A mural for Oscar Grant opposite the Fruitvale BART station
More than two years after Oscar Grant was fatally shot by former BART cop Johannes Mehserle, after hundreds of arrests, dozens of broken windows, and intensive media coverage, has Grant and Mehserle’s tragic story come to a close?
The criminal case filed by the Alameda County District Attorney against Mehserle is certainly over. The 29-year-old former officer was released from the Los Angeles Men’s Central Jail early this morning after serving 11 months of his two-year sentence for involuntary manslaughter.
The only other remaining piece of the legal puzzle is a potential civil rights case against Mehserle or BART — the U.S. Department of Justice has not yet indicated if it will pursue one. Protesters gathered yesterday in front of the federal courthouse in downtown Los Angeles to urge a federal indictment for Mehserle. Sunday afternoon saw another protest here in Oakland, which has been the epicenter for activism around Grant’s death and the scene of several civil disturbances over the past two years.
The rally did not have the same emotion or outrage as the July and November gatherings last year, perhaps because Mehserle’s fate had already been decided. At times, it felt as if the protest was a compelled response to the former officer’s release, part of a strange choreography between court proceedings and public demonstrations that has defined the Grant case for more than two years. Both the Fruitvale and Downtown Oakland rallies were held in the same locations as the past two years and many of the demonstrators were familiar faces from earlier protests.
Now that Mehserle’s criminal case is over, can Grant’s family, their supporters, and those awakened to the issue of police violence by Grant’s death sustain a level of activism? Is there something about Grant’s case – the visceral shock of seeing his death of film – that will differentiate its long-term impact from others who have lost their lives when police make mistakes? Several threads have defined Grant’s case: the court case, its impact on the community, the activism around the issue (by supporters of both Grant and Mehserle), and law enforcement surveillance of pro-Grant demonstrations. Here’s a look at the impact Grant’s death has had.
[[UPDATE 6:39 PM, 6/8/11: Bobby "Cephus" Johnson, Oscar Grant's uncle, told The Informant that he was notified earlier today that Mehserle will be released sometime on Monday morning, at some point between 12 AM and 8:30 AM. "He will be released Monday morning at some time, no one knows exactly when," said Johnson. "There's a lot of games being played" with Mehserle's release date, Johnson added.]]
Former BART Police officer Johannes Mehserle will be released from custody at the Los Angeles County Men’s Jail on Sunday, June 12th.
Relatives of Oscar Grant, the 22-year-old Hayward resident Mehserle shot and killed on the Fruitvale station platform on January 1, 2009, were notified of Mehserle’s impending release by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation this week.
Grant’s family received notice of Mehserle’s release thanks to 2008′s Proposition 9, a victim’s rights ballot measure that requires relatives of a crime victim to be contacted for input in the release of the person found culpable for that crime. Continue reading →
Pro-Mehserle protesters and opponents face off outside the Walnut Creek courthouse last July.
After serving eleven months of his 2-year sentence for the fatal shooting of Oscar Grant on New Year’s Day, 2009, former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle is expected to walk out of Los Angeles County Jail a free man within the next few weeks.
The website of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department lists Monday, June 13th as the next court date for Mehserle, who is currently incarcerated in the Men’s Central Jail in Downtown Los Angeles. The hearing will begin at 8:30 AM.
The family of Oscar Grant and their supporters view Mehserle’s release as an indication of the justice system’s shortcomings, and are pursuing a federal civil rights claim against Mehserle three other BART officers who were present when Grant was shot on the Fruitvale BART platform. Continue reading →
Sentenced to two years for involuntary manslaughter in the killing of Oscar Grant, former BART Officer Johannes Mehserle could be released from a Los Angeles jail as early as mid-June. According to this ABC report, Mehserle is expected in court June 1 for a hearing on his release. Meanwhile, BART was just dropped as a defendant in a $50 million civil suit provoked by Grant’s death.
Hundreds protest Johannes Mehserle's involuntary manslaughter conviction on July 8th
The Oscar Grant-Johannes Mehserle court saga did not end with Judge Robert Perry’s imposition of a two-year sentence earlier this month. The former BART officer is appealing the involuntary manslaughter verdict handed down to him on November 8th. If Judge Perry believes Mehserle’s appeal stands a chance, he may release the 28-year-old on bail.
It’s been nearly two years since former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle shot Oscar Grant to death at Oakland’s Fruitvale station. Friday, Mehserle received his sentence: two years in prison for involuntary manslaughter. Including credit for time served, Mehserle could get out of prison in seven months. Other than probation, this was the shortest possible sentence that could have been administered by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Perry, and it led to demonstrations Friday night in Oakland. After a peaceful rally in front of city hall, protestors marched toward the Fruitvale BART station.
During the march, isolated instances of vandalism broke out in the Eastlake neighborhood. Police officers from several outside agencies corralled and arrested 153 people. I was on the scene Friday night and sat down with KALW’s Holly Kernan to talk about the events. (Transcript after the jump.)
Demonstrators decorate a banner with messages at Friday's rally in Ogawa Plaza
by Ali Winston and Rina Palta
On Friday, it all culminated: almost two years of outrage, antagonism and pain over the fatal shooting of Oscar Grant by former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert J. Perry sentenced Mehserle to two years in prison. Other than probation, it was the most lenient available sentence for involuntary manslaughter. Perry also tossed out a gun enhancement finding by the jury that could have added up to ten years to the sentence.
Predictably, the decision did not sit well with many Bay Area residents. Continue reading →
Johannes Mehserle has been sentenced to two years in state prison, with 292 days of credit for time served and good behavior–which means, other than probation, Mehserle received the lightest possible sentence for his involuntary manslaughter conviction in the killing of Oscar Grant. Judge Robert Perry also waived the jury’s conviction on a gun enhancement, which lowered the minimum sentence, saying that he had made a judicial error in his instructions for the jury. Preliminary analysis from news media suggests that Mehserle could be retried on the enhancement (and could appeal the involuntary manslaughter sentence as well). It’s unclear how much time Mehserle will actually serve–mainly, whether he’ll be eligible for any additional time credits once he begins his prison term.