Thursday, July 8, 2010
After the verdict, between the flashpoints.
Johannes Mehserle was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter for the killing of unarmed Oscar Grant on New Year's morning 2009. Another cop had his knee on Grant's shoulder as Grant was face down on the BART platform after being arrested for being disorderly after New Year's Eve. Mehserle drew his gun and shot Grant in the back.
Mehserle said in the trial he thought Grant was armed. Grant wasn't.
He said he thought he had his taser in his hand. The weapons are on different holsters, have different weights and fire differently.
In the heat of passion, Mehserle murdered Grant. It wasn't pre-meditated, but a competent prosecution could have brought this one in, made twelve jurors understand this was a crime in the heat of passion, voluntary manslaughter. The state did not put forward a competent prosecution. I don't blame the jury.
A competent prosecution couldn't bring Oscar Grant back to life, but they could have saved some major property damage in Oakland this evening.
Because Mehserle was found guilty, because he could get fourteen years, I don't believe Oakland will be in flames tonight. That doesn't mean I don't think there will be fires.
One crowd is gathering in downtown Oakland, near 14th Street and Broadway. Some might think I risked life and limb because I went there to get the tabloid headlines just before the verdict was announced. Personally, I think I did some risk/reward calculations and got the numbers right.
Another crowd is gathering at the Fruitvale BART station where the murder took place a year and a half ago, about equidistant to the south of my neighborhood as City Hall is to the north of me. My expectation is the crowds will disperse and people who want to riot will move a few blocks away from where the cops are and do some property damage. This is the typical pattern.
I am sick in my heart the system worked this badly. I will wear black for a week to mourn not just the loss of Oscar Grant's life, but also because our chance to believe in anything approaching impartial justice is dead as well.