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by Peter Moskos

July 8, 2010

Mehserle Convicted of involuntary Manslaughter

This is the officer who shot and killed Oscar Grant on the BART train platform.

He could be been convicted of the more serious charges of Voluntary Manslaughter or Murder. He also could have been acquitted. I didn't follow the trial, but this seems about right to me.

I certainly believe it's much more likely that Merhserle meant to Taser Grant and made a horrible and lethal mistake more than I believe that he just decided to become a cold-blooded killer and kill somebody in front of a big crowd.

Merhserle faces two to four years in prison.

For what it's worth, back in January I wrote this:
So let's just say that the police officer is put on trial and says, "I plead no contest. I didn't mean to do it. But I did. All I remember was that there was a large crowd yelling and a man was struggling. Next thing I know I hear a gunshot and look down and discover it was my gun. I didn't ever realize I was holding my gun. I feel terrible for the victim and his family. I'm sorry. I beg the court's mercy."

What should happen to the police officer? What is appropriate justice in a case like this?
That basically became his defense. The Oakland Tribune reports:
"I didn't think I had my gun," Mehserle said last week as his face turned red and his lips started quivering. "I heard the pop. It wasn't very loud. It wasn't like a gunshot. And then I remember thinking, What went wrong with my Taser?

"I remember looking at my gun in my right hand," Mehserle said as he broke down in sobs. "I didn't know what to think. It just shouldn't have been there."
So I guess the answer is conviction for involuntary manslaughter and two to four years.

10 comments:

Cleanville Tziabatz said...

Actually tere is an apparently unresolved issue of a "gun enhancement." Potentially that could greatly increase the prison time (although not as much as I would like).

More importantly, Because he never apologized to the victim's family he needs additional prison time. No remorse should mean more prison.

Cleanville Tziabatz said...

Oh, yeah, and I would have believed the Taser story if he said it immediately after the shooting. While people are generally advised not to talk when they are suspected of a crime, the supposed accident here is not the kind of accident someone should or would keep quiet about. Because Mehserle didn't mention the mix up until much, much later (and well after the vids were out), it means that is not really what happened.

The crowd did not matter. He knew he messed up when thought about the cameras. He remembered the cameras a moment too late.

Jeff said...

I think he deserves much more time then he will get. You don't get to shoot an unarmed guy in the back and then say.. oops. (Which he apparently didn't even say until much much later)

That being said, its odd to put the gun enhancement charge on him. The jury believed that the cop made a mistake.. then every 'mistake' cops make could have a gun enhancement, because they always have guns.

Jeff said...

Reading more about gun enhancement charges, my comment above doesn't make sense.

It's still odd to put that charge on him though. But if it gets him more time, its a good thing.

Jaguar said...

You don't get to shoot an unarmed guy in the back and then say.. oops.

A ridiculous and wildly inaccurate misstatement of the case.

Merhserle was woefully undertrained, and that failure directly and materially contributed to what happened on the BART platform. Those responsible for his inadequate training did not stand trial with him.

Here's a superb analysis of the Merhserle matter by a Bay Area police officer:

http://preview.tinyurl.com/motorcopspeaksout

PCM said...

Jeff,
Just curious, what do you think is the "right" amount of time?

PCM said...

Jaguar,
That is indeed a great post. I'm going to highlight it in a separate post.

hotrod said...

I can't fully relate to the post-shooting "emotions" of Mehserle, as I've never had that kind of experience. So I'm going to pass on that for now.

I can, however, comment on some of Cleanville's and others remarks re Mehserle's recollections or how he should have done this or that right away.

Cleanville, you have an awfully sanitary view of how the human mind works in horrible, chaotic situations, particularly those involving the exchange of deadly force. It is VERY common for even well trained and experienced cops, Soldiers, whoever to experience gaps in memory, dramatically different perceptions from those just a few feet away, confusion, fear, etc etc.

We try and clean it up with terms like whether a shooting was "within policy". That's fine in some respects, but it's all still madness to the human mind. It can be mitigated by training, personnel selection and other factors, but it's still madness.

There's plenty of literature about it out there. Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman does some of this work, and is generally well regarded for his stuff on post combat memory, though I haven't yet read it. Lieutenant Colonel David Kilcullen is in the news a lot these days, has a couple of very good books out, and does a very good job relating just how hard it is to figure out what happened post combat. Also, though I don't think of myself as a hardened vet, I can share that when I had to go back and try to document my closest call, it was very, very hard to precisely remember what happened.

Yes we have the video from the Mehserrle-Grant shooting, but I'm pretty sure you don't have a brain scanner record. You think contradictory statements are proof positive of, what, exactly?

If you want to talk about shockingly stupid, miserably trained and tactically incompetent cops, along with massively fucked up law enforcement agencies, then let's talk about the Ayers-Bryant/Oxner/Harrison shooting.

If you want to talk about cops taking/dodging responsibility for every round that leaves their weapon, then let's talk about the Culosi-Bullock or Wilson-Chavlia (sp?) shoots. We could talk about this one too, though Mehserle is going to face significant accountability for it - you're just grumpy because you didn't get to play judge and jury.

But if you just want to pontificate over how you don't believe the Taser was an issue simply because the acts of Mehserle don't seem to comport with whatever thoughts you think he SHOULD be having in whatever hyper-orderly world you are living in, then please do so - but do it with the knowledge that you've been notified that you don't know what you're talking about.

I'm all for holding cops accountable - but you're not a mind reader.

Jeff said...

PCM - 10-15 years. He pointed a gun at an unarmed mans back and pulled the trigger.

And if the gun enhancement adds enough years, he may yet end up in that range.

Sorry if he was a cop who has a dangerous job, sorry if he had inadequate training, sorry if his coworkers also did things wrong which led to the situation.

But in my mind he is ultimately responsible for the killing.

2 to 4 years is not enough punishment for ending the life of another person with a gun.

Cleanville Tziabatz said...

But if you just want to pontificate over how you don't believe the Taser was an issue simply because the acts of Mehserle don't seem to comport with whatever thoughts you think he SHOULD be having in whatever hyper-orderly world you are living in, then please do so - but do it with the knowledge that you've been notified that you don't know what you're talking about.

Police or not police, if you kill somebody by accident in front of a lot of people, then you say: "That was an accident" or "I didn't mean to do that" or something to that effect. And you say that right away. You don't wait to talk to a lwayer to say that. That is true whether you drop an infant, or whether your accelerator pedal gets stuck, or you accidentally smack someone with a golf club, or you thought the gun was unloaded, or any other crazy accident where somebody ends up dead and a crowd of people just watched you kill. This is just common sense. This is not some arcane high professor type knowledge of human nature.

If you are a police officer and you shoot by accident, then you are supposed to go one step further and say, "hold your fire" so that others do not start shooting sympathetically. Unless you are trying to get the person killed. In that case you just hope your partners join in the shooting to finish the job and strengthen your argument that you feared for your life (or, as Mehserle himself put it, "I thought he had a gun").

What policemen should not do is look up, see cameras and then say (and I quote) "oh, shit" upon seeing all the cameras that people had out. What that indicates is that the shooter forgot about the (non-BART-controlled) cameras.