Judge in Mehserle Case Right to Say No to First Degree Murder Charge

Readers, this is a version of a Crazy in Suburbia column I wrote for Walnut Creek Patch. I’m posting it here because I know there are some readers who don’t look at Walnut Creek Patch (yet) who might be interested. Again, I’m putting all my Walnut Creek news stories on Walnut Creek Patch.

In Los Angeles, the judge in the BART shooting trial ruled Wednesday morning: Jurors will not be asked to consider first degree murder charges against former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle. ABC7 reports that Judge Robert Perry said there is not enough evidence to prove that Mehserle planned to kill Oscar Grant on New Year’s Day 2009,

However, Perry said, there is enough evidence to allow the jury to consider second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter charges.
Grant, who was unarmed, was lying face down on a platform at the Fruitvale BART station when Mehserle shot him in the back. Mehserle’s defense is that he didn’t mean to kill Grant, just stun him with his Taser gun. He says he confused his service firearm wit h a Taser. The defense is using this argument to win Mehserle an acquittal.
Finally, someone with the authority to make a difference in this case is coming up with a fair compromise.
In charging Mehserle with first-degree murder, the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office was bowing to political correctness. Not legal correctness. I say this as someone who takes great care in my life and work to be politically correct, to view situations from different perspectives, to be sensitive to the viewpoints of people who have had different life experiences than me.

I have also said before, semi-jokingly, that I am a leftie, liberal, socialist commie on many issues. So, one might think I’d automatically side with the unarmed civilian victim against the big bad cop. However, I am not anti-police, as some of my leftie liberal friends are. And I am sympathetic with Mehserle. I think to some degree he’s being scapegoated for possibly bad BART policies and handling of this situation–and for our own leftie liberal guilt.
That said, I am also sorry for Oscar Grant and his family, and, no, I don’t think Grant deserved to get killed. He wasn’t asking for it. No one asks for something like that.
It was a tragic accident, a muddle of miscommunication and of people scrambling to get a handle on what felt to them like an out of control situation. So, now the question is: Do Mehserle’s actions warrant an acquittal or a lesser charge? I’m not sure on either of those questions. I’m not sure how I’d vote if I were on the jury.
I just think that charging Mehserle with murder was going overboard. The decision to charge him with murder convinced me that this case was not about discovering the degree of evil or premeditation in Mehserle’s state of mind.
Rather, it has been about authorities on the other side of the Caldecott trying to score PC points with their constituents.
Legal analysts said that the judge’s decision to throw out the first-degree murder charge was, in fact, a victory for the prosecution, in that it gives the jury other options instead of outright acquitting him. The defense had wanted the jury to decide between murder or acquittal. I don’t think it should matter who–prosecution or defense–wins with this ruling or that ruling. We just need a verdict that’s fair and just, not driven by anyone’s political agenda.
Final arguments are supposed to start Thursday, and the case might not go to the jury until Thursday afternoon or Friday
Law enforcement throughout Alameda County and BART are said to be on alert, in case the verdict comes down and it is of the sort that will outrage a lot of people.

35 thoughts on “Judge in Mehserle Case Right to Say No to First Degree Murder Charge

  1. a nice balanced approach to the situation – congrats to you. I don't agree with your “liberal” stance, but appreciate your position on this.
    I wonder what this would be like if Oscar was white or Mehresle was black. There would be very little press coverage.
    The people in Oakland are making this look like Mehresle shot Oscar because he was black.
    And, I love how the media show Grant as a smiling family man, holding his baby. This is an ex-con who was causing a disturbance on the train. He was a thug – he doesn't deserve to die, but let's refrain from making him a saint.
    Not sure what Mehresle should get, but definetly not murder – maybe negligence.
    Whatever the verdict, stay away from Oakland, that place will riot, riot, riot!


  2. Thanks for your terrific summary and analysis. The front page of this morning's Times shows an oakland shopkeeper selling posters of Grant. Storeowners will probably be compelled to cover their shops with these posters to ward off those who will be rioting with their rent-a-mob friends…no matter what the verdict.

    Really glad you're back!


  3. “Rather, it has been about authorities on the other side of the Caldecott trying to score PC points with their constituents.”

    And to prevent a riot, as some people in the East Bay are known to do if they don't get their way.

    As Lou Holtz commented last night, the fact they re-elect Stark every year says a lot about them.


  4. Can we expect the same level of pre-verdict preparation by Oakland PD in anticipation of violent and destructive reaction to ANY jury verdict when two black men are tried for the unprovoked murder of a 50+ year old Asian man in Oakland? I worry that Asians might start fires in Chinatown if they don't get the verdict that they want.


