Appeals Court Confirms Involuntary Manslaughter Conviction for former BART Officer Johannes Mehserle

By: Brian Shields - Fri, 08 Jun 2012 18:10:45 -0800

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) -- Former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle remains a convicted felon after the 1st District Court of Appeals upheld his involuntary manslaughter conviction in the shooting death of unarmed passenger Oscar Grant.

The justices ruled there is sufficient evidence to conclude Mehserle's shooting of Grant constituted criminal negligence.

During a trial that was moved to Los Angeles, Mehserle had argued he mistakenly pulled his firearm instead of his taser while trying to subdue Grant at the platform of the Fruitvale BART station early on New Year's morning in 2009.  

In his appeal, lawyers for Mehserle argued the former officer's conduct didn't rise to the level of criminal recklessness or negligence needed to sustain an involuntary manslaughter conviction.  The jury that convicted him of the charge acquitted the Napa native of second degree murder and voluntary manslaughter.

"We find sufficient evidence that his conduct of mistakenly drawing and firing his handgun instead of his taser constitutes criminal negligence," Justice James Marchiano wrote for the court.

The court says Mehserle should have known the difference between his gun and his taser because the gun was heavier than the taser, was black instead of yellow, and was holstered on a different side of the officer's body.

"The jury could have reasonably found defendant's conduct rose to the level of conscious indifference to the consequences of his acts, and was not a mere mistake," the appeals court ruled.

Mehserle has already served his prison sentence of two years with a year off for good times credits.  A successful appeal could have made the former officer eligible to carry a firearm and even potentially reapply for a job as a police officer.

The decision could still be appealed to the California Supreme Court.

The Grant shooting prompted widespread protests in Oakland and across the Bay Area after numerous cell phone videos surfaced showing the moments leading up to the shooting and the shooting itself. The victim's family has repeatedly called the Involuntary Manslaughter verdict a miscarriage of justice.

Stay tuned to KRON 4 and for reaction to this latest ruling.

(Copyright 2012, KRON 4, All rights reserved.)
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