Community members denounce request for Mehserle retrial

Oakland community members are speaking out today against a motion by the defense team for former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle seeking a retrial for Mehserle in the 2009 shooting death of Oscar Grant.

Mehserle's defense attorney Michael Rains submitted a motion to Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Perry on Friday arguing that the jury, which convicted Mehserle of involuntary manslaughter, did not have a legal basis for a conviction and that new evidence is grounds for a retrial. 

“We feel that Rains is grasping at straws,” said Cat Brooks, co-founder of ONYX, an organization that focuses on police conduct and the rights of African Americans in Oakland.

Mehserle and his attorneys maintain that the shooting was accidental, and that Mehserle had meant to use his Taser when he shot and killed Grant.

“The district attorney at our trial argued that even though there had been some prior cases of officers mistakenly shooting guns instead of Tasers, not a single one was identical to this case,” Rains said Monday.

Rains claims the defense team has since discovered a similar case in Kentucky in which an officer mistakenly shot a suspect with his service weapon instead of a Taser. He argues that the discovery is grounds for a new trial.

“We're not surprised,” Grant's uncle, Cephus Johnson, said today of Rains' motion.

Johnson said the Grant family had hoped for a second-degree murder verdict and that he considered the involuntary manslaughter verdict “a slap in the face” to the family.

Johnson pointed out that the jury reached a decision in less than seven hours.

“If they had really debated the issue, it would've taken much longer than that,” he said.

Johnson said there are many differences between the Kentucky case and Grant's shooting.

“It's like comparing apples and oranges,” Johnson said.

Mehserle is scheduled to appear in court on Nov. 5 for sentencing, at which time Perry could rule on the motion for the retrial.

“Our hope is that Judge Perry does the right thing,” Johnson said.

ONYX is holding a news conference this afternoon, along with the General Assembly for Justice for Oscar Grant, the New Years Movement and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, to publicly denounce the retrial request.

“Our first concern is that justice gets served,” Brooks said.

Speakers at the news conference will include Jack Bryson, the father of Jackie Bryson, who was on the Fruitvale BART station platform when Grant was shot, and The Rev. Keith Muhammad.

The news conference will take place at 3 p.m. at Oakland City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza, Oakland.

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