Johannes Mehserle, the former BART cop who spent nearly a year in prison for shooting dead Oscar Grant at BART station in 2009, asked an appeals court today to overturn his conviction so that he can get a job in law enforcement again.
Attorneys representing Mehserle said he should not have been convicted of involuntary manslaughter because all he did was “make an error,” and that this prosecution was nothing more than politics.
“This was simply an accident,” attorney Michael Rains told KTVU in front of the courthouse today. “In California … we know that police officers have made this same accident in nine other cases, there have been no other criminal prosecutions. This was an accident, not a crime.”
Mehserle was convicted in 2010 for the shooting death of Oscar Grant on New Year’s Day in 2009. Mehserle says he didn’t mean to shoot Grant, who was unarmed and lying face down on the Fruitvale BART platform when he was killed. Mehserle argued in court that he meant to grab for his Taser, but accidentally pulled out his gun and fired one shot in Grant’s back, killing him instantly. The shooting was recorded by other BART passengers, which was used as evidence in his trial.
The emotionally charged trial pitted the black community against local law enforcement, at times provoking violent protests in Oakland. However, a jury finally decided that while Mehserle didn’t mean to kill Grant, his actions were grossly negligent and certainly criminal.
The tension between police and the community increased when Mehserle served only 11 months of his two-year sentence, after he was released last year on good behavior.
Although, things could get even more strained if the court grants Mehserle’s request, and he eventually is back on the streets, enforcing the law.