LOS ANGELES (CN) – A BART officer who killed a black passenger in Oakland last year was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter by a Los Angeles jury Thursday, a verdict that set off a riot in Oakland (see story in next column.) The white transit policeman, Johannes Mehserle, said he thought he was using a Taser to control a man on a train platform – not his pistol – and shot the man to death as others looked on.
Mehserle was acquitted of a charge of second-degree murder.
The penal code dictates a modest sentence in such cases, of 2-4 years in prison, according to statements by court officials. The jury found that Mehserle used a gun, a finding that increases the prison sentence.
The case was transferred from Oakland to Los Angeles for trial because of tension in the Bay Area over the killing and the circumstances, involving a white policeman and an unarmed black victim.
“My son was murdered,” said Wanda Johnson, the mother of the victim, Oscar Grant.
“There is no justice in this system.”
She said that even if Mehserle does not serve his time here on Earth, he will pay a divine price. “God will serve justice.”
“We do not like the verdict and we do not accept the verdict,” said John Burris, who is representing the Grant family in their civil rights action. He and Grant’s mother both criticized the brief time the jury deliberated: 6 1/2 hours.
Groups advocating for harsher punishment of Mehserle called the verdict a “cover up.”