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.