Source : Colorlines.com
Ex-BART cop Johannes Mehserle, charged with murder for shooting and killing the unarmed Oscar Grant on New Year's Day 2009, has been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter. It is the least serious of the three charges against him and comes with a sentence of 2-4 years, though he can now petition for probation alone.
Mehserle, a 28-year-old two-year vet with the BART police force, shot the 22-year-old Grant in the back while he lay face down on an outdoor BART train platform in Oakland. The shooting was caught on cell phone video that was widely distributed that night, igniting several nights of protests in Oakland. City officials have been frantically preparing for months for large scale protests that are now expected in the city tonight.
Merhserle maintained throughout his trial that the shooting was a tragic accident, and that he meant to pull and fire his Taser, rather than his gun. Mehserle claimed that he confused the two weapons and that Grant and several friends who were also detained with him that night presented a dangerous threat to the police as they resisted arrest. The prosecution argued that it's inconceivable that Mehserle could have accidentally fired his gun and that Grant had been fully complaint with police orders, thus presenting no threat.
The verdict means that jurors however were convinced that Mehserle had no intention of killing Grant that night, and thus that it was not a deliberate act when he shot Grant in the back. A murder conviction demands establishing an intent to kill. Instead, jurors believed that Merhserle was criminally negligent and acted with, as the law says, "reckless disregard for human life." Mehserle also faced charges of second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter. This was the first case in California history in which a police officer was charged with murder for an on-duty shooting.