About . . . . . . Classes . . . . . . Books . . . . . . Vita . . . . . . . Links. . . . . . Blog

by Peter Moskos

November 6, 2010

Mehserle sentenced to 2 years

Seems about right to me.

Not everyone agrees.

Mehserle is the BART cop who (apparently) accidentally shot Oscar Grant in the back and killed him. Mehserle has already served most of his time.


David Bratzer said...

Hi Peter - I like the new blog format but you might want to consider making the font one size larger for the blog posts. Just a suggestion... or maybe I'm getting old.

PCM said...

Thanks for letting me know, David. Can and will do.

(strangely, the font size seems different in different browsers)

Have done! (how's that for quick service?)

PCM said...

How is it now?

(Just FYI, I went from Times New Roman 12 to 13.)

Dana King said...

I have no personal experience with this, but are tasers so similar to guns in heft and weight that this is a reasonable error? If so, something should be done so that trained professionals don;t make a mistake like this in the future. If not, then it makes one wonder about this sentence. I'll defer to your expertise.

(Side note on fonts: most browsers now all for quick adjustment of the font on the reader's side by holding down CTRL and using the scroll ball on the mouse.)

PCM said...

No, tasers are not so similar to guns (I've heard). It is not a reasonable error. But that doesn't mean it wasn't an honest mistake. That's the problem. That's why he did time.

David Bratzer said...

That's better, thanks. :-)

Anonymous said...


I just don't buy the "taser excuse." Tasers are usually drawn horizontally (at least in my area) and are of course lighter than any department issued side arm. Guns, conversely, are drawn vertically, and are heavier.

My hypothesis: Mehserle did indeed intend to draw his firearm and point it at Grant because he was pissed off and wanted to scare the suspect. In his anger, he put his finger on the trigger (instead of outside the trigger guard like most professional police, soldiers, security, etc). Due to this mistake, he inadvertently fired the gun.

If my hypothesis is correct, then the officer is not guilty of premeditated murder. The charge of involuntary manslaughter may be appropriate, but I like many wonder what the sentence might be for a private citizen who got pissed off, pointed a pistol at an unarmed man's back and accidently pulled the trigger. I suspect it would be longer than two years.

Dave H.- IL

PCM said...

You make at least three very good points.

To the last, I can only say we do and should cut police some slack when they're trying to do their job and make a mistake without malice. Even a lethal mistake.

Anonymous said...


I agree in theory. If the issue here was only an accidental discharge, I don't think I would have any issues with the sentence. I might even think is was a bit harsh.

My main concern is with Mehserle drawing down on a male that is prone on the ground. I am just not sure that that part was done without malice. I think I am also annoyed with the "taser excuse" as I call it. Police have a tendency to roll their eyes when a private citizen attempts to explain why he or she has broken the law. I felt that the "oops I meant to draw my taser" defense was a diversion, and sounded like any other criminal (Uh uh, he came at me. Uh the gun just went off, etc). I expect better from the police.

Dave H- IL

IrishPirate said...

My informed or semi informed guess as to what happened is that a scared young cop utilized "muscle memory" or "training instinct" in a volatile situation. The idiot onlookers did not help the situation.

In the 70's and 80's the US Army taught rifle marksmanship in a particular way. As you were firing your rifle you would pick up the expanded cartridges(brass) and put them into your ammo pouches while firing.

After Grenada they Army realized that in battle soldiers were picking up their "brass" and putting them into their ammo pouches. Why? It makes no sense.

Because that's how they were trained and they reverted to muscle memory in the heat of the moment.

My guess is Mehserle grabbed his weapon almost as a reflex because he was clearly scared of the crowd.

The two years seems like an appropriate sentence to me. I've read statements and comments where people feel sure Mehserle intentionally murdered Oscar Grant.

I saw a scared young guy who screwed up and took a life unnecessarily. The chance that his actions were intentional is almost nil and I suspect he may not even know exactly why he drew his weapon.

Cleanville Tziabatz said...

If he really mistook his gun for a taser then he would have said that much sooner than he did.

If he really mistook his gun for a taser than he would not have told his colleagues that he thought he saw Oscar Grant with a gun.

He also had no business tasering a man who had a policeman's knee bearing down on his neck. People cannot be expected to obey orders when a knee is pressing their neck into the floor.

When Pirrone called Grant a "bitch ass nigger," Mehserle said, "yeah." Mehserle was angry at Grant for verbally taunting the police earlier, which is why he executed Oscar Grant.

Oscar Grant was not being arrested for any fight on the train (indeed there was no pc for that). He was being arrested for resisting arrest. However, he did not resist arrest until after the arrest started. Which means that there was no probable cause for arrest at the time the arrest was initiated. Which means the arrest was unlawful and any resistance (there is no clear resistance on the video tape) was resistance to excessive force.

Johnny Law said...

And yet it's funny that it was not brought up that this whole arrest was illegal.

I'm not sure of Grant's total involvement in the event but even if the officers were only trying to detain everyone in order to determine the facts of the situation, the handcuffing of Grant was legal.

We (the police) are able to detain people while we make sense of a chaotic scene. From looking at the video, it is obvious that it was nuts on that platform. Don't make the mistake that since you have the luxury of looking at everything in slow motion, the officers had the same information available.

Oh and he did not "execute" Grant. It was an accidental discharge due to a mistake of muscle memory. The word "execute" implies that the officer killed Grant on purpose. This has never been proven and was in fact disproven at the trial