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Mehserle found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, acquitted of murder

Grant's mother Wanda Johnson reacted angrily to the news that Mehserle was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, not murder. 'My son was murdered. He was murdered!' she said. (JENNIFER COURTNEY / CALIFORNIA BEAT)

(7/9) — 00:15 PDT — LOS ANGELES — A Los Angeles jury of eight women and four men convicted former BART Police Officer Johannes Mehserle of involuntary manslaughter Thursday afternoon, but acquitted him of the most serious charge he faced: second degree murder.

The verdict angered the family of Oscar Grant, the unarmed train passenger Mehserle shot and killed at the Fruitvale Station platform in East Oakland on January 1, 2009.

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 in state prison. Mehserle therefore faces five to 14 years in state prison for Grant’s killing.

“We as a family have been slapped in the face by this system that has denied us a right to justice,” Grant’s uncle Cephus Johnson told reporters outside court after the 4 p.m. announcement.

Grant family attorney John Burris also expressed disappointment concerning the verdict.

Grant family attorney addresses the media following the announcement of the verdict. (JENNIFER COURTNEY / CALIFORNIA BEAT)

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

The jury deliberated behind closed doors and under intense security for six and a half hours during the first full day of its deliberations Thursday to reach the involuntary manslaughter verdict at 2:10 p.m.

It was read two hours later inside Judge Robert Perry’s courtroom, which was packed with family members of both Grant and Mehserle, along with dozens of reporters from the Bay Area and Los Angeles.

Mehserle sat stone-faced, showing no emotion as the jury read the involuntary manslaughter verdict.

His defense attorney Michael Rains attempted to convince Perry that his client was not a flight risk, but the judge ordered bailiffs to place Mehserle in handcuffs and take the former police officer into custody.

He mouthed the words “I love you” to his family, who began to sob from the court gallery.

The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Mehserle was taken by Los Angeles County Sheriffs Deputies to county jail, where he was booked late Thursday evening, and will remain in custody until his sentencing hearing August 6.

Grant’s mother Wanda Johnson also began to sob briefly after the verdict was announced. She reacted angrily to Mehserle being convicted of the lesser charge.

“It was murder!” she told reporters outside the courtroom. “It was murder! My son was murdered!”

Prosecutor David Stein had argued in the case that Mehserle intended to use his gun to kill Grant.

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.”

The defense contended that Mehserle confused his Taser and his gun and accidentally shot Grant when he meant to Tase him.

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

Late Thursday, the United States Department of Justice said they would launch an independent investigation into the case and weigh whether federal civil rights charges would be filed against Mehserle.

Neither Stein nor Rains addressed the media after the verdict. The 12 jurors also declined to be interviewed by media.

Protesters await the verdict in the Mehserle murder trial. (JENNIFER COURTNEY / CALIFORNIA BEAT)

When the verdict was announced, more than 15 court security guards and four undercover police officers watched the protests outside the courthouse, which remained small and peaceful. Aidge Patterson of the Los Angeles Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant addressed the media briefly, calling the verdict “a gross injustice.”

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 reporters Tashina Manyak and Jennifer Courtney reported from Los Angeles. Contact Tashina Manyak at tmanyak@californiabeat.org.

One Comment »

  • John said:

    The difference between a hand gun and a teaser is tremendous, both weight differently. This is another case that show us how fucked up the government is and it only helps the ones with power. probably that killer was in power trip and wanted to act tough. His piggy friends were around him so how come they couldn’t do anything. They probably changed their testimonies to try to help the killer.