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Johannes Mehserle found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, but acquitted of murder


(7/8) — UPDATED 19:31 PDT — LOS ANGELES — Johannes Mehserle, the former BART Police Officer who shot and killed unarmed passenger Oscar Grant on January 1, 2009 at the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland, has been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter by a Los Angeles jury.

The jury found Mehserle not guilty of the most serious charge he faced: murder. The verdict means Mehserle will face from five to 14 years in state prison for Grant’s death.

The verdict was read just after 4 p.m. inside a Downtown Los Angeles courtroom where friends and family of both Mehserle and Grant packed the audience to hear the announcement.

A jury of eight women and four men deliberated behind closed doors and under intense security, eventually deciding to convict Mehserle of involuntary manslaughter. The jury also found that Mehserle personally used a firearm during the crime, a finding which could add three, four, or ten years to the standard involuntary manslaughter penalty of two, three, or four years.

Mehserle was taken into custody and led away in handcuffs after the verdict was read shortly after 4 p.m. today, over the objections of his defense attorney Michael Rains, who argued that Mehserle did not pose a flight risk.

Grant’s mother Wanda Johnson reacted angrily to the verdict in court, and cried briefly afterwards.

“We as a family have been slapped in the face by this system that has denied us a right to justice,” said Grant’s uncle Cephus Johnson.

Grant family attorney John Burris was also disappointed by the verdict.

“The verdict is not a true representation of what happened to Oscar Grant that night,” Burris said during a news conference after the announcement. “The jury seemed to be very dismissive of the  murder two charge.”

Prosecutors had argued that Mehserle intentionally used his gun to kill Grant in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day 2009.

He “chose to ignore everything he was ever taught about being a police officer,” Stein told the jury during closing arguments on July 1. He “was letting his emotions and aggression take over […] He lost all control.”

Mehserle’s defense attorney Michael Rains contended that the shooting was an accident — that Mehserle used his firearm to shoot Grant when the former officer intended to shock him with a Taser.

“There’s nothing that suggests an intent to kill,” Rains said during his closing argument.

He called the shooting “an unfortunate accident.”

The murder trial was moved from Alameda County to Los Angeles because of the intense publicity surrounding it. The incident touched off racial tension and inflamed relations between minority communities and law enforcement throughout Oakland and the Bay Area.

Grant was black; Mehserle was white.

Grant family attorney John Burris said he was “extremely disappointed” with the verdict, but said it was better than no verdict at all.


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The California Beat and The Campanil’s joint continuing coverage of the Johannes Mehserle BART Shooting trial is funded in part through Spot.Us. Visit our special trial news page and help fund this project.

Beat reporter Jennifer Courtney contributed reporting from Los Angeles. Tashina Manyak reported from Los Angeles. Contact Tashina Manyak at tmanyak@californiabeat.org.


  • kelly of oakland said:

    JUSTICE HAS BEEN SERVED. Why would you recklessly destroy a city and blame it on racism when the only racism there currently is is the racism everybody puts on “the white man.” From my understanding, that’s racism!

  • elise said:

    dumb ass ghetto people. No reason for the cop to go to prison.

  • Jason said:

    This is great news!!! NOT GUILTY OF MURDER!!!

  • Jay said:

    I just want to say that whether this was an accident or not, no one really knows but Mr. Mehserle. My heart goes out to both families effected by this tragedy! No one seems to care about the officers family, they are just as innocent as Mr. Grants family! Their lives have been changed forever as well. They do not deserve any scrutiny or threats against them. I just wanted to say that they are in my prayers as well, as this is going to be hard and trying on them in the months to come!

  • john said:

    It doens’t matter what you said or wrote killer. Big time murderers write apologizing letters, and they are still doing life in prison, or waiting for their deaths. You killed an unarmed man in one of you power trips, and you still getting away with it. Think about the family of the guy you killed, what are they going to do, a daughter without a dad. what if we do that to you? how would that be?

  • Mrs.B said:

    Why would anyone think that people with lower intelligence and thug mentality would get the concept of what “murder” is and the legalities of what happened. Grant was not an attentive father to his daughter, so why would that have to be even put into the picture? If he was such a good father, he would have been home with his daughter instead of being involved in a fight on BART and on the streets of Oakland late at night. His family lives off the system, has police records, etc. so why do people try to proclaim there was “glamor” in Grants life? I for one get tired of hearing how “THUGS” are “good people”.

    Bottom line, you don’t want to get shot by police, don’t do crime.