How to get away with murder

By Michael Vass | July 8, 2010

Just as the nation was welcoming a new President and the “hope for change”, in Oakland, Oscar Grant got more of the same. It was New Years Day 2009, literally just minutes into the new year, when a BART officer – Johannes Mehserle – stood over the prone body of Grant and shot him in the back at point blank range.

It’s the story that the nation didn’t want to hear and the news media tried to make sure you couldn’t. Almost from the start there was a blackout for any part of the nation outside of the west coast. It took 7 days and riots in Oakland before the national media covered any aspect of this murder. Even then, the riots were the news and the cause – the fact that the police were trying to cover-up the incident – was barely given a sentence of mention.

Perhaps this wouldn’t be big news, if it was just another JUSTIFIED police shooting. But the facts were that Oscar Grant did NOT resist the officers. The fact was that Oscar Grant was UNARMED. The fact was that there was video, many videos, and dozens of witnesses each observing Johannes Mehserle deliberately pulling his firearm and shooting Oscar Grant dead.

I covered this news story, this brutal and unquestionable murder of Oscar Grant, 7 days after the fact. The soonest I had heard about it. I have followed it since that day. At every turn I have noted how the police have sought to cover-up what happened. How officers were caught in lie after lie. How video evidence available to the public was ignored and dismissed or called non-existant even as the Youtube hits went higher.

I spoke at legnth about this case. How Merserle was handled with kid gloves by police investigators. How he tried to avoid prosecution by quitting the police, and leaving the State of California almost as soon as the cameras turned onto the Police Chief and his excuses for the murder.

I say murder over and over again, because that is what it was. The video is clear. I present it again for the millions that were unable to find out about the story in the past year that I have covered it.

I would show you the video, from the cell phone cameras of the eyewitnesses, that I had on my site on Jan. 7, 2009 – except oddly it no longer exists on Youtube (though it was on Youtube al late as 3 months ago). Suffice to say that of the 4 seperate videos I am aware of, every one shows Mehserle standing over the unarmed and non-resisting Grant who he shoots without remorse or reason.

Since Jan. 7 2009, there have been the usual games in the courts. Change of venues to populations less filled with perople of color and more likely to side with police no matter the wrong-doing. Delays for every imaginable reason that a non-police officer would never get (especially a person of color). All the time Mehserle is running about on bail. Police officers that were on the sceen making blatant lies about the situation that videos of the crime prove to be fabrications of the worst order.

The biggest thing that was used in this case was time. Lots of time to allow people to forget. To get occupied with something else. But I didn’t forget.

If you had to take odds, based on the murders of Sean Bell and so many other victims of police abuse and brutality, the even money would have been on Mehserle getting treated like Rodney King. That he would be acquitted. That this murder would be like most committed by police. Another Black man was dead and the officer unscathed.

The justice, if it were to be enacted, would be 2nd degree murder. Something that will never happen when police are accused of killing a person of color – no matter how many witnesses and video exist.

But for once a shred of decency ekked through. For once someone wanted to make a comment about police killing unarmed young Black men across the nation. Every year. Yes even after Obama was elected. Yes, even right now.

Maybe it was because on New Years Day 2 other young unarmed Black men were shot by police without cause. Maybe it was because the jury realized that kids should ot grow up without their fathers simply because a police officer could not get beyond his own racially based fear and loathing. That’s a guess, it could be wrong. but whatever the reason, the jury made a move towards the feel of justice.

Mehserle was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter. It carries a potential 2 – 4 year jail sentence. Hardly worthy of the life he took.

That verdict is a joke though. Involuntary. As if the gun materialized in Mehserle’s hand and he was forced to aim and fire upon the defenseless body of Oscar Grant by ghosts and the gravity of a black hole. There wasn’t in involuntary action in this whole horrible crime. But if the officer is White, the victim Black, unarmed, young and male well involuntary is the best you get.

The verdict still must be made into a sentence by a judge. It could be extended due to the use of a gun in the crime. It could be lessened because Mehserle was a BART officer at the time. You can imagine what the odds are.

Personally, I wish Mehserle could get the death sentence for his voluntary, concious, willful, intentional, and deliberate murder of Oscar Grant. But that won’t happen. Not when it’s just a young Black unarmed father that was shot in the back while lying on the ground. Not in America. Not even in the year 2010.

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