Jun 30, 2010

Johannes Mehserle Verdict: Riot or No Riot?

Johannes Mehssserle is the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) police officer who is charged with murdering Oscar Grant on Jan. 1, 2009. Meherle admits shooting Grant on a train platform in Oakland, CA. He claims that Grant was resisting arrest, and that he was trying to subdue Grant with his Taser when he accidentally pulled out a gun and shot him. Word of the New Year's Eve shooting spread quickly and resulted in widespread rioting in Oakland.

Mehserle's trial was moved to LA. As the trial nears its conclusion, both the verdict and the chance that it will produce additional rioting are uncertain. A verdict of murder is unlikely, since the tragic killing was neither intentional nor premeditated. Voluntary or involuntary manslaughter is a more more likely and fairer verdict, since Meherle is certainly at fault for not recognizing the difference between a Taser and a deadly weapon.

For me, the biggest concern is the effect of the verdict on Grant's supporters in Oakland and LA.  Like most people I hope for calm reactions no matter what the verdict.  But if my sense of the likely verdict is accurate, experience suggests otherwise.