The Johannes Mehserle sentencing is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Friday at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center in Los Angeles. Mehserle, a former BART police officer, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for shooting and killing 22-year-old Oscar Grant on a BART station platform on Jan 1, 2009. Mehserle said the shooting was an accident caused by the mistaken use of his gun instead of his Taser. The incident was captured on video and distributed via the web throughout the world. Judge Robert Perry has the option of sentencing Mehserle to anything from probation to 14 years in prison.
As the defense points out in asking for a lenient sentence, jurors acquitted Mehserle of murder and voluntary manslaughter, both of which require an intent to kill.
Prosecutors seeking a longer prison term say that although jurors found that Mehserle did not intend to kill Grant, they did conclude that he intended to shoot him.
Jurors signaled that when they convicted Mehserle of a gun enhancement, the prosecution says, (it was) a charge that required the panel to find that the defendant fired a gun on purpose.
Defense attorneys say it is not possible that the jury found that Mehserle intended to shoot Grant from a distance of just a few feet, but not kill him. Their conclusion: The jury believed that the shooting was an accident but misapplied the gun enhancement.
As the sentencing has neared, both Grant and Mehserle families have launched “dueling public relations campaigns,” as California Beat writes:
Grant’s family has urged Perry to seek the maximum sentence for Mehserle, a 14-year stint behind bars. The family has drawn support from the International Longshoreman’s Worker’s Union, whose members shut down operations at the Ports of San Francisco and Oakland for one day in September in a public display in favor of the maximum sentence…
Meanwhile, the family of Mehserle is waging its own campaign to urge Perry to go in another direction: being lenient towards the former police officer.
After nearly 18 months of silence from Mehserle and his supporters, friends and family members have initiated an aggressive and highly visible outreach campaign to get “his side of the story” in the public domain.
This yacht has made regular appearances at McCovey Cove outside AT&T Park drawing attention to the Johannes Mehserle sentencing date.
During the San Francisco Giants’ playoff run, Mehserle’s father, Todd, who sells sailing equipment for yachts, has paraded a large ship with “Free Mehserle” banners during home games in McCovey Cove. The move drew attention — including from the Fox Sports baseball telecasts — to the high profile case and the upcoming sentencing date.
Last week, Mehersle himself gave an emotional interview from prison to Rita Williams of KTVU-TV, giving his account of what happened when he shot Grant.