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Oakland: Riot Worries, Out-of-Town Agitators, and Sonic Cannons
July 7, 2010 8:58 PM   Subscribe

Oakland, California, is bracing for a possible repeat of the 2009 riot [previously] once a verdict in the trial of former BART cop Johannes Mehserle for the 2009 shooting of Oscar Grant [previously] comes in.

The early morning New Year's Day shooting was captured on multiple camphones (viewer discretion advised) and uploaded immediately to the web.

Many downtown businesses (especially on 17th Street, which was hit hard in the 2009 riots) are boarding up their windows in anticipation. Many have pictures of Oscar hung in their windows like lamb's blood. Meanwhile, the City is urging calm, and local Oaktown activists are warning Oakland youth "Don't get pimped!" by out-of-town agitators (who made up ~75% of the 2009 arrests).

Protest leader Evan Shamar, whose lack of organization in 2009 many blame for allowing the peaceful protest to spiral out of control, is organizing another protest. He's also not returning calls from the OPD trying to coordinate to keep things peaceful. Oaklanders are making videos to spread the message "Violence is not justice". There's already an Oaklandriots Twitter stream. And some are wondering, in the age of paramilitary policing, is the OPD itching to bring out its new sonic cannon? As of July 7, they say they've decided not to use it.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey (316 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
I hope justice is served.

.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 9:26 PM on July 7, 2010


Do people actually use twitter as they riot?
posted by mannequito at 9:35 PM on July 7, 2010


I think there's reasonable doubt that the BART cop actually intended to kill Oscar Grant, but using a taser on an already-handcuffed suspect strikes me as indefensible, and I hope the jury comes back with at least an involuntary manslaughter conviction.
posted by Malor at 9:36 PM on July 7, 2010 [11 favorites]


Jump that gun buddy.
posted by pianomover at 9:37 PM on July 7, 2010


Two good posts on the riot hyping and how unlikely it is that the trial will deliver a just result.
posted by Gnatcho at 9:42 PM on July 7, 2010 [10 favorites]


I honestly don't see how it can be anything less than manslaughter. I also think there will some degree of rioting/protesting no matter what the verdict is....feels like many people are just looking for a release.
posted by gnutron at 9:42 PM on July 7, 2010


I hope no violence breaks out. My friend's windshield got broken last time. There's good reason to be angry, but not at her, and not at the local businesses. People have worked hard to make downtown Oakland better, and everyone's on a tight budget these days. Smashing random windows helps no one.
posted by slidell at 9:43 PM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Each day that sfgate has put up a "No verdict yet" headline - a juror got sick, an alternate had to be seated, a juror had a doctor's appointment - I think about being an alternate on a murder trial last year. It's among the more difficult, intense experiences I've had. I don't envy this jury at all.
posted by rtha at 9:47 PM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Riots aren't particularly constructive, but it seems like little else is constructive, if you're just a civilian who wants justice and not terror from those who will not be held accountable. If the OPD is calling in hopes that he can keep things peaceful, it sounds like the fix is in: and it looks like Public Executioner has pulled ahead of Civil Servant, Public Executioner in the lead.

Here's hoping my cynicism doesn't pan out.
posted by adipocere at 9:50 PM on July 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


Do people actually use twitter as they riot?

Look at what happened in Toronto last week (really, that last link) to see how twitter and up-to-the-minute livestreaming from many places on the ground downtown made a significant difference in how the conditions of sudden police state were reported and received.
posted by avocet at 9:52 PM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Upon further reading, I disagree that 75 percent are "outside agitators." The home cities for those "outsiders" includes San Francisco, San Leandro, and Berkeley. The latter two are contiguous to Oakland on the same BART line. San Francisco and several others are also on the BART line. Many of those "outside agitators" might very well ride BART from their home in [not-Oakland] to their job in Oakland, and hence they seem undeniably entitled to an opinion about BART riders getting shot. (In my opinion, they would be regardless; I don't think there should be a residency requirement to protest murder, or even injustice.)
posted by slidell at 9:54 PM on July 7, 2010 [21 favorites]


Everywhere I drive around here, I see more and more Grant posters and plywood on storefronts; I hope that this becomes a case of being over prepared, but I am a little worried, and am taking some precautions, like parking my car at the government facility where I work for a few days so I don't leave it on the curb overnight.
posted by QuarterlyProphet at 9:55 PM on July 7, 2010


I fail to see how this tragedy is a political issue. America is intensely stupid when any event even brushes on the topic of race invites this collectivist self-righteousness from people apparently too bothered to learn more. Doubting the legitimacy of the court system and genuineness of the jury on no other basis than a verdict is ignorant.
posted by norabarnacl3 at 10:02 PM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Riots aren't particularly constructive, but it seems like little else is constructive, if you're just a civilian who wants justice and not terror from those who will not be held accountable.

I suspect that justice is not what the average urban rioter wants these days. If LA's regular riots are anything to go by, they want to get drunk, steal stuff from Best Buy, smash things belonging to people they feel may have slighted them in the past (police, foreigners, neighbors) and generally act like asses. I bet 90% of them don't know the main facts of the case.
posted by fshgrl at 10:04 PM on July 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


Just like that, this story is about rioting, and outside agitators, and Black Bloc and and and... but, you know, definitely not about the fact that a cop who shot an unarmed and prone man in the back from point blank range is quite likely not even going to get convicted of involuntary manslaughter. Nope, it's those Crazy People In The Streets, rioting again!

Funny how it's always Joe Public's job to stay "calm" and consider "justice" and "peace"... yet what happens to police officers who utterly fail to do all three? We shall see, I suppose.
posted by vorfeed at 10:05 PM on July 7, 2010 [85 favorites]


Doubting the legitimacy of the court system and genuineness of the jury on no other basis than a verdict is ignorant.

Sorry, no, that statement is ignorant. As in, ignores the history going back to the founding of the US of differing justice systems for people depending on their race, wealth, and power.
posted by rtha at 10:09 PM on July 7, 2010 [11 favorites]


on preview: Doubting the legitimacy of the court system and genuineness of the jury on no other basis than a verdict is ignorant.

Well then, it's a good thing we have a video!
posted by vorfeed at 10:09 PM on July 7, 2010 [9 favorites]


There's definitely an element of media hysteria behind this.

I ride BART every day (from Oakland to SF) and so far haven't noticed any difference in my daily commute. No protesters, no posters, nothing. I'm not really expecting anything to really happen though.
posted by schwa at 10:17 PM on July 7, 2010


America is intensely stupid when any event even brushes on the topic of race invites this collectivist self-righteousness from people apparently too bothered to learn more.

What are others missing that you have seen so clearly?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:19 PM on July 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Funny how it's always Joe Public's job to stay "calm" and consider "justice" and "peace"... yet what happens to police officers who utterly fail to do all three? We shall see, I suppose.

You know that the police force is drawn from the general public, right? Where else would they learn to stay calm and consider peace if not from the people they grew up around and interact with on a daily basis? It benefits everyone when people stay calm. Calm does not mean passive or weak, calm people who are able to keep their eyes on the goal can get things changed much more effectively in the long run than a giant collective temper tantrum.
posted by fshgrl at 10:24 PM on July 7, 2010 [11 favorites]


There's definitely an element of media hysteria behind this.

I ride BART every day (from Oakland to SF) and so far haven't noticed any difference in my daily commute. No protesters, no posters, nothing. I'm not really expecting anything to really happen though.
posted by schwa at 10:17 PM on July 7 [+] [!]


yeah, me too. The way buildings are boarded up in downtown Oakland is pretty ominous, though, and the building where I work in SF is prepared for riots as well. The longer the deliberations go, the worse I see this getting.
posted by OrangeDrink at 10:24 PM on July 7, 2010


using a taser on an already-handcuffed suspect strikes me as indefensible, and I hope the jury comes back with at least an involuntary manslaughter conviction.

I'm not sure why, but I thought that I read that the taser defense was basically a kitchen-sink effort on the part of Meserles attorney, in part because most PDs (including BART) have addressed Taser confusion in a couple ways: the tasers are much lighter and much bulkier by design, they're worn on the opposite hip requiring a cross-draw, and Meserles had no Taser that night and hadn't expected to have one. If I'm wrong, please let me know.

Doubting the legitimacy of the court system and genuineness of the jury on no other basis than a verdict is ignorant.

It's not doubt based on the verdict. It's that a not guilty verdict directly contradicts what everyone saw from multiple camera angles: Meserles pulling his gun and putting one in Grant's back for no reason at all. It's possible, even plausible, that the jury might come back with a not guilty verdict, and that will make sense within the context of the trial and the law. But what we all saw was an execution, and understanding how Meserles gets off, if he does, takes far more graciousness on the part of the public than the BART cops and the Oakland PD have ever deserved.
posted by fatbird at 10:30 PM on July 7, 2010 [8 favorites]


What is the prosecution arguing as to why Mehserle did it? One weakness of the case against him is that the shooting is just so totally inexplicable.
posted by fatbird at 10:41 PM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Whether or not anyone's planning on rioting, pretty much everyone I've spoken to expects one to break out. My friend's office in downtown Oakland is letting everyone go home immediately following the announcement of the verdict, and everyone I've spoken to plans on staying in that evening. I can only extrapolate from this that there's going to be a huge (and incredibly tone-deaf) police presence in Oakland that day, and that's usually the primary ingredient for civil unrest.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 10:43 PM on July 7, 2010


mannequito: Do people actually use twitter as they riot?

So far riot sucks--will tweet when things gets interesting. Hey at least I'm outside right #ForgotSnacks #FuckTheInternetIsHereLOL #Vuvuzela
posted by tzikeh at 10:50 PM on July 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


"I fail to see how this tragedy is a political issue. America is intensely stupid when any event even brushes on the topic of race invites this collectivist self-righteousness from people apparently too bothered to learn more. Doubting the legitimacy of the court system and genuineness of the jury on no other basis than a verdict is ignorant."

posted by Orenthal James Simpson at 10:05 AM on Oct 3, 1995 [+] [!]
posted by The Hamms Bear at 10:51 PM on July 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Doubting the legitimacy of the court system and genuineness of the jury on no other basis than a verdict is ignorant.

Here's the problem: the justice system in this country has historically not been color blind, and still is not color blind. This is undeniable. In ways big and small, the deck is stacked against those with less power. A black youth is dead, killed by a white police officer. Such are the facts. That's the first factor. Now add to it the second factor - a video that appears to show, as unambiguously as any evidence the common man in the street is likely to encounter ("we can see it with our very own eyes"), that the white officer simply shot an unarmed black youth who was presenting no threat. Should now a verdict emerge of "not guilty" - these two factors, mixed together will form a deadly combination. Because with the knowledge and memory of historical and present day inequity of the legal system when dealing with the powerless, you now witness what your very own eyes have seen, you can reach the most compelling conclusion - a "not guilty" verdict is yet another example of confirming the pattern of injustice. Had the injustice been historically rare, you wouldn't have a riot. Had the situation been less clear-cut to the common man, you wouldn't have a riot. But these two - well, let's hope people don't get hurt.
posted by VikingSword at 10:53 PM on July 7, 2010 [23 favorites]


People movin' out
People movin' in
Why, because of the color of their skin
Run, run, run, but you sho' can't hide
An eye for an eye
A tooth for a tooth
Vote for me, and I'll set you free
Rap on brother, rap on
Well, the only person talkin'
'Bout love thy brother is the preacher
And it seems,
Nobody is interested in learnin'
But the teacher
Segregation, determination, demonstration,
Integration, aggravation,
Humiliation, obligation to our nation
Taser Confusion
That's what the news is today

The sale of pills are at an all time high
Young folks walk around with
Their heads in the sky
Cities aflame in the summer time
And, the beat goes on

Air pollution, revolution, gun control,
Sound of soul
Shootin' rockets to the moon
Kids growin' up too soon
Politicians say more taxes will
Solve everything
And the band played on
So round 'n' round 'n' round we go
Where the world's headed, nobody knows
But the Taser Confusion
Oh yea, that's what the news is today

Fear in the air, tension everywhere
Unemployment rising fast,
The Beatles' new record's a gas
And the only safe place to live is
On an indian reservation
And the band played on
Eve of destruction, tax deduction
City inspectors, bill collectors
Mod clothes in demand,
Population out of hand
Suicide, too many bills, hippies movin'
To the hills
People all over the world, are shoutin'
End the war
And the band played on.
posted by davejay at 10:55 PM on July 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


Sonic cannon! Sonic cannon!
posted by uncanny hengeman at 10:57 PM on July 7, 2010


Funny how it's always Joe Public's job to stay "calm" and consider "justice" and "peace"... yet what happens to police officers who utterly fail to do all three?

