Johannes Mehserle still doesn't seem to realize that he got a pretty good deal. The former BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) cop who shot passenger Oscar Grant in the back on New Year's Day 2009 ended up being sentenced to two years in prison (serving 11 months) for involuntary manslaughter. Now that he's free on parole, Mehserle can't quite leave well enough alone.
Meherle always pleaded that he intended to Taser Grant (not the first time a cop used that excuse). Which is what Meherle and his lawyer are still pleading as they filed an appeal to overturn Meherle's manslaughter conviction.
According to SF Weekly:
Attorneys representing Mehserle said he should not have been convicted of involuntary manslaughter because all he did was "make an error," and that this prosecution was nothing more than politics.
"This was simply an accident," attorney Michael Rains told KTVU in front of the courthouse today. "In California … we know that police officers have made this same accident in nine other cases, there have been no other criminal prosecutions. This was an accident, not a crime."
Not to mention, says The San Francisco Chronicle:
"Police officers are fallible," attorney Dylan Schaffer told the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco. "We cannot put them at the risk of prosecution for just making policing errors."
If police officers don't risk prosecution for what was in this case at least criminal negligence, what's the point? What is their incentive to be at all careful of not just their own lives, but the lives of suspects and the various people they are in theory sworn to protect? You can't have it both ways. They cannot be given the authority to use legal lethal force, then breezily dismissed as "fallible" when their glaring errors cause the death of a man who was in custody.
Say what you will about the punishment Mehserle deserved for his actions (and judge for yourself on the disturbing, but grainy footage captured on the cell phones of BART passengers) and it is his right to appeal, but it takes a special kind of audacity to kill a man, be sentenced for it, and then try to get another job in law enforcement.
The least that Mehserle can do it never work as a cop again. The least that law enforcement outlets can do is never hire him. Tragic accident or not, if shooting an unarmed man in the back is not a dealbreaker for being in law enforcement, what is?
Previous Reason reporting on the Oscar Grant case