  5. Riots are coming, count on it. Just another excuse to burn cars, smash windows, and cause general mayhem for the TV cameras. People forget that Oscar Grant was a thug and had a history with brushes with the law. How is he now the victim? How about those two black men who (unprovoked) murdered a 50 year old Asian man in Oakland? Where's the outrage there? Yeah yeah, that right…, STAND UP TO THE MAN!!! No one is impressed my “brothers”…


  6. I agree the murder charge was probably politically motivated. However, it may be more than just leftist “politically-correctness” that motivated the charge. BART stands to lose more in a lawsuit if BART can pin it on Mehresle. A lesser verdict shifts the blame (and the liability) to BART.

    BART has always been far too politically connected. Years ago, the FBI had a sting operation going against a top dog in the Purchasing Department – something to do with favoritism in the awarding of contracts (instead of complying with the competitive bid process). He was somehow connected to Ron Dellums. One was the best man in the other's wedding. I doubt the FBI ever got to finish the sting. Someone in Washington probably called a halt to the operation.


  7. As another liberal leftie, I listened to reports of the evidence brought out at trial. There substantial evidence that Mehserle was inexperienced and lacked adequate training in the use of the taser.

    Mehserle was trained in the use of the taser about a month prior to the Grant incident. The training complies with the law, but it's very limited and the trainees only are allowed to practice tasing one time during the training.

    Additional evidence shows that Mehserle was 'fiddling' (for lack of a better term) with the gun holster, indicating that he thought he was unholstering the taser.

    There have been other instances (in the Northwest, I believe) that similar incidents have occurred (shooting vs. tasing).

    It's a tragedy for all parties involved, and my sympathies go out to the Grant and Mehserle families.

    The people posting on this blog could tone down the racism if they choose to.


  8. The prior post and deleted is an accepted English phrase to speak honestly and directly about a topic, specifically topics that others may avoid speaking about due to their sensitivity or embarrassing nature. Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1913) defines it as “To be outspoken, blunt, even to the point of rudeness; to call things by their proper names without any “beating about the bush”.

    This is taking “PC” to the extreme far left. Wow…, there goes free speech and opinions on this blog…


  9. 8:36,

    Free speech only applies to the GOVERNMENT infringing on those rights to speech. Like Freedom to assemble, associate, and to a free press.

    Don't worry. Sarah Palin doesn't know what Free Speech means either.

    A blog owner can shut down whatever s/he wants to.


  10. For a “reporter” to censor an opinion is plainly hypocritical…, what does Sarah Palin have to do with any of this? Another reactionary mudslinging insult from the far left.


  11. 5:32,

    Just giving 8:36 a little space. If Palin doesn't know what Free Speech means, why should s/he?

    It's interesting how you didn't deny that Palin does not know what Free Speech means.


  12. 7:21 AM

    I'll say this…, I can't stand Sarah Palin, but she does say a few things that make total sense. Yours is still a reactionary far left insult. You know what to kiss.


  13. 7:23

    It's still a free country, or has the anointed one changed all that? Oh oh…, right. Obama is going to save us all…, got it…


  14. 8:17,

    I'll say this….Anyone who thinks Palin makes sense, doesn't make sense.

    Now, where is Eureka College in California?


  15. 10:06 AM

    Pathetic…, you are absolutely pathetic… I can make a very crude, rude and inappropriate comment regarding your question but I won't. But you are a left wing nut…, no question.


  16. 3:28,

    You must have attended Eureka College in California. Can you tell us where it is located? After all, your idol, Reagan attended Eureka.


  17. Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter. The verdict was announced today. Max sentence is four years, but will likely serve much less. He could be released with time served.

    With the caveat that I only followed the case through the news, it seems like the verdict is fair.

    Tragic for both families, however.


  18. 3:28,

    Can you please provide the link to Eureka College? I'd like to consider attending.

    You'd think a major speaker would check her facts before speaking, but who cares about details!



  19. 10:06 AM

    I thought Eureka College was in your Mother's ——–! Oh, that was after school hours… LOL!


  20. 10:06,

    That was so clever. It was certainly expected from a 'mama grizzly,' I suppose.

    I doubt that you check your work like the other pink elephants and mama grizzlies. It must be that great education you got from Eureka College!


  21. I just heard on the news that Mehserle was charged with a weapons enhancement charge, which makes the sentence 5-14 years (approx.). KGO had an attorney on, and she was saying that the defense would argue for probation.

    I wonder how much time served Mehserle has. He was arrested a few months after the incident, and he was remanded most or all of that time.


  22. I wonder if the professional thugs in Oakland last night (looters and other violent criminals) belong to a union with medical and retirement benefits? We should ask Nancy Pelosi…, they probably steal those as well.


  23. Warning — Flaming liberal @ 5:23 PM

    Shall we raise taxes some more to support your subsidized housing and food stamps?


  24. 6:11,

    If I make $30K, I guarantee it's twice your annual income. Teabaggers are always virtually always lower-income and living on socialized medicine.


  25. 9:31 PM

    Sorry to disappoint you honey. So tell me Mr. Flaming Liberal, do you support same sex marriage for yourself?


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