But two wrongs don't make a right (not that the wrongs are comparable but still). You can stand up against injustice without taking it out on neighboring businesses and residents.

Both conversations seem valid to me. Whether or not violent protesters smash windows and cars does impact people's lives. And the messages ("don't kill innocent people" "don't smash innocent people's windshields") are so similar that I would hope both conversations can happen.
posted by slidell at 11:07 PM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


> Sonic cannon! Sonic cannon!

Are you excited about the prospect of rioting and the deployment of futuristic crowd control non-lethal weapons?
posted by Burhanistan at 11:09 PM on July 7, 2010


Burhanistan: "> Sonic cannon! Sonic cannon!

Are you excited about the prospect of rioting and the deployment of futuristic crowd control non-lethal weapons?
"

I thought he was referencing the infamous "Lightning bolt!" LARP video.
posted by barnacles at 11:15 PM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know that the police force is drawn from the general public, right? Where else would they learn to stay calm and consider peace if not from the people they grew up around and interact with on a daily basis? It benefits everyone when people stay calm. Calm does not mean passive or weak, calm people who are able to keep their eyes on the goal can get things changed much more effectively in the long run than a giant collective temper tantrum.

As Gnatcho's links point out, the giant collective temper tantrum Oakland threw in '09 is one of the primary reasons this officer was charged in the first place.

History shows that "calm people who are able to keep their eyes on the goal" gain much of their power only after a threat appears, because they're perceived as a palatable alternative. Likewise, the city of Oakland might not even be addressing these peaceful non-profits if not for the credible threat of a riot.
posted by vorfeed at 11:16 PM on July 7, 2010 [13 favorites]


I guess it's likely that they'll accidentally fire a real cannon thinking it's the sonic one.
posted by hermitosis at 11:18 PM on July 7, 2010 [52 favorites]


Are you excited about the prospect of rioting and the deployment of futuristic crowd control non-lethal weapons?

Yes. But mainly the cannon. Give Johannes Mehserle and 6 random BART cops a blast instead.

Is it true there will be riots no matter what the verdict? I've picked up that cynical vibe these last few days.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 11:19 PM on July 7, 2010


I guess it's likely that they'll accidentally fire a real cannon thinking it's the sonic one.

Thread over!
posted by uncanny hengeman at 11:19 PM on July 7, 2010


Is it true there will be riots no matter what the verdict?

If there are enough people who want a riot, they won't have any trouble starting one. I'm hoping it'll help that most of the trust-fund anarchists up at Cal are away for the summer.
posted by Lazlo at 12:02 AM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


.
posted by telstar at 12:03 AM on July 8, 2010


The judges' instructions to the jury should be very straightforward: if you want a riot to ensue, then return a verdict of innocent. If you want to prevent a riot, then return a verdict of guilty.

The message to the CA Congress is likewise crystal clear: rewrite the criminal statutes in such a way so as to ensure that there will be no future riots in the city of Oakland, CA.

Simple as that.
posted by stevenstevo at 12:16 AM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I suspect that justice is not what the average urban rioter wants these days. If LA's regular riots are anything to go by

Like this LA riot?

That's at the LAPD's Parker Center just after the not guilty verdict for the cops. That's a pretty big mixed crowd of most ages, genders and races trying to make their displeasure heard by the LAPD right where they work.

What's amazing to me is the police response. They form a not metaphorical at all "thin blue line" and spend a lot of time posturing to protect the Parker Center, but it's all so much primitive Chimpanzee Politics in retrospect. By the police, by the people who looted, by the people who destroyed property, by the people who lit fires and by the people who violently attacked innocent bystanders like Reginald Denny. The whole thing stinks.

But that's not where the the 1992 LA riots really started. It wasn't Reginald Denny. It was the dam bursting right there on the lawn of the Parker Center as people actually dared to go there and protest after decades of being treated like dirt by the LAPD. Before the Rodney King riots if you had asked an activist in LA if they wanted to protest without a permit at the Parker Center they would question your sanity and will to live. I've had a dozen-odd run-ins with LAPD around that era and they were predictably and memorably shitty. Remember, this is before the Rampart scandal broke and threatened to expose exactly how corrupt, violent and on the take LAPD was at the time, and probably still is now.

Anyway, to answer your question directly - we're not talking about a post Laker's game drunken fuckup here. We're talking about a whole city and several generations that have been abused and oppressed by Oakland PD. For better or worse the Black Panthers started there for a reason.

Oakland and Richmond are deeply, deeply troubled and impoverished places. Oakland is a bit better than it used to be, but you still don't fuck with Oakland. The Oscar Grant shooting is just the documented, visible tip of the iceberg. It's a manifestation of people's frustrations and a fulcrum.

Sure, in an ideal world there's no rationalization for violence. In an ideal world there's also no justification for police violence and outright murder, either. It hurts to acknowledge it's not an ideal world.

But how much bullshit and hurt do you expect a person, a family, a neighborhood, a city or multiple generations to take before they've had enough and they feel cornered, powerless, unheard and unheeded before they take matters into their own hands and the anger and rage wins out over being calm and rational? How many schools must be shut down? How many jobs lost? How many incidents of being brutalized by a cop who is supposed to be there to protect and serve all citizens, not just rich people? How many children need to be locked up and criminalized for drugs or petty crime, then turned into hardened criminals, or subjects of miscarriages of any empathy and sanity in the justice and penal system?

So many citizens of Oakland have already tried calm and rational. Have you ever tried to file a report or complaint for police brutality or even misconduct in a big city? I'd rather be spit on - even by a camel. I'd rather suckerpunch a mafia boss in the junk. It may be one of the most humiliating and potentially dangerous things a citizen in a big city can do, even if it's all over the media - which almost never happens.

Seriously, if you want to test the pH balance of your local PD just try filing a report. Just try to walk into a station and see what happens when you tell them you want to file a report. You don't even have to have a valid reason or even pretend to have one - just try asking for the required form and see if you can take it with you - which you're supposed to be allowed to do. Make sure you're not carrying anything "dangerous" at all from nail clippers and pocket scissors to prescription drugs. You're probably going to get thoroughly searched, berated, questioned and worse. Unless your police department is a model of decorum and public service the reaction and treatment you receive from a uniformed officer will likely scare the shit out of you and change your views about police for life.

So. They shot someone who was handcuffed, prone, face down on the ground in front of hundreds of witnesses on a packed train at the tail end of New Year's Eve festivities. Neither gun nor tazer was warranted in the scenario. Whether it was an accident, intentional or a rote, mindless show of force doesn't make it any less lethally dangerous, stupid or tragic.

There's no justification or gray area about shooting someone in the back. If it was an accident we have a seriously dangerous public safety issue due to a lack of training, procedure or the hiring of qualified officers. If we had a park feature, trash truck or a street sweeper that killed someone accidentally or negligently you can bet there would be changes in policy, training or procedure and an involuntary manslaughter case.

Johannes Mehserle either had a moment of extreme unprofessionalism and duty or he shot someone already in custody in the back. Oscar Grant should still be alive.

Stay safe, Oakland.
posted by loquacious at 12:22 AM on July 8, 2010 [98 favorites]


"Don't get pimped!" by out-of-town agitators

"Outside agitators"?

Funny, that's how Southern racists referred to CORE and SNCC and the SCLC. Because of course "our blacks" were happy and satisfied, it was just those "outsider agitators" (Northern and Commie) who were provoking local blacks to "get above themselves" by trying to register to vote or integrate lunch counters.
posted by orthogonality at 12:23 AM on July 8, 2010 [16 favorites]



The judges' instructions to the jury should be very straightforward: if you want a riot to ensue, then return a verdict of innocent. If you want to prevent a riot, then return a verdict of guilty.


That's ridiculous and any instructions that even implied such a thing in a roundabout fashion would be a gross miscarriage of justice.
posted by Justinian at 12:24 AM on July 8, 2010 [7 favorites]


I have participated in protests that turned violent and I have been caught in riots where I was not involved. I have seen more than a few sides of rioting in my 35 years. It is a senseless, terrifying, horribly scary experience. It is pointless and stupid, and every violent person I've seen in the four riots I have personally experienced, live and in person and on the ground, didn't care about the cause and didn't care about politics and didn't care about fuckall but getting their riot on. Even the protesters who got violent on government property as a way of 'expressing their rage' were so far less about the message and so much more about 'destruction, dude!'

Seeing those pictures of Toronto brought back a lot of horrible memories. Newsflash: riots accomplish jack fuck except for breaking shit, which is actually all the rioters want to accomplish. They may say otherwise, but they're lying.

But how much bullshit and hurt do you expect a person, a family, a neighborhood, a city or multiple generations to take before they've had enough and they feel cornered, powerless, unheard and unheeded before they take matters into their own hands and the anger and rage wins out over being calm and rational?

It's not anger and rage. It's not rage at all. In my experience, at the moment of the riot it's sheer joy in the violent act. Anger and rage is absolutely great at the right time and has a meaningful place in society, and I support it. It's the hurting people and breaking shit I don't support at all.
posted by incessant at 12:34 AM on July 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


I always find it interesting that more people panic about property damage than the fact that we have police running around killing people in the streets.

Mind you- I don't think breaking shit will help a thing, and, as incessant mentions above, it's primarily a combination of assholes who want to break shit and unchannelled anger- but at the same point, I gotta look at everyone about what criminal activity is really the concern here.

And yeah, I watched the 2009 riots from my window- a bunch of folks dressed in Revolutionary Chic (TM) showed up to the rally, started breaking shit, and left before the cops started arresting everyone. In the days that followed, we had some "manifesto" decrying the idea that outsiders had any role, and that it was in fact the "youth of Oakland uprising" which strangely always spoke of them in the third person - no mention of neighborhoods, youth groups, or even other victims of police (OPD or BART) violence.

It's not revolutionary or in solidarity to come to another city, break people's shit, leave the angry, dumb kids who followed your example to take the heat and have nothing for them in the end. I'm pissed at our shitty justice system, and I'm pissed at the people who claim to be about revolution and are just there to get their kicks and let others catch the consequences of their actions.
posted by yeloson at 1:23 AM on July 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


From last year's riots:
The core group of the mob appeared to be about 40 people, several of whom were with Revolution Books, a Berkeley bookstore.

Discussion on the "Anarchist Response" and spin game.
posted by yeloson at 1:38 AM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Here's the problem: the justice system in this country has historically not been color blind, and still is not color blind. This is undeniable. In ways big and small, the deck is stacked against those with less power. A black youth is dead, killed by a white police officer. Such are the facts. That's the first factor. Now add to it the second factor - a video that appears to show, as unambiguously as any evidence the common man in the street is likely to encounter ("we can see it with our very own eyes"), that the white officer simply shot an unarmed black youth who was presenting no threat. Should now a verdict emerge of "not guilty" - these two factors, mixed together will form a deadly combination. Because with the knowledge and memory of historical and present day inequity of the legal system when dealing with the powerless, you now witness what your very own eyes have seen, you can reach the most compelling conclusion - a "not guilty" verdict is yet another example of confirming the pattern of injustice."

"I fail to see how this tragedy is a political issue. America is intensely stupid when any event even brushes on the topic of race invites this collectivist self-righteousness from people apparently too bothered to learn more. Doubting the legitimacy of the court system and genuineness of the jury on no other basis than a verdict is ignorant."

I'm Korean, and I love Oakland. I love it's streets, it's community. An amalgamation of chinese, japanese, black, hispanic, indonesian, korean, ethiopian, iranian, indian, albanian, the list goes on and on. It's not a pretty picture. But it's not an ugly one. What I love about it is the community. You can walk down the street and watch the trash floating in the gutter next to an autoshop, some old grey haired tubby black man is sitting on the porch smoking a cigar while the ratcheting and airgun sounds are going off next door. I can look someone in the eye and and give em a nod in west oakland, east oakland, downtown, even to the group of guys standing around, all wearing white t-shirts outside a corner liquor store.

