BART Cop Who Shot Oscar Grant in the Back Wants His Involuntary Manslaughter Sentence Overturned

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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

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  1. In California … we know that police officers have made this same accident in nine other cases, there have been no other criminal prosecutions.

    Nine other Cali cops are right now saying under their breath, “Shuuuut uuuuuup.” (Or, for all I know, it was one cop who made the error nine times.)

  2. “BART Cop Who Shot Oscar Grant in the Back Wants His Involuntary Manslaughter Sentence Overturned”

    Well of course he does.

  3. Tragic accident or not, if shooting an unarmed man in the back is not a dealbreaker for being in law enforcement, what is?

    Ratting out a fellow officer?

    1. You beat me to it.

    2. Yep, I had that sentence copied, and just waiting for paste. I had the exact same thought.

      1. You folks are slow.

        I even had to reset my password before I could post and I still beat you too it. 🙂

        1. Just wait until you get onto my subway platform, smartass.

      2. As said down blog, if you’re not first in this H&R game, you’re last.

    3. Ratting out a fellow officer?

      Also apparently stopping fellow officers from beating someone for no reason with their rage boners qualifies as a deal breaker as well.

  4. That fucker needs someone to mistake their handgun for a fork or something. “Ooops, I thought I was passing the jelly”

  5. I dont get what this little prick is complaining about. He admits that he was negligent and that negligence caused the death of a suspect.

    Isn’t that a textbook definition of Involuntary Manslaughter??

    From the findlaw website :
    Involuntary manslaughter usually refers to an unintentional killing that results from recklessness or criminal negligence, or from an unlawful act that is a misdemeanor or low-level felony (such as DUI). The usual distinction from voluntary manslaughter is that involuntary manslaughter (sometimes called “criminally negligent homicide”) is a crime in which the victim’s death is unintended.

    He was negligent, and a jury found that his negligence rose to the level of criminal. The fact that he made a mistake doesn’t somehow absolve him of the responsibility of the consequences of that mistake.

    What would happen if I accidentally shot a cop walking in front of my house and I claimed “well I was really trying to shoot my taser at the wall, but I grabbed my gun by mistake — it was an accident”. I dont think the cops would respond with a “Accidents happen…please be more careful next time”

    1. He wants to be a cop again, Tom, and will do anything he can to be so. Because he’s little people now, and hates it*.

      * I’m guessing

      1. Because he’s little people now, and hates it

        Wouldn’t “civilian” be the correct nomenclature? Isn’t that how cops look at us non-cops?

        Poor killer of people on the ground in handcuffs. Who weeps for them?

        1. He’s probably pissed that transit cops aren’t thought of as “real cops,” judging by his complaint that 9 real cops got off for similar actions.

        2. Wouldn’t “civilian” be the correct nomenclature?

          It’s the public nomenclature. The back room cop talk is Little People. I learned that from Blade Runner.

      2. Apparently being a cop is the only way he can avoid being one of us, We the Little People {TM, (c), patent pending}.

        It sucks to be us and, now that he’s been one of them, he doesn’t want to be one of us. Who would?

    2. It is a higher level of negligence than ordinary negligence to get to manslaughter. So, if he was just negligent he is not guilty.

      But he is still a prick. He swore under oath that he was guilty of manslaughter in order to get a deal and avoid the possibility of being convicted of murder at trial. Now that that is off the table, the little slug is reneging. In a just world they would retry him and convict him of murder.

      1. Now that that is off the table, the little slug is reneging. In a just world they would retry him and convict him of murder.

        reneging would put murder back on the table no? Although this late in the game I doubt a prosecutor would go after him. The outrage has died down. Too much time has passed.

    3. He was negligent, and a jury found that his negligence rose to the level of criminal. The fact that he made a mistake doesn’t somehow absolve him of the responsibility of the consequences of that mistake.

      Have to correct myself here. This scumbag took a plea deal and avoided a trial, and now wants to have it overturned???

      This guy should contact ex-Senator Larry Craig and ask him how well having a plea withdrawn works out.

    4. The fact that he made a mistake doesn’t somehow absolve him of the responsibility of the consequences of that mistake.

      But wait! He made a mistake while wearing a badge! Doesn’t that make all the difference? :-p

  6. Tragic accident or not, if shooting an unarmed man in the back is not a dealbreaker for being in law enforcement, what is?

    Being honest.

    1. Shooting an innocent victim in the back will never be a dealbreaker; a conviction for it, maybe.

  7. I wonder if one explanation for this is that a fringe benefit of being a cop (in a big city, at least) is pre-paid legal representation? If you’re getting your lawyerin’ for free, then you have nothing to lose by trying to get even a well-deserved sentence vacated.

  8. He just wants to protect and serve us, and if he happens to kill a few people here and there so be it.

  9. If it was an accident go fuck yourself. He had his chance to plead accident before a trial. And he choose to take a plea deal to avoid the risk of being convicted of murder. He can’t now come back and say he wants to take back his plea now that he has avoided a murder conviction.

    That his attorneys would even try this says bad things about the legal profession. Fuck you asshole. You got less than you deserved.

  10. If it was an accident go fuck yourself. He had his chance to plead accident before a trial. And he choose to take a plea deal to avoid the risk of being convicted of murder. He can’t now come back and say he wants to take back his plea now that he has avoided a murder conviction.

    Wow John, the fact that he was trying to appeal made me assume that he was convicted by a jury. He took a plea??? Well then double fuck that guy.

    Shoulda rolled the dice with a jury. He probably would have beat the charge. Juries tend to not convict the boys in blue for on the job mishaps.

    1. I am sorry Tom. I am wrong. I think he did fight it. Nevermind. I thought it was pled out for some reason. My mistake.

      1. I knew I shouldn’t have believed you 🙂

        Either way…this guy is world class douche.

        What are his grounds for appeal, other than not liking the verdict? He got a fair trial, and a jury decided his negligence rose the the level of criminal negligence.

        I dont think “People are fallable and make mistakes” is valid grounds for appealing a conviction. Seems to me the proper time for that is during your trial.

  11. That other guy’s dead; I’M the one being inconvenienced here.

    1. How dare the negligent taking of someone’s life get in the way of his career!

  12. If they pardon this idiot, a certain kind of response would be appropriate on principle.

  13. 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…

    Ah, so they’re going with a Barney Fife defense.

  14. I’m not certain jail time was appropriate in this case, but my sympathy is stunted for this guy because my sense is he got a lighter sentence than most would.

    The most important thing is to keep this guy from being a cop again. Even if we could know with 100% prescience that he would never do anything incompetent or untoward again if he were reinstated as a cop, the other cops need to know that even accidental use of deadly force is serious enough to destroy your career.

    Go be a plumber, a radiology tech, or an accountant or something.

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