Supervisor Denounces Mehserle Sentencing

By Steven Tavares

Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson along with other local groups denounced late Friday the sentencing of Johannes Mehserle, the former BART cop convicted of killing Oscar Grant two years ago.

Alameda County Supervisor
Keith Carson

“The sentence of two years minus time served is far more lenient than would normally be handed down in similar cases not involving law enforcement defendants,” said Carson, who also chairs the organization of Black Elected Officials and Faith Based Leaders. “Combined with an already lenient conviction for involuntary manslaughter, the slap on the wrist for the murder of Oscar Grant is a snapshot of everything wrong with the criminal justice system.”

Carson, also writing on behalf of other groups said the defendant would likely have faced life in prison if the race of the two were reversed. Other signatures of the letter include: the Oakland and California branches of the NAACP, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, Black Women Organized for Political Action, Minister Keith Muhammad of the Nation of Islam and Rabbi David Copper of the Kehilla Community Synagogue.

The statement is highly critical of law enforcement and an extraordinary social indictment normally not made by a local leaders of Carson’s stature. He notes a person is killed by police everyday across the country and victims are disproportionately persons of color. “These victims are often unarmed, yet the perpetrators are rarely prosecuted much less disciplined,” said Carson. “Civil lawsuits brought by family members are occasionally successful, but because of the nature of law enforcement shootings, much of the evidence in such cases is collected by law enforcement and therefore suspect.”

Carson and the groups also called for the Department of Justice to further investigate the Grant case. In a statement Friday, the DOJ appears inclined to do so. “Now that the state prosecution has concluded and consistent with Department policy, we will thoroughly review the prosecution and its underlying investigation to determine whether further action is appropriate.”

The scene last Friday was eerily similar to the July 8 roundup of protesters in Oakland after the Mehserle verdict was revealed in Los Angeles County. Police arrested 152 proterster Friday night acting in concert with departments as far away as Monterey. Like the 78 arrests in downtown Oakalnd this summer, the protest which veered towards the Fruitvale BART station–the site of Grant’s slaying–was described as peaceful. Similarly police stood watch in the periphery until nightfall, when remaining activists were summarily hemmed in one location. According to the apparent playbook laid out by Oakland Police, unlawful assembly was declared and a round-up of those remaining were shortly detained. Of the 78 arrested in July (yours truly, included), just four have been charged for acts including the the looting and destruction of private property.