In Defense of Oakland:
My confirmation biased experience has told me that all of the warm, human connections I've made with the denizens of this alternately gritty and shiny city have been based on on the perception that I have felt and experienced discrimination. It's never been something to write home about. I know it happens in different degrees; I've had the pleasure or pain of outright hostility maybe only a few times. And it's never because my eyes are all squinty. You can even see that I have some sense of humor about it. But it's something that isn't really talked about unless one of my friends is really drunk. And maybe a certain lighter skinned group of people have a perception that this is a racial issue, and maybe a certain darker skinned group of people also have that same perception. And maybe, there is an even larger group of people, say, the size of a city, who have the perception that this is just one more example of human injustice, all race issues aside. But large ideas and philosophical rhetoric don't really mix well in a population that has problems with elocution. (Which is a whole 'nother thing we all know.) Then there are those who exhibit a greater degree of eloquence but are prone to shall we say, impassioned activism.

My Rant:
A man killed a kid. That's all I see. But some conversations I hear when I venture outside infuriate me. "You're still talking about racism?" It's not about racism. It's about Power vs. The Powerless. Power just happens to be white-ish, and The Powerless have always been of a different color. And when The Powerless find themselves with just a little bit of say in the way that their world enforces justice or peace in the communities they live in, they hang on to that bit for dear fucking life, and in any way they can. And then words like collectivist self-righteousness show up, and racism, and black power. These words show up on the news, and these words are mocking. Flippant, tired, and maybe jaded? high school speech responses. Someone's trying to make things right for their family and it's just another angry black man? Collectivist self-righteousness? Who are you? What opinion could you possibly have that is worth sharing when all you have to say just creates an even more Powerless human being?

It's late and I'm tired. But I made my point.
posted by bam at 2:45 AM on July 8, 2010 [16 favorites]


But how much bullshit and hurt do you expect a person, a family, a neighborhood, a city or multiple generations to take before they've had enough and they feel cornered, powerless, unheard and unheeded before they take matters into their own hands and the anger and rage wins out over being calm and rational?

No offense, but it's really fucking tiresome to hear this same trope trotted out again and again in defense of violence, particularly after having the Oakland riots come down my street.

This was not the neighborhood that Oscar Grant lived in.
This was not the ghetto.
This was not a rich white neighborhood either, nor is it filled with corporate owned chain stores.
This was not the neighborhood that the rioters came from.
50 percent of the rioters I saw were white.
The guy leading the rioters down my street with a megaphone was a white dude from Revolution Books in Berkeley.
Oakland suddenly cleared out just before BART trains stopped running.
The neighbors out on the streets sweeping up broken glass and picking up newspaper racks and agonizing over burnt cars were of every race, age, and income.


I don't want to hear any more bullshit about voiceless, poverty stricken people rising up against injustice in regard to these riots. Because that's not what happened last year in Oakland. What happened is that people who wanted to smash stuff came here and smashed stuff, and then went back to San Francisco and Berkeley, and sure, other parts of Oakland. And everyone who lives here in my neighborhood got to clean it up and pay for it.

BTW, Mehserle wasn't handcuffed when he was shot, he was handcuffed afterward.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:56 AM on July 8, 2010 [20 favorites]


This makes me angry and sad.

I'm normally a very calm and happy person, but this makes me angry and sad.

Oh, but you who philosophize disgrace and criticise all fears
Bury the rag deep in your face
For now is the time for your tears.

posted by twirlypen at 3:07 AM on July 8, 2010


Ugh, of course I mean "Grant wasn't handcuffed..."
posted by oneirodynia at 3:18 AM on July 8, 2010


The protests had nothing to do with the arrest and prosecution of Officer Mehserle. The initial statements from the local police were issued with the standard excuse that Oscar Grant was resisting arrest. Only until the video of the event went public did the city attorneys office start to discuss the until then never done idea of arresting an officer.

Mehserle should be convicted of manslaughter, if so he is out in 5 years.

Finally this post seems a bit early, lets hear the verdict then decide if the system works or not.
posted by pianomover at 3:23 AM on July 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


If occasional riots are the only way that cities will actually convict cops for crimes they commit, fine riot away. We've got an open & shut manslaughter case right here, send the killer to jail.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:20 AM on July 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


Tear down this wall.
posted by caddis at 4:24 AM on July 8, 2010


No blacks on the jury or even in the alternates. All potential black jurors were challenged and removed by the defense. Half of the jurors have police connections.

I'm not saying any of the jurors are more inclined to make a racist decision here, I don't know. But that this could be allowed to happen is racist.
posted by Danila at 4:32 AM on July 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think the outside agitators they should most be worried about are the cops themselves: Two Oakland police officers working undercover at an anti-war protest in May 2003 got themselves elected to leadership positions in an effort to influence the demonstration, documents released Thursday show.
posted by rtha at 4:38 AM on July 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'm glad to see follow-up on this case on the Blue. It's such a tragedy and all any rational human being can do is hope that justice is done and Mehserle is locked up. If he's not, I can't blame anyone for taking to the streets to express their anger. It's a shame that it comes to that, but it's a fucked up world we live in.
posted by threeturtles at 4:47 AM on July 8, 2010


No blacks on the jury or even in the alternates. All potential black jurors were challenged and removed by the defense. Half of the jurors have police connections.

Jesus, is that last part really true?
posted by mediareport at 5:21 AM on July 8, 2010


From that Counterpunch article Gnatcho linked:

In the end, either through utter incompetence on the part of the prosecution or open bias on the part of Judge Perry, a full four members of the final jury have police among their family or friends.

As most of us now know, there is a second aspect to the game, since while Rains was pushing for police or at least their family members to be on the jury, he was pushing equally hard to exclude anyone who might have an unexplained or natural affinity for Oscar Grant’s cause. In other words: Black people. In the final stages of jury selection, Judge Perry dismissed 2 of the original 12 potential Black jurors for identified causes, before Rains summarily dismissed 3 more peremptorily, meaning that no reason was given. Stunningly, given what we have just seen, one of the reasons given for dismissing a potential Black juror was experience with racial profiling. In other words, while jurors with family and friends in the police (and who presumably have some sort of positive feeling toward the police as a result) were admitted, a juror with a single negative experience (of the kind endemic to the Black community) was removed.


Goddamn, that's ridiculous.
posted by mediareport at 5:27 AM on July 8, 2010 [17 favorites]


Just to clarify, 1/3 of the jury has a cop as family or friend, not 1/2.
posted by mediareport at 5:28 AM on July 8, 2010


The police will come in and start a riot.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 6:04 AM on July 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


Guh. 1)It is always permissible for a law enforcement officer to murder a black person. I think the court record is clear on this point, I don't even know why anyone bothers with a trial, given the strong president. 2)Why is it that my personal vision of an anarchist utopia never involves anyone who identifies themselves as an anarchist?
posted by fuq at 6:12 AM on July 8, 2010


Were it not for the prospect of riots Mehserle wouldn't even be on trial.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:11 AM on July 8, 2010 [6 favorites]


The entirety of this post recycles every day in the thoughts and conversations of everyone in Oakland.

While there are some good people and sane voices to combat the hysteria of the press, one thing is clear: we have no community or government leaders here to direct all the emotion into positive action.
posted by quarterframer at 7:18 AM on July 8, 2010


What the jury must decide infographic. The jury's choices are:
Second-degree murder: Mehserle knew the actions he was taking could cause a death but took those actions anyway.

Voluntary manslaughter: Mehserle acted in the heat of passion or Mehserle believed his life was in danger but used too much force in defending himself.

Involuntary manslaughter: Mehserle committed an act that posed a high risk of death or great injury because of the way the act was committed. Or, Mehserle's actions could be found by a reasonable person to be reckless.
I think Mehserle should be convicted of second-degree murder. He had to make several conscious movements to take his gun out of the holster and several more conscious movements to shoot it. He never claimed he shot Grant accidentally until after the trial started.
Cops are trained to shout 'Gun! Gun! Gun!' when they believe a suspect is carrying a firearm, but Mehserle didn't do so that night. Indeed, Mehserle even testified that he had been disciplined previously for not shouting 'Gun! Gun! Gun!' when he found one during a prior arrest.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:20 AM on July 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


Goddamn, that's ridiculous.

Peremptory challenges are perfectly normal and both sides get them.
posted by smackfu at 8:09 AM on July 8, 2010


It's not the process of Peremptory challenges that's bugging me. It's the result in this one case.

If I was one of Grant's friends and saw this, I wouldn't know where to look for justice. I'm not sure I would act rationally either. You drop a rock on a bowl full of jello, and that jello's got to go somewhere.
posted by OrangeDrink at 8:27 AM on July 8, 2010


Civil_Disobedient : Were it not for the prospect of riots Mehserle wouldn't even be on trial.

Seriously, the guy resigned to avoid questioning and still wasn't even arrested for more than two weeks after the incident, and that only happened after a number of other riots broke out.

Too often, cops get a free pass for this sort of thing.

That said, I sincerely hope that this time, we can get through this without further violence.
posted by quin at 8:48 AM on July 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


But what we all saw was an execution

Really, I take it you were called to testify for the prosecution then? Your statement implies that it was Mehserle's intention to kill Grant all along. I hope you were able to share your unique insight with the jury at trial. An execution is a very specific thing but hey, let's not let semantics get in the way of your righteous indignation. I'm not defending shooting an unarmed man in the back but can't we refrain from using loaded terms like "execution" in an attempt to jack up the emotion level on this further than it already is?
posted by MikeMc at 9:14 AM on July 8, 2010


From what I've read of the case (without having tried to follow every detail of the evidence presented in the trial), the most likely conviction (if there is a conviction) is one of the manslaughters. Proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that Mehserle had intent to kill (or intent to commit an inherently dangerous act, while knowing it was dangerous and acting with conscious disregard for human life) looks like a tough job.

I doubt the prosecution wants to win this one, given the jury choices and their attempt to lead with an obviously ridiculous first degree murder charge (that the judge disallowed.) Maybe this leading with murder 1 and arguing vigorously for murder 2 was all part of a strategy to manipulate the jury into thinking anything less than manslaughter would be too little. Maybe.

And I doubt that anything less than a murder conviction will avoid rioting, and maybe not even that. Hope like hell I'm wrong about that. And I hope like hell that Mehserle doesn't get off scot-free.
posted by Zed at 9:52 AM on July 8, 2010


I think some direct action is almost inevitable if the outcome of the case is bad, but it's unfortunate that there is no leadership to direct the energy in a way that's not destructive to the people who actually live and work in Oakland - the people on whose behalf the riot would be happening.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:10 AM on July 8, 2010


There is exactly one plausibly productive thing for any group of would-be rioters to do, and that's to go vigilante on Mehserle, as he did on Grant. Anybody who doesn't have the stomach for that should stay out of it.

If for some reason there's a not guilty verdict, I hope there's no shortage of people who do have the stomach for it, but I have my doubts. Most of us seem to have chronic problems directing our anger.
posted by namespan at 10:40 AM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


namespan - really, you're advocating that it's better to kill a guy than smash some windows?
posted by desjardins at 10:43 AM on July 8, 2010


Maybe the energy should be channeled in to disarming the BART cops. Make them carry Tasers instead. Have the BART cops ever actually needed to shoot anyone on the train 'legitimately'? When was the last time someone was killed by criminals on one?

It seems to me that if you're more likely to be killed by cops then by random criminals, it makes sense in a purely economic sense to disarm them. The cops in the UK don't carry guns and it seems to work OK for them.
posted by delmoi at 10:49 AM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I thought the PSA was pathetic. Boring and preachy and the only visually interesting part was the color riot footage.


When I see commercials about feeding the poor, or ads for Amnesty International, the colors of evil are desaturated, or in black-and-white. Victims barely move.

The forces of good are the ones with real color and action.

This one does exactly the opposite.

To me.
posted by merelyglib at 10:53 AM on July 8, 2010


Maybe the energy should be channeled in to disarming the BART cops.

but but terrists delmoi! We need protection from terrists roaming BART!
posted by rtha at 10:57 AM on July 8, 2010


I am just driving by the Fruitvale Bart area. Lots of police and exits are blocked.
posted by pianomover at 11:00 AM on July 8, 2010


MikeMC Really, I take it you were called to testify for the prosecution then? Your statement implies that it was Mehserle's intention to kill Grant all along. I hope you were able to share your unique insight with the jury at trial. An execution is a very specific thing but hey, let's not let semantics get in the way of your righteous indignation. I'm not defending shooting an unarmed man in the back but can't we refrain from using loaded terms like "execution" in an attempt to jack up the emotion level on this further than it already is?

