OAKLAND (Bay City News) The mother and uncle of Oscar Grant III, an unarmed man who was killed by former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle three years ago, expressed outrage today that they weren't informed of Mehserle's appellate hearing on Wednesday.
Speaking at a news conference in Oakland this morning, Grant's mother, Wanda Johnson, and uncle Cephus Johnson said they're also upset that Mehserle, according to his lawyer, would like to return to police work if his involuntary manslaughter conviction for killing Grant is overturned.
A three-judge panel of the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco heard oral arguments on Mehserle's appeal on Wednesday and the court has three months to issue a written decision.
Mehserle's appellate lawyer, Dylan Schaffer, said that if Mehserle loses the appeal, he will continue appeals to the California and U.S. supreme courts if necessary.
Mehserle, 30, was charged with murder for fatally shooting Grant, a 22-year-old Hayward man, on the platform of the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland in the early morning hours of Jan. 1, 2009, but was convicted of the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter by a Los Angeles jury in 2010.
Mehserle claimed that he meant to use a Taser stun gun on Grant and fired his service weapon by mistake.
Mehserle was sentenced to two years in prison and was released last year after receiving credits that reduced his time in custody to about a year.
Mehserle's trial lawyer, Michael Rains, said that although Mehserle has completed his sentence, he is pursuing the appeal because he can't return to a job in law enforcement with a felony conviction on his record.
Rains said Mehserle has been working in non-law-enforcement jobs, but declined to give details except to say that the former officer is a talented handyman.
Cephus Johnson, his voice rising, said, "We're angry we were denied our right to be at the appellate hearing. This proceeding is an example of shutting victims out of the process."
He said, "We don't know if the hearing was fair and we can't trust the racist criminal justice system to be fair."
Referring to Mehserle, Wanda Johnson said, "I'm here to denounce his attempt to clear his record. He committed such gross negligence that he should not be allowed back on the streets to protect and serve again."
She said, "If he becomes a police officer again it would be a disgrace to our community and a slap in the face to me and my family."
Jack Bryson, the father of two young men who were with Grant at the Fruitvale station, issued a threat to Mehserle, saying, "We will follow you and we will make your life miserable just like you made Wanda's life miserable. You will never enjoy life again."
Rosemary Hernandez, the mother of Sophina Mesa, who was Grant's fiancee and the mother of the couple's young daughter, said, "My daughter was not notified about the hearing and had to hear about it from the news media. I'm very upset to see my daughter go through so much turmoil."
Hernandez said, "My daughter cries and hurts so bad but Johannes Mehserle thinks it's all a joke."
Wanda Johnson and Cephus Johnson said they are upset at both the Alameda County District Attorney's Office, which prosecuted Mehserle, and the California Attorney General's Office, which is representing the District Attorney's Office in opposing Mehserle's bid for an appeal.
Spokespersons for both offices didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on the matter.