Very informative article on Johannes Mehserle being released from jail after only serving 11 months of a 2 year sentence for an involuntary manslaughter charge against Oakland resident Oscar Grant. It gives a brief rundown of specific living conditions while in jail and what is to come for Mehserle. There is also a download of the actual audio file of the report below.
By: Ali Winston
Early this morning, former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle was released from the Los Angeles County Men’s Jail. The man who killed Oscar Grant on New Years Day 2010, served 11 months of a two-year sentence for involuntary manslaughter.
Grant’s death on the Fruitvale BART platform touched a nerve in Oakland, leading to violent protests and many arrests. Civil unrest also followed Mehserle’s conviction and sentencing last July. Many believe Mehserle received a light sentence for the shooting, which was captured on video by several cell phone cameras. But in his decision, LA County Judge Robert Perry said he believed the death was accidental, and Mehserle had meant to stun Oscar Grant with his taser.
Yesterday, several hundred people marched from Fruitvale Station to downtown Oakland to protest Mehserle’s release. KALW criminal justice reporter Ali Winston joined Holly Kernan to discuss Johannes Mehserle’s release, the reaction in Oakland and possible legal developments.
HOLLY KERNAN: Ali, you were in Oakland yesterday, watching the protests. Tell me what you saw.
ALI WINSTON: Well yesterday the rallies began at the Fruitvale station around 3pm where several hundred people gathered and held a press conference and a mock funeral for Oscar Grant, and then proceeded to march down International Boulevard to downtown Oakland. There was a brass band, there was a group of people carrying a casket representing Oscar Grant’s body, there was a lot of anti-police invective.
But there was no violence. A couple of people were arrested. One person I believe was charged for graffiti or vandalism, but that aside, there was no property damage or any of the other mass arrests that we’ve seen in other Oscar Grant protests.
KERNAN: And today it’s reportedly pretty quiet so far, but demonstrators filed a lawsuit this morning.
WINSTON: That’s correct. Around 150 people were arrested in the East Lake neighborhood while they were trying to march from Downtown Oakland to the Fruitvale station on the evening of November 5, 2010, and only one person was charged that evening. So they sued the Oakland Police Department and the Alameda County Sherriff’s Department for wrongful arrest.
KERNAN: And upon Mehserle’s release, what was the reaction from Oscar Grant’s family?
WINSTON: Oscar Grant’s family appear very hurt. They are currently in Los Angeles right now, taking part in a protest outside the United States Department of Justice building. They’re asking for civil rights charge to be brought against Johannes Mehserle and maybe BART police as well, and they are very frustrated that Johannes Mehserle only served 11 months out of his two year sentence.
KERNAN: And Mehserle served his time in LA County jail, rather than prison – why was that?
WINSTON: That’s right. He served his time in Los Angeles County jail in segregated custody – he had his own cell, he was never admitted to general population. And it appears that he was separated from other prisoners because of security concerns, because of concerns of his safety, his status as a law enforcement officer who had shot and killed a person of color, and that had some officials worrying about his well-being.
KERNAN: And what do we know about what happens to Mehserle now?
WINSTON: Well, he has been released from custody, and he is going to be on parole, but it’s not clear what level of parole he’s going to be on. There’s been some indications in the media today that Mehserle will be released on a very low level of supervision for parole, which would not require him to take drug tests, to report to his parole officer in person, be required to report to a parole officer in his county, which can either be Los Angeles or Alameda. He may not even be required to live in California at all.
KERNAN: So we don’t know too much about the conditions of his parole?
KERNAN: What do you think are the take-aways, the lessons of this shooting, which the Alameda County DA prosecuted originally as a murder, and this ultimate sentencing, and now release after 11 months?
WINSTON: Well, on one hand, the supporters of Oscar Grant and his family still feel very hard-done by this process. There is a sense of partial victory in that Johannes Mehserle was charged and convicted for the death of Oscar Grant. Even some people view that sentence as a light one – it’s still conviction and that matters. There’s the pending lawsuits, there’s the pending civil suit in federal court filed by Oscar Grant’s family against Johannes Mehserle – BART police has been severed from that. And there’s the possibility that this case may go to a federal level, that it may be charged by the Department of Justice.
But on the other hand, you have a lot of law enforcement officers, notably one of the main law enforcement advocacy groups in California, the Peace Officers Research Association, is very supportive of Mehserle’s release. They believe that the time that he served was good time, that the conviction itself wasn’t proper, that he shouldn’t have even been charge for murder, and that he is being unfairly singled out because of his race – because he’s a white officer who shot a black man.