I very specifically used the term "execution" to describe what was visible on the multiple videos of the shooting. Mehserle stood over Grant, pulled his gun, aimed, did something with his left hand to the gun, and then pulled the trigger. It looked like an execution. It looked like Mehserle decided to shoot Grant and did so.

Whether or not that's what actually happened (in the previous thread I speculated that it was a case of "cop autopilot" rather than a conscious decision), an execution is what we saw. If the jury finds Mehserle not guilty, then the discrepancy between the verdict and what was plainly visible on the videos is going to the proximate cause of the riots, and the amount of understanding required to say "okay, I saw what I saw, but maybe the jury had the right reasons for their verdict" is... well, implausible to say the least, moreso because of the history of police-minority relations in Oakland.

It's not righteous indignation to call it an "execution". It's recognizing the primary problem, that Grant's shooting very visibly looked like a cold-blooded murder by an agent of the state with a long history of doing the same.
posted by fatbird at 11:00 AM on July 8, 2010


Funny, that's how Southern racists referred to CORE and SNCC and the SCLC.

Here's the difference: The black bloc twerps are not there to help organize the community and afford it rights. They are not anything like CORE, or the SNCC, or the SCLC. They aren't organizing demonstrations, or attempting to get voters registered, or helping folks access social services, otherwise participating in the community. They are showing up, breaking shit, and leaving.

The latter two are contiguous to Oakland on the same BART line.

Riots can have a lasting and devastating effect. While people in the greater SF Bay area are, no doubt, affected by the way that the ineptitude of the BART police, they are not going to be equally affected by rioting in Oakland. Because if people live in Berkley, or the Mission, or what have you, they get to pick up after the protest and go home. They do not have to see the broken storefronts, or replace their windshields, or worry about fires or walking their kids home.

By all means, people across the Bay Area are entitled to protest. They are not, however, entitled to use the shooting of a man on a BART platform as part of their unrelated "revolutionary" cause, step in and bust up someone else's neighborhood, and then use BART to get their smug ass out of dodge when it suits them to leave.

I hope the verdict is just, and that the plywood can come down soon, and without incident.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 11:08 AM on July 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


er, "affected by the way that the ineptitude of the BART police"
posted by evidenceofabsence at 11:14 AM on July 8, 2010


If for some reason there's a not guilty verdict, I hope there's no shortage of people who do have the stomach for it, but I have my doubts. Most of us seem to have chronic problems directing our anger.

I submit that your call for vigilante mob executions is a "chronic problem for directing our anger"
posted by Think_Long at 11:35 AM on July 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


Reading this thread made me realize something kind of profound. Living in rural Michigan, there's no shortage of weird, bait-store counter conversations about armed insurrection against the government - even a bit of frustration about how it never seems to happen much in the 20th and 21st century. I think it's only because we call it "rioting" instead of "revolution" or "insurrection." Really, how big is the difference? The original Tea Party was pretty much a riot - though today it's considered an act of revolution.
I thought Stacy Peralta's treatment of the Watts riot in his documentary "Crips and Bloods" was quite informative. Despite some critic's complaints that his scope was too broad and, therefore too shallow, I think the parts focusing on the Watts riots was disturbing and memorable.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 12:08 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


namespan - really, you're advocating that it's better to kill a guy than smash some windows?

I do think that just about any directed action (particularly against Mehserle) is better than undirected destruction.

You want to argue that even someone like Mehserle — who presumes to wield lethal force but then fucks up (at best) in an astounding betrayal of everything we should be able to expect from police officers — doesn't deserve death, OK, fine, maybe you're a principled opponent of capital punishment, I can respect that, even if I'm not sure I agree. Or maybe you really believe he only deserves a manslaughter conviction and that doesn't merit a death penalty, which I can see. But if for some reason he's found "not guilty," there's still the problem of sending the justice system a significant message that what Mehserle did was not OK and that failing to deliver justice for that is not OK. "If you don't do it, someone else will" is a more powerful message than "we'll sortof collectively lose our shit and damage randomly selected property." In fact, breaking a few windows will probably on balance yield more authority to the police, not less.

Of course, yeah, there's the civilized option, right? What if would be rioters didn't actually riot and instead organized and collectively sponsored investigative journalism, hired a PR firm, and demonstrated peacefully and regularly.... in general, mounting a serious campaign for the purging of officials and others responsibly for what would be revealed by an acquittal to be serious systemic problems. That fight could be ugly enough in itself, if it ever stood a chance.

But failing that, let's have no arbitrary vandalism. If people are going to lose their shit, it should be focused, it should be meaningful if mean. Otherwise, it's just a temper tantrum, and rather than being intimidated by it, bad actors in power will know it for what it is.
posted by namespan at 12:08 PM on July 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


namespan, you have me spluttering in disbelief. To deprive someone of their right to a legal trial and sentencing is as bad as shooting someone in the back. If the trial is unjust? Then we work to change the system, not ignore it just this once.
posted by Think_Long at 12:28 PM on July 8, 2010


I think Mehserle should be convicted of second-degree murder. He had to make several conscious movements to take his gun out of the holster and several more conscious movements to shoot it. He never claimed he shot Grant accidentally until after the trial started.

From my understanding it's even simpler than that: removing a gun from its holster implies an intent to shoot.

It's clear that the OPD will start a riot if people don't start one themselves. They'll find someone who is standing next to the wrong mailbox or something and use special-circumstances techniques on their neck. However, I don't see people figuring out that a more effective form of protest is to leave the officers hanging out to dry on the street.
posted by rhizome at 12:39 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


namespan: "there's still the problem of sending the justice system a significant message that what Mehserle did was not OK and that failing to deliver justice for that is not OK. "

The justice system doesn't make the laws by which convictions are determined, and they simply do not have the ears to hear the message you think is so pertinent. To repeat: there is no message that laypeople could send that would have any effect at all.

Of course, yeah, there's the civilized option, right?

How convenient that monkey revenge is so poorly thought out but remains the legitimate response, yet "the civilized option" is swatted away with a mere "if it ever stood a chance." Citation needed.
posted by rhizome at 12:44 PM on July 8, 2010


I've got to agree with namespan, sorry.

The police act with impunity. They can, and do, torture and murder people with absolutely no fear of consequences of any sort. Mehserle only got put on trial because of the riots that followed the initial attempt at the usual police lie about Grant "resisting arrest", and those riots only happened because brave and patriotic citizens refused to allow the police to steal and (presumably) destroy the video evidence they gathered of Mehserle's murderous act.

Vigilantism exists where justice has failed. It is not justice, it cannot be justice, but it is superior to the false justice of a court system dedicated to assuring the police that once they are issued a badge they may act with utter impunity.

One way or another Mehserle must be punished, nothing less will prevent future acts of the same sort by the police. If the justice system fails I'd rather Mehserle be killed by vigilantes than see a general riot where truly innocent people may be harmed.

My son is black, and one day in the not too distant future he will be a "young black man". I'd rather live in a world where I don't have to teach him that the police are his enemies, that no matter what they do, no matter how they humiliate him, no matter how utterly insane their demands are, he must obey with a false smile and a servile attitude or they will gun him down and get away with it. If Mehserle is killed by vigilantes then my odds of living in a world where I don't have to teach my son that lesson improve drastically. I value my son's dignity more than I value the life of Mehserle, perhaps that is wrong but it is true.

I'd rather the justice system prevail. But I have no hope of that. If the most likely outcome occurs, if the justice system acquits Mehserle, then one way or another that can not be the end of the matter.

The police have not yet learned their lesson, and they will not learn it quickly, nor after a single incident. The rot is systemic, and will not be excised until many many more police are either found guilty of the abuses they routinely commit, or until many many police are killed by vigilantes. The former is to be vastly preferred, but I would rather see the latter than continue to live in a world where the police are the enemy and we must smile broad false smiles while obeying their slightest whim out of fear of being killed or tortured.
posted by sotonohito at 12:50 PM on July 8, 2010 [6 favorites]


If Mehserle is killed by vigilantes then my odds of living in a world where I don't have to teach my son that lesson improve drastically.

Right, because there certainly wouldn't be any reprisals of any sort. Violence against the police certainly wouldn't provide any justification for even worse behavior from them, and acceptance of that behavior by society at large.
posted by me & my monkey at 1:02 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sotonohito: Thing is, there are lots of special snowflakes out there who think their reasons for approving of vigilantism are the right ones. How can you be sure? If it feels good, do it? I don't think hedonism is going to change the system that would allow an acquittal. The key is to take away their privileges, not to engage their power.

The two greatest stair-steps to real change would be the video taken of the incident and an acquittal. Not that people won't blow it due to emotion, but if you think about it, there's a real powerful statement in "look at this video of what the police are allowed to do with impunity." It would be an undeniable point if Mehserle is acquitted. It may be counterintuitive, but I think if Mehserle is convicted that there will be more Oscar Grants in the future. They will just have a better story next time.

Try agitating for on-cop cameras so that all officer actions are recorded. Then you'll get your real riot, only this time by the officers.
posted by rhizome at 1:03 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


To deprive someone of their right to a legal trial and sentencing is as bad as shooting someone in the back.

Not precisely, but yeah, I'll readily admit there can be big downsides to vigilante action, morally and practically. In the case where Mehserle walks with no consequences, they well might be outweighed.

Probably you disagree. I'm less interested in hashing that out in thread, though, than I am in defending my point that general rioting is worse than an actual lynching, probably on both moral and practical levels: it combines the problems of vigilante action with the relative impotence of civil methods.
posted by namespan at 1:07 PM on July 8, 2010


yet "the civilized option" is swatted away with a mere "if it ever stood a chance."

Perhaps I didn't communicate clearly, there. What I mean by the phrase:

"That fight could be ugly enough in itself, if it ever stood a chance."

is that if a serious challenge were to be leveled by the civilized method, I think it's plausible that fight would turn out to be ugly enough in its own way to be compared to the ugliness of vandalism and possibly of vigilanteism.
posted by namespan at 1:12 PM on July 8, 2010


One way or another Mehserle must be punished, nothing less will prevent future acts of the same sort by the police.

Police who abuse power need to be consistently punished. There needs to be an actual system for punishing people who commit murder or violence without reason. (An actual, enforced system, not this bullshit we got). There needs to be political action, by those with power to revise the system so we can have that. There needs to be consistent and regular pressure by the public to make that happen.

As it stands, nothing is enforced, and the general public is ok with the idea that we can have murderers or those who protect murderers, enforcing our laws. And the reality of it, is as long as it's black folks getting murdered, enough of the public doesn't see it as a problem.

You gotta be human in someone's eyes for them to consider it murder.

Otherwise, they've got a million and one excuses for how "maybe they deserved it".

We could argue for the victims and the victims' communities to live up to some hypothetical idealized perfect behavior of working to help society in order to meet this ever-moving goalpost (which, we don't seem to ask of all groups, equally...)

Or we could argue to prosecute and stop murderers.

Break shit or don't- just be sure to remember, it's gotta come back to long term change or we'll be here again, just like we were in 1994 and a hundred times before that.
posted by yeloson at 1:12 PM on July 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Los Angeles Angels warned of possible Oakland riots; offered extra security while in Bay Area for weekend series.
posted by ericb at 1:48 PM on July 8, 2010


The cops in the UK don't carry guns and it seems to work OK for them.

Not true. Some do.

U.K. cops + guns + subway = dead man. Was it murder or manslaughter?
Let's not forget the controversial shooting death of Jean Charles de Menezes on July 22, 2005 on a subway car at the Stockwell tube station in London.
Previous MeFi FPPs on the fatal shooting:
"Initial claims have all turned out to be false"

The cover-up unfolds...

No 'Unlawful Killing' allowed.
posted by ericb at 2:02 PM on July 8, 2010


Other previous FPPs on the Jean Charles de Menezes killing in the London tube:
Man shot 5 times in London.

Friday, an innocent man was shot five times by London police.
posted by ericb at 2:07 PM on July 8, 2010


Huh. Shit. Impending possible riots. I was just in Oakland a couple of hours ago. Had no idea this was happening. (Traveling and preoccupied, thus haven't paid attention to the news.) Were I not too exhausted to think, I'd still be there, probably obliviously wondering what was up with all the plywood, but I was too tired to drive so I came back to SF early.

