By Cat and Michael Walker,, San Francisco Bayview
OAKLAND, CA - Three groups who have actively been working toward justice for Oscar Grant – ONYX, The New Years Movement and the General Assembly for Justice for Oscar Grant – are denouncing an announcement today by the defense team for former BART officer Johannes Mehserle that they asked a judge today to set aside Mehserle’s involuntary manslaughter conviction and are seeking a retrial in the shooting death of unarmed Oscar Grant III.
Citing a 2008 case from Kentucky, Michael Raines, Mehserle’s lead attorney, said that prosecutor David Stein was inaccurate in saying that “in a million Taser draws” there had never been a mistake like this one. But prosecutor David Stein was right on the money.
“The question raised here is did this officer pull his Taser out two times before accidentally shooting the man in Kentucky?” asked Cephus Johnson, Oscar’s Uncle Bobby. “In the case of Oscar, Mehserle took out his Taser twice. Oscar took a picture of him holding that Taser, so Mehserle knew exactly where it was and he knew where his gun was too. He chose to pull his gun. There is no comparison here.”
At every juncture in this case, there have been attempts by the defense to justify the actions of Mehserle and blame the victim for the crime of the perpetrator. And although Mehserle was convicted of mere involuntary manslaughter, the family of Oscar Grant – and indeed the community at large – continues to believe he was murdered.
“He is comparing apples and oranges,” said Lesley Phillips, a member of the New Years Movement. “The man in Kentucky didn’t die, he wasn’t beaten by the police prior to the shooting as Oscar was and we have no way of knowing if that shooting was an accident either.”
America has a long history of looking the other way when innocent civilians are wounded or killed by police – particularly if those innocent civilians are of color. In fact, Johannes Mehserle is one of only two police officers in the history of California to ever be convicted of killing a civilian in the line of duty – a gross imbalance when compared to the hundreds of innocent lives lost at the hands of law enforcement each year across the nation.
“There is no logical reason for a new trial,” said Michael Walker, a member of ONYX and active on the Oscar Grant case. “A new trial will be looked at by the community as another attempt by the defense to manipulate the facts of the case and allow Mehserle to go free for his crime. It will also be viewed as a slap in the face to the remaining survivors of that night – the friends of Oscar Grant who were on the platform to witness the unprovoked and unwarranted execution of their friend.”