Thursday, July 8, 2010

And Justice For None

An unarmed African-American man held face down in a San Francisco subway station was fatally shot in the back by a transit cop on New Year's Day 2009.  Oscar Grant had committed no crime; he was immobilized on the ground by another cop, who held his knee against the young man's neck.  Suddenly, Officer Johannes Mehserle pulls himself upright-- and drawing his weapon shoots Grant dead on the spot.  Officer Mehserle claimed that he accidentally drew his gun (located on his right side) thinking it was his taser (which he kept on his left).  Even if you believe that story, use of a taser was totally uncalled for-- was Mehserle really going to put a jolt through Grant as he lay prone on the floor for no reason at all?  The entire incident was caught on video;  seemingly a slam-dunk case of police brutality. 

But Oscar Grant was African-American and the officers were white.  Police lawyers were able to get the trial relocated to Los Angeles county, where prosecutors have not won a murder conviction in a police shooting since 1983.   Not a single juror was African-American.  After six hours of deliberation over two days, the jury rejected a verdict of second-degree murder and found Mehserle guilty of only involuntary manslaughter.  The maximum sentence Mehserle could receive is four years.  Four years for a cold-blooded killing with racial overtones.  If there is no justice for Oscar Grant, how can any of us expect justice?

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