I'll be at various divey-looking places in the Mission for the next nine hours or so if anyone gets sent home from work early and wants to have an impromptu meetup.
posted by little e at 2:19 PM on July 8, 2010


I'm aware that the UK police have some gun units, but they're not the norm.
posted by delmoi at 2:23 PM on July 8, 2010


I hate hate hate that the overwhelming spin of this story has been focused on the potential for rioting, and not on the death of Oscar Grant, and the attempted coverup of that crime. And no, I don't put most of the blame on the rioters for that. Who benefits from framing the story this way?
posted by Danila at 2:59 PM on July 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


According to a twitter user who has been reporting on the trial, the verdict has been reached and will be read at 4 PM.
posted by Zed at 3:10 PM on July 8, 2010


Well, I'd certainly like to be home before they announce the verdict. I work in downtown Oakland...
posted by anoirmarie at 3:15 PM on July 8, 2010


SF Gate confirms 4pm verdict.
posted by poe at 3:27 PM on July 8, 2010


streaming video of local station covering verdict live
posted by desjardins at 4:01 PM on July 8, 2010


namespan, the jury cannot consider the death penalty in this case so it's irrelevant whether I am for or against capital punishment.
posted by desjardins at 4:03 PM on July 8, 2010


guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
posted by fatbird at 4:07 PM on July 8, 2010


Guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
posted by dhammond at 4:07 PM on July 8, 2010


so you're saying guilty of involuntary manslaughter?
posted by Justinian at 4:08 PM on July 8, 2010


"Guilty of involuntary manslaughter", according to speaker on ABC7.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 4:08 PM on July 8, 2010


guilty of involuntary manslaughter
posted by desjardins at 4:08 PM on July 8, 2010


Involuntary? WTF?
posted by gofargogo at 4:08 PM on July 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Bullshit. Maximum sentence is four years.
posted by enn at 4:09 PM on July 8, 2010


One way or another Mehserle must be punished, nothing less will prevent future acts of the same sort by the police. If the justice system fails I'd rather Mehserle be killed by vigilantes than see a general riot where truly innocent people may be harmed.

And when the vigilantes who kill Mehserle are apprehended on the DL, killed and their bodies dumped by the cops will those be righteous kills? Would that serve as a deterrent for people who would kill police officers? I really don't think we want to go down that road.
posted by MikeMc at 4:09 PM on July 8, 2010


Maximum is 4 years in state prison according to here (live on video) with likely out in 2 years the guy just said.
posted by andoatnp at 4:09 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Basically, 2 years max in jail if the judge gives him the max of four years. Protesters outside getting worked up, chanting "no justice, no peace."
posted by fatbird at 4:10 PM on July 8, 2010


It surprises me how few protesters are outside the courthouse.
posted by desjardins at 4:12 PM on July 8, 2010


It surprises me how few protesters are outside the courthouse.

I asked a friend in LA whether things would get dicey down there in the event of a not guilty verdict, and he said Angelenos have a really contemptuous attitude towards Oakland. No one down there seems to care much about the whole thing.
posted by fatbird at 4:13 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Bullshit. Maximum sentence is four years.

Maximum sentence has no bearing on whether the verdict is just or not. The question isn't "does involuntary manslaughter carry a long enough sentence", it is "is involuntary manslaughter a just verdict"?

None of us has heard all the evidence but I suspect it is a reasonable verdict. I do not believe from what I saw that Mehserle meant to pull out his firearm and shoot Grant in the back. If you watch all the video you can see Grant's reaction after it happens; it is not the reaction of someone who meant to do it. Maybe seeing all of the evidence would convince me that I'm wrong and he really did mean to pull out his gun and shoot a prone suspect in the back in front of dozens of witnesses, many of whom are clearly filming the incident. But I doubt it.

To me the bigger issue is that he wasn't charged with more things. I'm certain if this had been a civilian there would have been a laundry list of charges rather than just the top-line murder/manslaughter. But perhaps I'm wrong about that too.
posted by Justinian at 4:14 PM on July 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you watch all the video you can see Grant's reaction after it happens; it is not the reaction of someone who meant to do it.

I did watch the video. It's the reaction of someone upon who realizes he might get caught. The verdict is bullshit and if a cop can't be convicted for this a cop can't be convicted for anything. And don't tell me what "the question is." I can tell justice from otherwise without your condescension, thanks. Lawful or unlawful, this verdict is fucking bullshit.
posted by enn at 4:19 PM on July 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


Maximum sentence has no bearing on whether the verdict is just or not. The question isn't "does involuntary manslaughter carry a long enough sentence", it is "is involuntary manslaughter a just verdict"?

That seems like a strange attempt to decouple two things (sentence length and perceived severity of offense) that are tightly coupled for a reason. In general, isn't it fair to say that sentence lengths--minimum, recommended, or maximum--tend to reflect some collective perception of the seriousness of the associated crime?
posted by AkzidenzGrotesk at 4:20 PM on July 8, 2010


All I can say is I hope I'm never involved in a criminal case where you are on the jury. This is a nation of laws, not men.
posted by Justinian at 4:21 PM on July 8, 2010


(And if it's lawful, it's only because the prosecution took a dive and the judge had a thing for coploving jurors. So not very lawful really.)
posted by enn at 4:22 PM on July 8, 2010


(that was directed at enn, not you Akziden).

In general, isn't it fair to say that sentence lengths--minimum, recommended, or maximum--tend to reflect some collective perception of the seriousness of the associated crime?

Yes, but a jury's job isn't to look at the sentencing and back-fill the verdict from that. They're often instructed exactly on that point. The jury's job is to decide on the appropriate verdict; the judge does the sentencing. Capital cases excepted I believe.
posted by Justinian at 4:22 PM on July 8, 2010


I've still never understood why Mehserle went to pull his taser in that situation. The arrestee is prone, handcuff, and you, the officer, are sitting on top of him. Other officers are so close you have to tell them to back off so you can electrocute the handcuffed guy. How was Grant a threat? How would it have been okay-by-us police policy to use a taser in a situation like that?
posted by rtha at 4:23 PM on July 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is a nation of laws, not men.

In a "nation of laws," Mehserle would have been convicted of the same crime Oscar Grant would have been had he found himself "accidentally" shooting someone in the back while they were lying on the ground. It would not have been involuntary manslaughter.
posted by enn at 4:23 PM on July 8, 2010 [6 favorites]


Just heard here that there might have been a gun enhancement conviction that means the judge can add between 2 to 10 years to the sentence.
posted by andoatnp at 4:26 PM on July 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


The verdict is bullshit and if a cop can't be convicted for this a cop can't be convicted for anything.

I thought the verdict was "guilty" meaning he had been convicted? Or are you saying he wasn't convicted of what you wanted him to be convicted of?
posted by MikeMc at 4:29 PM on July 8, 2010


andoatnp: "Just heard here that there might have been a gun enhancement conviction that means the judge can add between 2 to 10 years to the sentence."

SF ABC7's legal analyst was just commenting on that, saying that it didn't seem like the gun enhancement and involuntary manslaughter seemed a contradictory combination, and that he expected that would be taken up in appeal.
posted by barnacles at 4:29 PM on July 8, 2010


enn: "(And if it's lawful, it's only because the prosecution took a dive and the judge had a thing for coploving jurors. So not very lawful really.)"

I'd really love to hear how, specifically, the "prosecution took a dive." No offense intended, but based on your comments here, it sounds like you haven't been following the case very closely.
posted by dhammond at 4:30 PM on July 8, 2010


How was Grant a threat?

Little known police fact: Black people's backs are full of WMD's that go off when they're unarmed and facing away from you.
posted by yeloson at 4:31 PM on July 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'd really love to hear how, specifically, the "prosecution took a dive."

They were prosecuting a police brutality case and allowed four jurors to be seated who are family or friends of cops. Does that sound like very good lawyering to you?
posted by enn at 4:33 PM on July 8, 2010


Wow, that ABC live feed is fucking obnoxious. I listened for about 10 minutes of the correspondant on the scene going on about how stoic Mehserle left the court, how he mouthed "I love you" to his family, how his father was in tears. Just non stop sympathy parade for the guy who just got off light for murder.

Unreal.
posted by cj_ at 4:34 PM on July 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sorry Oscar. No justice. Even with video. Sigh.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 4:36 PM on July 8, 2010


Amazing that even an "involuntary manslaughter" conviction is unprecedented. Prior to this, every cop has gotten off. Anyone have any idea if this is true?
posted by desjardins at 4:37 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


desjardins, according to the Chronicle (see last two paragraphs) that is true.
posted by HE Amb. T. S. L. DuVal at 4:40 PM on July 8, 2010


desjardins: "Amazing that even an "involuntary manslaughter" conviction is unprecedented. Prior to this, every cop has gotten off. Anyone have any idea if this is true?"

Oscar Grant's family's lawyer was just making a statement to media, and he said that he's represented 30 homicides of African American males by police, and that this verdict was a small step forward because it was the first time any police officer has been found guilty in any way, in those trials he's been on.
posted by barnacles at 4:40 PM on July 8, 2010


Involuntary manslaughter actually makes sense to me. For all that the videos were crystal clear about Mehserle simply shooting Grant in the back for no reason, no one (including the prosecutor) was able to argue that there was any decision or conscious goal to kill Grant, which rules out murder or voluntary manslaughter. Mehserle's actions were just... inexplicable.

Sadly, that won't stop rioting tonight. It feels like a weak verdict (though not the weakest), and for people primed by decades of police brutality and injustice at the hands of the courts, calm requires more trust in that same justice system than can be expected of normal people.
posted by fatbird at 4:41 PM on July 8, 2010


In a "nation of laws," Mehserle would have been convicted of the same crime Oscar Grant would have been had he found himself "accidentally" shooting someone in the back while they were lying on the ground. It would not have been involuntary manslaughter.

Christ, I can't believe I'm in the position of defending police action which results in the death of a guy lying prone on the ground. Anyone who has read me on Metafilter knows this is not something I enjoy doing.

But your analysis is bullshit. The reason Grant would not be charged with involuntary manslaughter in such a case is that he would virtually never be in a situation where it was lawful for him to have a guy on the ground at gunpoint in the first place. So it would be murder, not manslaughter. But it wasn't a question as to whether Mehserle could legally be carrying a weapon, only whether he actually intended to pull out his firearm and waste Grant.
posted by Justinian at 4:42 PM on July 8, 2010


OK, so it's your position that, if Oscar Grant had been legally carrying a handgun, and had pulled it out and shot a stranger in the back who wasn't lying on the ground, just out of the blue, that he would have been convicted only of involuntary manslaughter? Because that's an insane position.
posted by enn at 4:45 PM on July 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


enn: "Does that sound like very good lawyering to you?"

Unless you were in the jury pool or witness the peremptory challenge process, I'm guessing you have absolutely no idea what the overall makeup of the pool was. Generally speaking, both the prosecution and defense team make very calculated bets on which jurors to select and which to strike. It's very far from an exact science and that four members of the jury have any sort of connection to police proves basically nothing. That this is your "proof" that they "took a dive" is ridiculous.
posted by dhammond at 4:51 PM on July 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


"proof"

Don't quote me saying things I didn't say.

If you have an explanation as to why it makes sense to have such a cop-friendly jury, and what other potential jurors the prosecution challenged who would have been so bad for the case that having family members of cops was a better choice, I'd love to hear it.
posted by enn at 4:54 PM on July 8, 2010


If you have an explanation as to why it makes sense to have such a cop-friendly jury

Maybe because it was hard to find a jury with fewer members with connections to police. Maybe the prosecution used up all his peremptory challenges on skinheads and avowed racists, or maybe there are a bunch of jurors without cop connections who got shown the door.

Or do you believe that no one with any connection at all to the police should have been allowed?
posted by fatbird at 4:56 PM on July 8, 2010


jurors without cop connections

D'oh! Jurors *with* cop connections.
posted by fatbird at 4:57 PM on July 8, 2010


OK, so it's your position that, if Oscar Grant had been legally carrying a handgun, and had pulled it out and shot a stranger in the back who wasn't lying on the ground, just out of the blue, that he would have been convicted only of involuntary manslaughter? Because that's an insane position.

enn: The cases are not remotely analogous. But there's obviously no point in arguing it with you. You're not going to change your mind and you clearly don't care about actual justice, only vengeance.
posted by Justinian at 4:58 PM on July 8, 2010


Or do you believe that no one with any connection at all to the police should have been allowed?

