconceivable that Judge Robert Perry of Superior Court in Los Angeles dismissed the jury’s finding that Mehserle was guilty of using a firearm to commit a violent crime. “The jury unanimously found that allegation to be true. For a single man on a dais to go against the will of a community – that’s a terrible slap in the face.”

Two years is not an uncommon sentence for a person without a prior criminal record who is found by a jury to have committed involuntary manslaughter, says Young. The jury’s decision to add three years for using a gun would have done two things – it would have qualified Mehserle for one strike under California’s “three strikes” law, and it would have forced him to serve 85% of his sentence, no matter how well behaved he was in that state prison. All told, Perry’s decision reduced Mehserle’s time in state prison by close to 3 1/2 years. Or, to put it another way: what Perry granted Mehserle is the sort of sentence that a person would get if they punched someone and that person fell, hit their head, and died.

Ricardo Garcia-Acosta of the Mission Community Response Network, is also familiar with the Mehserle verdict. He’s been reading not only coverage of the sentencing, but the comments that people make on the coverage, which can get slightly depressing.

Garcia-Acosta works with police officers – as a liason between them and a category of kids known as “at-risk youth.” Just the other night he was on the street not far from the police during the post-Giants celebration in the Mission, when the entire neighborhood was partying so hard that gang boundaries began to dissolve – kids moving up and down Mission street, cruising through normally contentious turf, making every adult who knew the situation extremely nervous. “The cops seemed pretty fair,” he says. “Professional. It was the media let us down. That Channel 2 helicopter was over our neighborhood for hours watching us party, and the only footage they ran was of some people hitting a car that some guys from the Peninsula had driven into a crowd of people.”

There are professional cops and unprofessional cops. And then there is the justice system that is intended to winnow one out from the other. It’s not always the case, but today is a total letdown. “You can say,” Garcia-Acosta says, trying to be politic. “That I am extremely disappointed.”

Filed under: Front Page, Trouble


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  1. Sean Grasse

    People need to take into account that an organization (BART Police) (mis)trained Mehserle, had horrible policies for it’s security police force. That organization carries much of the blame as does BART police chief Kenton Rainey.

    BART Police’s policies and training are obviously problematic. Focusing all the rage on a single officer will not solve the problem; and there is a good chance something tragic like this will happen again.

  2. Serbian-Canadian of Macau

    Once released from the sabbatical (also known as 14 months of “prison”) for killing the man in cold blood this creature Mehserle will be on the streets. The same streets down which tens of thousands people outraged with the wacco Robert Perry’s “sentence” walk.

    I wonder if anyone with an IQ higher than his own shoe size would be REALLY surprised if Mehserle ended up undergoing a treatment worse than the one he carried out on Grant by some of those unhappy people out in the streets?

    His pic has been circulated widely enough that he would be easily traceable based on his bone structure even if he has a facial plastic surgery — if someone decided that s/he wanted to carry out a personal/social class/racial vendetta on the perpetrator.

    Besides, I think the wacco (Robert Perry) should be immediately sent for indefinite compulsory psychiatric observation in some secluded area.

    But I am saddened and terrified with an abhorrent fact: that my country, Canada, shares a continent with the racist, homophobic, discriminatory against every single minority, belligerent, prone to mass murders of civilians since the 1850s (Native Americans) to today (Iraq), and under-developed southern neighbour.

  3. boots graves

    I applaud Judge Robert Perry. I have never believed that
    Johannes Mehserle was guilty. It was, in my estimation
    an accident. The victim , although not guilty of any criminal activity in this incidence, did have previous run-ins with the law. He did have a criminal record. I’m not suggesting that this warrants his demise, but I do believe the incident was an unfortunate accident.

  4. Euro Master

    It’s wonderful to see how deep the interracial hatred runs in California of all places. 😀

    Goddess willing, we’ll soon be stacking on beer and calling in sick to watch a race war in the USofA broadcast as-it-happens on our TV in Europe and cheer as America’s shallow foundations disintegrate in flames! Hip, hip, hooray!

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