I certainly do believe that. If a gang member were on trial, no one whose family was in the gang would be allowed to sit on the jury. If a businessman were on trial, no one whose family worked at his firm would be allowed to sit on the jury. Why should it be any different with the police?
posted by enn at 4:59 PM on July 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


enn, it's usually the people who make ridiculous assertions about one side of the court "taking a dive" who are tasked with the burden of proof, but I'm far from surprised that someone with a tenuous grasp on the legal system has trouble wrapping their head around that concept. Sorry to put it that harshly but it's pretty dickish to accuse the prosecution of malfeasance with such weak evidence, doubly so since they were able to secure a conviction.
posted by dhammond at 5:02 PM on July 8, 2010


And...

Maybe because it was hard to find a jury with fewer members with connections to police. Maybe the prosecution used up all his peremptory challenges on skinheads and avowed racists, or maybe there are a bunch of jurors without cop connections who got shown the door.

Maybe so. All of these things seem very unlikely to me. That a prosecutor's office which is on the side of the police in almost every case it handles and which works with cops every day did not overtax itself in the one case in a thousand in which it's going up against its usual allies seems quite a bit less unlikely.
posted by enn at 5:03 PM on July 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Guilty, involuntary manslaughter
posted by msalt at 5:05 PM on July 8, 2010


Why should it be any different with the police?

Because the police aren't a single organization. Neither are gangs, for that matter. Would you object to an executive from one company being on the jury while the executive of another was on trial?

I have cops in the family. And I believed from the start that Mehserle was guilty of something, and I would have been happier with a harsher verdict. You'd have me kept off the jury because of the presumption that I can't see straight where cops are involved.

If you're going to assign votes to jurors based on their circumstances rather than the presumption that they might actually, you know, think about the case, then jury selection amounts to nothing more than trying the case during jury selection as one would play checkers--exclude him, include her, and bam! There's the verdict I want.
posted by fatbird at 5:06 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Amazing that even an "involuntary manslaughter" conviction is unprecedented. Prior to this, every cop has gotten off. Anyone have any idea if this is true?

"Prosecutors in Los Angeles have not won a murder conviction in a police shooting case since 1983."

The article doesn't say what case it's referring to, though.
posted by homunculus at 5:07 PM on July 8, 2010


Involuntary manslaughter with a sentence of between 5-14 years sounds about right to me.

There's no way it was murder. It definitely looked like an accident. A tragic stupid accident. Anyone saying otherwise - what was the motivation for cold blooded murder in front of a BART train full of witnesses?

Riots wont help/change anything at all.
posted by schwa at 5:11 PM on July 8, 2010


Maybe because it was hard to find a jury with fewer members with connections to police. Maybe the prosecution used up all his peremptory challenges on skinheads and avowed racists, or maybe there are a bunch of jurors without cop connections who got shown the door.

Back in the day, in the South, you'd have similar problems with juries. As a result, justice was rarely served. Aah, what can you do. I guess nothing./HAMBURGER/

I'm really glad that there weren't more apologists for a broken system back then. I'd think that a broken system ought to be fixed. Instead there's that odd paradoxical attitude of "it's broken and therefore OK".
posted by VikingSword at 5:11 PM on July 8, 2010


I'm really glad that there weren't more apologists for a broken system back then. I'd think that a broken system ought to be fixed. Instead there's that odd paradoxical attitude of "it's broken and therefore OK".

VikingSword, what verdict do you think is appropriate, that you could actually get in a court of law?
posted by fatbird at 5:13 PM on July 8, 2010


They were prosecuting a police brutality case and allowed four jurors to be seated who are family or friends of cops. Does that sound like very good lawyering to you?

Enn, a friend of mine is a state trooper (actually, more of a friend of my brother's but we say hi and would share a beer.) And I would be an excellent person for the prosecution to have had on that jury. Hell, the trooper would be a pretty damn good person to have had on that jury. You're stretching guilt by association way too far here.
posted by msalt at 5:13 PM on July 8, 2010


You're begging the question. How does this particular case, in which a cop was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, present evidence of a broken system? Actual specifics and facts would be welcome instead of more chest-thumping and posturing.
posted by Justinian at 5:15 PM on July 8, 2010


what was the motivation for cold blooded murder in front of a BART train full of witnesses?

Certainty that they could get away with it, or with a slap on the wrist at most? Looks like they were right, too. "Uppity xxxxx, eat this." We've all seen how cops like to see "uppity" everywhere, and how nicely they react to it. More of the same, seems to me.
posted by VikingSword at 5:15 PM on July 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Seems like there was no need for a trial at all, VikingSword. I'm sure you've got some rope lying around somewhere you could use.
posted by Justinian at 5:18 PM on July 8, 2010


VikingSword, what verdict do you think is appropriate, that you could actually get in a court of law?

Murder in the first degree. Of course, that doesn't assume a rigged system, Southern style - and apparently in favor of cops everywhere.
posted by VikingSword at 5:18 PM on July 8, 2010


I certainly do believe that. If a gang member were on trial, no one whose family was in the gang would be allowed to sit on the jury. If a businessman were on trial, no one whose family worked at his firm would be allowed to sit on the jury. Why should it be any different with the police?

A year ago I sat through four days of voir dire and was selected on the last day to be an alternate on a murder trial.

It's not that the system of peremptory challenges doesn't have its problems, both throughout history and now. But you have presented no evidence whatsoever that you know what you're talking about. I got a glimpse into the process. I can tell you that I have no idea why the lawyers struck who they struck. The defendant was an immigrant. There were at least two on my jury. The defendant was male. My jury was about half male. Some potential jurors were excused because they or someone close to them had been victims of a violent crime, including murder. At least a couple of us live in the neighborhood where the murder took place. At least two of us did not have English as our first language, like the defendant.

The verdict was guilty.

What the attorneys were doing was trying to build the best team for their side. I suspect that some challenges were used just to make way for other candidates who might be "better" for the relevant side. Did the either the prosecution or the defense in this case use peremptory challenges in an unethical or illegal way? Possibly (anything is possible). But the verdict alone cannot tell us that.

That said, this verdict blows chunks.
posted by rtha at 5:19 PM on July 8, 2010


Seems like there was no need for a trial at all, VikingSword. I'm sure you've got some rope lying around somewhere you could use.

Sorry, you've used all the rope in tying up your strawman. I didn't say "no trial". I said "fair trial". Same as in the South, back in the day. People weren't saying "no trial", people were saying "fair trial".
posted by VikingSword at 5:20 PM on July 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


VikingSword

I've always thought that a first-degree murder conviction required substantial evidence that the murder was pre-planned. For instance, if the murder happened with a weapon that the suspect wouldn't normally carry, that might speak to intent, as would statements made before the crime if witnesses to them could be found. Given what we know of the case, I can't see any evidence that the officer *planned* this murder. Indeed, elements such as the public venue in which the crime was committed suggest otherwise.
posted by The Confessor at 5:25 PM on July 8, 2010


I'm not sure that returning to the Bad Old Days is the best way to respond to this.
posted by rhizome at 5:27 PM on July 8, 2010


The reading of the verdict has caused massive traffic jams on East Bay freeways and BART trains as people try to get home. Government workers in downtown Oakland left work early, as did many others in the downtown area.
posted by Wavelet at 5:30 PM on July 8, 2010


Re: length of sentence

San Jose Mercury News says "The jury has convicted Mehserle of involuntary manslaughter and found that he used a gun during the shooting of Oscar Grant III. He could face two to four years in prison for the involuntary manslaughter conviction and an additional 10 years for the gun enhancement. He will be sentenced Aug. 6. He will not be ineligible for probation. Mehserle will also be forced to serve 85 percent of his eventual sentence, a much higher standard than most crimes."
posted by msalt at 5:33 PM on July 8, 2010


VikingSword: "Murder in the first degree. Of course, that doesn't assume a rigged system, Southern style"

Foghorn Leghorn, Attorney-at-Law
posted by dhammond at 5:33 PM on July 8, 2010


I've always thought that a first-degree murder conviction required substantial evidence that the murder was pre-planned.

Well, you thought wrong. If a civilian, with a gun permit, decided that he didn't like how a police officer addressed him, and he pulled out his gun, and shot him dead, do you imagine it would be anything other than murder in the first? Why, oh why, is there such a gulf between how we expect the law to treat LEOs and ordinary civilians? As far as I'm concerned, the fact that you've been entrusted with a weapon and the job of enforcing the law, ought to put you under greater scrutiny and the bar for you should be higher, considering the opportunity for the abuse of power... abuse that we seen so very, very often.

Indeed, elements such as the public venue in which the crime was committed suggest otherwise.

I don't believe that there was some kind of long range planning and certainly no lying in wait. What I believe may very well have happened, is that cops live in a culture of impunity - as has been stated, it virtually never happens that cops are up for murder, no matter how egregious their conduct. So he had that knowledge as background. Now add to that the well-known attitude many cops have of punishing the "uppity" citizen, especially if it's a young black male who seems insufficiently deferential. I don't find it a stretch at all, to imagine that the cop deliberately killed him. I don't know that for a fact, but it would've been nice to see this explored as a real possibility in front of an unbiased jury in an unbiased court.
posted by VikingSword at 5:34 PM on July 8, 2010


I just walked through downtown Oakland. People are pissed.
posted by spork at 5:35 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


dhammond, I don't know if you are familiar with the case of Jon Burge. Here in Chicago it is well known. Burge was a police commander who routinely tortured suspects by hooking hooking up electric wires to suspects to induce electric shocks, by suffocating them with plastic typewriter covers, by burning them on radiators, and in various other ways in the 1970s and 1980s. The first allegations of torture were made in 1972. For nearly forty years, state's attorneys (mainly Richard Daley, now mayor of Chicago, who was the state's attorney while Burge was a police commander) found every possible excuse not to prosecute Burge despite complaints from suspects, physicians, the police department Office of Professional Standards, and lawyers. Even after one of Burge's victims had his conviction overturned on the basis that his confession had been obtained through torture, Burge was not prosecuted and kept his job until 1992. (Subsequent to his firing in 1992, the Fraternal Order of Police attempted to enter a float in his honor in the St. Patrick's Day Parade.)

Over the years many, many other convictions based on this torture were overturned. In the 2000s, a state special prosecutor (finally determined in a report that Burge had in fact tortured suspects. Because of the statute of limitations, no charges were brought.

In 2008, when no one really still expected that Burge would ever be brought to justice, federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald arrested Burge, charging him with perjury (in that he'd denied torturing) in the course of earlier investigations, which were recent enough that the statute of limitations had not yet expired. You can read about the process of jury selection in this trial in detail here, here, and here, though I cannot find anything which states whether or not any juror was a family member of a police officer. Burge was convicted on all counts; he hasn't yet been sentenced, I believe, but I am told he could receive up to 40 years.

"Taking a dive" was hyperbole. I just don't think their hearts were in it in the Grant case. If someone like Fitzgerald had been prosecuting this case, I don't think we'd be looking at a sentence of a couple years, and the lying, obfuscation, and pretended helplessness of the Illinois state's attorneys over the years on the Burge case have led me to pretty much discount the protests of prosecutors that they are for some reason incapable of getting the verdicts for criminal cops that they routinely get for everyone else.
posted by enn at 5:35 PM on July 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Murder in the first degree.

Apparently, you don't even have the knowledge of law that one could get from even half paying attention to any episode of law and order. You honestly think the cop planned to murder this person in advance? That he had some motive to kill him?
posted by empath at 5:36 PM on July 8, 2010


In 2008, when no one really still expected that Burge would ever be brought to justice, federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald arrested Burge

Exactly. When the system is broken - as it is in Chicago, as it was in the South (and probably still is in many places), and as it is apparently here, the solution has been to bring in the Feds. It's the recognition that the local system is rotten to the core.

It is my contention, that the justice system, when it comes to cops, is rotten in a lot of places in the U.S. - and in this case most likely too.
posted by VikingSword at 5:39 PM on July 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I did watch the video. It's the reaction of someone upon who realizes he might get caught.

and you base this on what body of personal experience? this is the reason that were i ever on trial for a crime i did not commit, i would argue against a jury trial. everybody's a psychic these days.

i haven't read much on the story lately, and i don't know enough about the evidence to say whether the verdict is appropriate. (and no, video itself is not 'truth') but i hear very little criticism of those who were fighting and created this situation in the first place. the police didn't create a fight to beat a bunch of people up; they were responding to one and were subject to the pressures of the situation.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 5:41 PM on July 8, 2010


Jesus christ. Please excuse all the typos in that last comment.
posted by enn at 5:41 PM on July 8, 2010


You'd have me kept off the jury because of the presumption that I can't see straight where cops are involved.

Well that was the justification for keeping black people off the jury.

...one of the reasons given for dismissing a potential Black juror was experience with racial profiling. In other words, while jurors with family and friends in the police (and who presumably have some sort of positive feeling toward the police as a result) were admitted, a juror with a single negative experience (of the kind endemic to the Black community) was removed. http://www.counterpunch.org/maher06292010.html

But I guess that makes sense.

This was not justice. But yet there are no riots.

Anyway, here's something new. From the murderer's testimony (probably after he was allowed to talk about being voted "most huggable" in high school):

Mehserle stated he saw Pirone and Domenici with their Tasers drawn, and he took out his also, focusing on Grant and Bryson. He said the two were yelling about Pirone, saying “eff him, eff that officer,” and, “I’m going to sue him.” http://oaklandlocal.com/article/mehserle-trial-accused-takes-stand

Wait, did Grant say "shoot" or "sue"? Gotta shoot first just to be sure. And I wonder what Officer Pirone was doing before Mehserle arrived (and presumably before the cameras came out), that got them threatening to file lawsuits? According to witnesses he beat Grant. If some dude had just been hitting on me I might be inclined to hit back, cause I'm testy like that. But Grant, that monster who had just got out of jail (after running from the cops before, and I wonder why), he didn't get violent, just talked about his rights. Hmm.

But while recognizing the possibility of a renewed rebellion in the streets, our efforts should not be focused on preventing it, but rather at refocusing attention on the real violence at work in Grant’s murder and the Mehserle trial. The real violence is that which was suffered by Oscar Grant, his family, and his friends, and this is a violence multiplied a thousandfold across the United States as a whole. It is this violence that permeates the structures of the state, of the judicial system, of jury selection, and of sentencing, and it is this violence that has played out in the Mehserle trial as a dehumanization of Oscar Grant and a sympathetic presentation of Mehserle himself.
posted by Danila at 5:43 PM on July 8, 2010


and you base this on what body of personal experience?

The same body of experience on which Justinian bases his knowledge that the cop's reaction was that of someone who had done it accidentally. Like Bush looking into Putin's soul, neither of us knows shit about Mehserle's emotional state. His actions, however, are very clear on the video, and they are very clearly not involuntary.
posted by enn at 5:44 PM on July 8, 2010


SF gate has a live blog on what's happening right now in Oakland, for folks who are interested.
posted by anitanita at 5:45 PM on July 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


In fact, voluntary manslaughter sounds like the technically correct conviction based upon "a person who acted in self defense with an honest but unreasonable belief that deadly force was necessary to do so could still be convicted of voluntary manslaughter or deliberate homicide committed without criminal malice" (wikipedia). I'd imagine this applies for civilians even when they're carrying firearms for justifiable reasons, like hunting. Involuntary manslaughter usually involves much less direct killings, like criminal negligence.

Isn't the jury holding some many people connected with law enforcement rather odd? Are we talking like distant cousins? I'd hope they excluded anyone with immediate family members in law enforcement! If not, yeah people should protest big time. Btw, why are BART cops given guns?
posted by jeffburdges at 5:46 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


empath, before you say things like "apparently, you don't even have the knowledge of law that one could get from even half paying attention to any episode of law and order", make sure you have more knowledge yourself.

Under federal law, the government must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

First, the defendant unlawfully killed [victim];
Second, the defendant killed [victim] with malice aforethought;
Third, the killing was premeditated; and
Fourth, the killing occurred at [location stated in indictment].
To kill with malice aforethought means to kill either deliberately and intentionally or recklessly with extreme disregard for human life.

Premeditation means with planning or deliberation. The amount of time needed for premeditation of a killing depends on the person and the circumstances. It must be long enough, after forming the intent to kill, for the killer to have been fully conscious of the intent and to have considered the killing.


If the cop decided that he was going to punish Grant for being uppity, and he deliberately shot him dead (which I think is a distinct possibility), then this is a candidate for murder in the first degree. All the planning can take place within 1 minute - and pass the test.

Do you have anything to intelligent to say, or are you as usual merely interested in empty insults?
posted by VikingSword at 5:47 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


VikingSword

Not according to this interpretation of California State Law. Premeditation is a required finding for a first-degree murder conviction. In some states, (Louisiana is one, I believe) your reciprocative example of a civilian killing a LEO would be first-degree murder by definition, but I don't believe that to be the case in California.

And I'd be in horrified awe of a "power trip" that would cause a LEO to commit a fully considered murder not only in front of a *crowd* of other LEOs, but many civilians as well.
posted by The Confessor at 5:47 PM on July 8, 2010


Or do you believe that no one with any connection at all to the police should have been allowed?

I believe that. Because we've seen right here on Metafilter in threads centered around events involving criminality and negligence on the part of the police that there is a sense of brotherhood and greater than would be expected empathy on the part of police officers and people who are in their social circles toward other police officers.

A set of claims common to a lot of the arguments I've seen -- even from people who stress that they are in no way police "sympathizers" -- is that no person who is not a cop or not related to one can understand the incredible amount of stress they go through and how dangerous their jobs are and how oppressive we, the general public, are toward them, etc, and so we are in no position to judge them -- ever for anything that they do.

A few months ago, here in Austin, I sat for jury selection and my jaw hit the ground when a number of potential jurors stated that they would automatically be more inclined to believe police officers over other people -- and at least a few of those making that claim also mentioned having some sort of social connection to police officers. Unless folks here in Austin are utterly, fundamentally different from the folks on that Mehserle jury, I simply cannot believe that the people with police connections were a better choice than folks without, out of all the potential jurors. (On a related note, my summoning for jury duty came in the middle of a really big project at work, and on the day I left for the courthouse, I told my employer not to worry about me missing any time or deadlines because as a young black male with piercings and dreds, there was pretty much no way in hell I would be selected for jury duty in a criminal case. And of course I wasn't.)

In my opinion, if they were allowing people with connections to police officers on the jury they should have allowed black people on the jury. Period. Wasn't there a time in this country when at least some of the folks running the show used to believe that "even the appearance of impropriety must be avoided"? Whatever happened to that?

I'm praying for peace in Oakland, but I'm not getting my hopes up. RIP Oscar Grant.
posted by lord_wolf at 5:49 PM on July 8, 2010 [7 favorites]


Just got a report an unmarked cop car hit a protester. Now it's being reported that protesters are "attacking a passenger vehicle".
posted by yeloson at 5:50 PM on July 8, 2010


Sorry, you've used all the rope in tying up your strawman. I didn't say "no trial". I said "fair trial". Same as in the South, back in the day. People weren't saying "no trial", people were saying "fair trial".

Bullshit. Complete bullshit. You're not interested in a fair trial as your very statements in this thread attest. A "fair trial" presupposes that the outcome has not been decided in advance. You have already stated that the only just and fair outcome is murder in the first degree.

You're the Red Queen: Sentence first - verdict afterwards!.

That's not a fair trial, it's a bunch of hounds circling the accused baying for blood.
posted by Justinian at 5:52 PM on July 8, 2010


VikingSword: "If the cop decided that he was going to punish Grant for being uppity, and he deliberately shot him dead (which I think is a distinct possibility), then this is a candidate for murder in the first degree."

According to the judge, "The shooting occurred in a manner absent of premeditation to support first-degree murder." Seems pretty clear-cut to me.

(P.S. No one says "uppity" anymore.)
posted by dhammond at 5:52 PM on July 8, 2010


If the cop decided that he was going to punish Grant for being uppity, and he deliberately shot him dead (which I think is a distinct possibility), then this is a candidate for murder in the first degree. All the planning can take place within 1 minute - and pass the test.


One of the first accurate statements you've made. But it's not enough that this be true. You have to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. The presumption is innocence. Are you going to claim with a straight face that you're not arguing the exact opposite?
posted by Justinian at 5:54 PM on July 8, 2010


Apparently, you don't even have the knowledge of law that one could get from even half paying attention to any episode of law and order.

The random Law & Order non-fan that you attacked has a similar level of knowledge as the prosecutors: they requested that first degree murder be one of the charges the jury could consider.
posted by one_bean at 5:55 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Confessor, what in that definition prevents murder 1 from being charged? You can premeditate for all of 1 minute, if that's what's confusing you.

Here's how I would frame the case. The state of mind of the officer - perhaps he has a history of violence. I would bring up expert witnesses who would testify to the attitudes common to cops that "uppity" people should be punished regardless of the letter or spirit of the law (many ordinary people already know this from bitter experience). With that attitude, the cop was primed to do what he did - he did not value the life of Grant, he was acting out of his prejudicial attitudes, and he committed deliberate murder, knowing that odds of his being convicted of murder were historically very low. Bingo - let the jury decide. A fair jury in a fair courtroom in a fair trial.
posted by VikingSword at 5:56 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


For what it's worth, according to the "verdict" link first-degree murder was not an option the jury could consider. Second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter were the alternatives it had.
posted by enn at 5:57 PM on July 8, 2010


Bingo - let the jury decide. A fair jury in a fair courtroom in a fair trial.

And you've defined fair trial as a trial which results in a verdict of guilty of murder in the first degree. Very handy, that.
posted by Justinian at 5:58 PM on July 8, 2010


And you've defined fair trial as a trial which results in a verdict of guilty of murder in the first degree.

No, he hasn't. Don't be obtuse. A fair trial is one with a fair jury. Stipulating that voir dire is complex and there are many contingencies I think it's nonetheless pretty safe to say that such a jury in this case would not be all-white and a third cops' nearest and dearest. Why is this so hard for you to acknowledge?
posted by enn at 6:02 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


One of the first accurate statements you've made. But it's not enough that this be true. You have to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. The presumption is innocence. Are you going to claim with a straight face that you're not arguing the exact opposite?

Justinian, can you please stop strawmanning? You do that constantly, and it makes interacting with you a chore. Please learn to make arguments without putting words in you opponents mouths. And if you are incapable of doing so (which I'm increasingly inclined to believe, based on your sorry record), then desist from making such "arguments".

I never denied anyone the presumption of innocence. I merely asked that a trial take place within a system that is not clearly broken. So take you "straight face" somewhere else please.
posted by VikingSword at 6:02 PM on July 8, 2010


And you've defined fair trial as a trial which results in a verdict of guilty of murder in the first degree. Very handy, that.

I have done no such thing. You persistently keep strawmanning. Since there is no sense in arguing with someone who doesn't appear to have the capacity to actually generate arguments instead of these sorry maneuvers, I am going to ignore you and your non-arguments.
posted by VikingSword at 6:06 PM on July 8, 2010


*nails plywood over comment*
posted by Back to you, Jim. at 6:07 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I merely asked that a trial take place within a system that is not clearly broken.

How is the system "clearly broken"? You haven't really offered much except rampant speculation that Mehserle might have thought Grant was "uppity" and that "perhaps he has a history of violence." For someone insisting upon a first degree murder charge, you don't seem to know very many specifics of the case.
posted by dhammond at 6:08 PM on July 8, 2010


Another live verdict reaction blog (that updates at the top not the bottom, yay)
posted by desjardins at 6:09 PM on July 8, 2010


Justinian, I think what people are objecting to is the perception that the jury was stacked. The prosecution made an unusual argument, that for Mehserle to be 'tried by a jury of his peers', that people with family connections to the police had to be allowed on the jury.

However, note that at least one potential black juror was disqualified for having a bad experience with the police, so it's not a two-way street. They explicitly allowed jurors with positive viewpoints of the police, and explicitly disallowed those who might reasonably think that Mehserle hadn't been fully truthful.

I think most reasonable people would say that the result -- no blacks, five people with family ties to police -- was not a fair jury. And even though they returned a conviction, one can't help but wonder if a less-slanted panel would have been far more severe.
posted by Malor at 6:10 PM on July 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


I have done no such thing. You persistently keep strawmanning.

No, you keep making obtuse, anti-justice statements and then claiming others are strawmanning.

You said quite clearly, in your own words, that you felt the appropriate verdict here was murder in the first degree. You've said this verdict was clearly not the result of a fair trial. The evidence that this wasn't a fair trial? That the verdict was wrong.

That's not a fucking strawman, they are your own words. It's not my fault that your words are absurd.
posted by Justinian at 6:12 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


VikingSword

...perhaps he has a history of violence...

Perhaps we can concentrate on the knowns, rather than conjure up an imaginary scenario in which unknowns fall inexplicably in favor of your preferred outcome?

Since our legal system works with a presumption of total innocence, and guilt must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, I'd imagine that the individual components required for a first-degree murder conviction would work the same way. Given that, what evidence would you cite as proof of premeditation?
posted by The Confessor at 6:12 PM on July 8, 2010


How is the system "clearly broken"?

Jury selection process and outcome - the very definition of a broken system. And I am not at all convinced by Judge Perry either - the prosecution did want to bring up murder charges. The prosecution, presumably has some acquaintance with the law? Therefore it is possible to have a different opinion from Judge Perry - or is he some kind of unassailable authority?

Frankly, I think this case is ripe for the Feds to take a look at. Probably won't happen, since there's not enough juice here - just one young black man who is dead.
posted by VikingSword at 6:12 PM on July 8, 2010


such a jury in this case would not be all-white

The jury was all white?

Therefore it is possible to have a different opinion from Judge Perry - or is he some kind of unassailable authority?

Uh, in his or her courtroom, yes.
posted by rtha at 6:14 PM on July 8, 2010


Here's how I would frame the case. The state of mind of the officer - perhaps he has a history of violence. I would bring up expert witnesses who would testify to the attitudes common to cops that "uppity" people should be punished regardless of the letter or spirit of the law (many ordinary people already know this from bitter experience). With that attitude, the cop was primed to do what he did - he did not value the life of Grant, he was acting out of his prejudicial attitudes, and he committed deliberate murder, knowing that odds of his being convicted of murder were historically very low. Bingo - let the jury decide. A fair jury in a fair courtroom in a fair trial.

And Mehserle would walk.

Does it really seem plausible to you that you could convince 12 fair people beyond a reasonable doubt that Mehserle himself held those attitudes about getting off and being a bigot, and that he made a conscious decision in light of those attitudes?
posted by fatbird at 6:14 PM on July 8, 2010


A set of claims common to a lot of the arguments I've seen -- even from people who stress that they are in no way police "sympathizers" -- is that no person who is not a cop or not related to one can understand the incredible amount of stress they go through and how dangerous their jobs are and how oppressive we, the general public, are toward them, etc, and so we are in no position to judge them -- ever for anything that they do.

no, that's your extreme interpretation of it, and no different in magnitude than the common assumption that all police are criminal. i don't know police and have none in the family, but i get that there are a set of pressures that make the job and the decisions more difficult than i would be able to handle well. i don't think any of the video evidence we have seen adequately captures the chaos of the situation in that moment. but in the general debate, i consider it far more plausible that the guy made a mistake, for whatever reason, in the pressure of the moment--in part brought about by the vocal anti-police mood that criminals in oakland celebrate and exploit--than that he decided he was going to kill somebody, surrounded by mostly hostile witnesses, because he knew he could get away with it, the paranoid fantasy of a great number of people who pretty much just wanted this cop to pay for all the injustice police have committed and gotten away with.

that's not to say there is not police injustice that needs to be addressed. just that this case--which even with the magic of video does not conclusively demonstrate intent--is a poor stand-in for the larger issue.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 6:14 PM on July 8, 2010


live video from Oakland (sorry, I don't mean to come off as a voyeur)
posted by desjardins at 6:15 PM on July 8, 2010


Sorry, rtha, I thought I had read that. You're right, there were Latinos on the jury.
posted by enn at 6:16 PM on July 8, 2010


The jury was all white?

No, the Grant family lawyer mentioned at least 2 Hispanics and one woman he identified as probably Indian, he couldn't tell (not clear if he meant East or Native).
posted by desjardins at 6:19 PM on July 8, 2010


I think most reasonable people would say that the result -- no blacks, five people with family ties to police -- was not a fair jury.

I don't think that's a reasonable position even if it is held by reasonable people. I doubt those people have actually had any experience with the criminal justice system at this level.

I was on the jury in a trial which lasted for months. It was on the high-security floor of the Los Angeles Country Superior Court. You had to go through security like everyone else, take an elevator up to the secured floor, and go through security again. The case involved a 16 year old boy being executed by being shot five times in the back of the head at point blank range. By the Mexican Mafia, perhaps the most dangerous prison gang in the United States. And, like I said, I was there every day for months. So I've seen the prosecution of high profile murder cases in Los Angeles County, which is where this trial was held. Guess which floor judge Perry often has cases on?

So I've seen first-hand the workings of the very courtrooms this case occured in. And people are talking out of their asses out of ignorance.
posted by Justinian at 6:19 PM on July 8, 2010


People - if the jury was stacked, then the trial was not fair. Period. And a good argument has been made for that. Or is your position that unfair trials cannot exist? They obviously can, and an argument has been made as to why this was one.
posted by VikingSword at 6:20 PM on July 8, 2010


Or is your position that unfair trials cannot exist? They obviously can, and an argument has been made as to why this was one.

Of course unfair trials can exist. Now who's tossing out strawmen?

People - if the jury was stacked, then the trial was not fair.

You've made an argument that the jury was stacked--but I don't find it convincing. For starters, there were five latinos on the jury. Are latinos as a group privileged enough to not have their own race-related issues with police? Are you saying that no white person in LA has had a bad experience with police?
posted by fatbird at 6:24 PM on July 8, 2010


Incidentally, there are those who claim that Judge Perry is biased pro-police. I don't know one way or another, but if such questions exist, the appearance of justice has been impaired. After all, there are judges who don't have such doubts hanging over them. I think there is plenty of grounds for an examination of how this whole trial went down.
posted by VikingSword at 6:25 PM on July 8, 2010


I don't know one way or another, but if such questions exist, the appearance of justice has been impaired.

I don't know one way or another if VikingSword likes to murder puppies, but if such questions exist...

Like I said, of the people commenting on this thread I'm not sure anyone but me has actual experience in the courtrooms and with the people involved. But maybe that makes me biased rather than informed.
posted by Justinian at 6:26 PM on July 8, 2010


Are you saying that no white person in LA has had a bad experience with police?

Oh man, is this the part of the thread where people are like "well if you look at the numbers there is a general trend" and other people are like "OH MAN I TOTALLY KNEW THIS GUY ONCE WHO DIDN'T FIT YOUR TREND SO IT IS OBVIOUSLY BULLSHIT?" I fucking love this part, I'm going to put the popcorn on.
posted by enn at 6:27 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


You've made an argument that the jury was stacked--but I don't find it convincing. For starters, there were five latinos on the jury. Are latinos as a group privileged enough to not have their own race-related issues with police? Are you saying that no white person in LA has had a bad experience with police?

Are Eskimos privileged? WTF does that matter? A black man was killed. Why were black people excluded from the jury? Not enough fair-minded black people in LA?
posted by VikingSword at 6:27 PM on July 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


My default presumption is that any trial in this country involving a black victim or perpetrator is going to be unfair. There are multiple systems of "justice" in this country, and the one for black people is not the same as the one for white people. Black victims don't matter as much, and black defendants are treated more harshly. So long as that situation exists, then no trial can be fair.
posted by Danila at 6:27 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


The judge overseeing this trial is Robert Perry who came under fire for allowing corrupt cops to walk during the infamous Rampart Scandal. He’s been doing everything in his power to tilt the trial in the direction of killer cop Johannes Mershele. Among one of his more egregious rulings is to put a gag order on the famed Police Brutality lawyer John Burris. If thats not enough, Mershele’s lawyer Michael Rain‘s is pushing to have Black people excluded from the jury.

Questions have been raised. Surely no judge is above being questioned, and surely there are judges who don't have this kind of controversial history vs the cops.
posted by VikingSword at 6:31 PM on July 8, 2010


Putting a gun to someone's back while they are subdued and prone on the ground looks an awful lot like reckless disregard, to me. I personally fail to see how "oops I didn't really mean it" from a trained officer can possibly wash. Being an officer comes with a lot of responsibility, and "accidentally" taking your gun out and shooting a man in the back should more than qualify at the leve of reckless disregard. He should be going up for 2nd degree murder, IMO.

However, what I'd like to know is -- setting aside whether involuntary manslaughter is the appropriate verdict, and setting aside whether this was a flawed jury -- why isn't there an automatic enhancement for this crime having been committed under color of authority?

Is not any crime committed by an officer on duty de facto committed under color of authority?
posted by chimaera at 6:32 PM on July 8, 2010


Questions have been raised.

Questions have been raised? That's your argument? Ignore me all you want, we can all see how absurd your position is.
posted by Justinian at 6:34 PM on July 8, 2010


Are Eskimos privileged? WTF does that matter? A black man was killed. Why were black people excluded from the jury? Not enough fair-minded black people in LA?

I'll be clearer: Latinos as a group have their own race-related issues with police, especially in Southern California. I doubt the default position of the average Latino in LA is pro-police. And there were five of them on the jury. That argues against the idea that the jury was "stacked".

Black people were excluded because the defense worked the system in a stupid, racist way that I personally doubt made much difference in their favour. As you point out, going by the history of such events, Mehserle should've expected an acquittal.
posted by fatbird at 6:35 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Incidentally, there are those who claim that Judge Perry is biased pro-police. I don't know one way or another, but if such questions exist, the appearance of justice has been impaired.

You're referencing an unsourced and completely unexplained allegation regarding Perry's involvement in the Rampart case. From "Davey D's Hip Hop Corner." You're kidding, right?

And seriously, this "questions have been raised" meme is crossing into bullshit Fox News territory right quick.
posted by dhammond at 6:37 PM on July 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'll be clearer: Latinos as a group have their own race-related issues with police, especially in Southern California.

And perhaps, Latinos as a group may have had their own race-related issues with African-Americans, especially here in Los Angeles. See? Cool.

So now back to: why were black people excluded from the jury? Are there not enough black people in Los Angeles, or are there not enough fair-minded black people in Los Angeles?
posted by VikingSword at 6:42 PM on July 8, 2010


Black people were excluded because the defense worked the system in a stupid, racist way that I personally doubt made much difference in their favour.

Surely a mark of a fair justice system, rather than proof that it's broken. What are we arguing about again?
posted by VikingSword at 6:49 PM on July 8, 2010


And perhaps, Latinos as a group may have had their own race-related issues with African-Americans, especially here in Los Angeles. See? Cool.

The unspoken implication of what you're stating is that Latinos can't be trusted to be fair-minded because they "may have had their own race-related issues with African-Americans." So not only are you overly concerned about racial makeup and casting aspersions on certain ethnic groups (but not others), you're also spewing mealy-mouthed racism under a misguided sense of "fairness." This is disgusting.
posted by dhammond at 6:49 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


And perhaps, Latinos as a group may have had their own race-related issues with African-Americans, especially here in Los Angeles.

Awesome: Now you're making explicitly racist arguments.

So now back to: why were black people excluded from the jury? Are there not enough black people in Los Angeles, or are there not enough fair-minded black people in Los Angeles?

As I said: The defense exploited a general feature of the system to keep black people off the jury. It was a stupid and racist thing to do, and it didn't seem to benefit Mehserle at all.

It does raise the question: How many black people were in the pool from which they selected? You do understand, don't you, that there's a lot of randomness in the process?

Or do you think they should have found and seated at least a couple black just to ensure that there was appropriate racial representation on the jury?
posted by fatbird at 6:52 PM on July 8, 2010


Surely a mark of a fair justice system, rather than proof that it's broken.

A mark of a justice system that has a process at work, rather than some theoretical attempt to racially balance juries according to prevailing stereotypes about their biases.
posted by fatbird at 6:53 PM on July 8, 2010


Vikingsword, you don't understand how these juries are selected.

The jury I was on (in the same courthouse, on the same floor, with the same judges as this trial) had on the jury, including alternates, 1 man (me) and 13 women. Do you believe that is also prima facie evidence that the system was rigged?
posted by Justinian at 6:54 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


The unspoken implication of what you're stating

This is disgusting.

Right. Disgusting to put words in someone's mouth and then claim outrage based on that.
posted by VikingSword at 6:54 PM on July 8, 2010


Just got home after taking BART from Embarcadero to MacArthur (Oakland).

First time I've had my ticket checked transferring from MUNI to BART since I moved to bay area.

BART was much quieter today (yay I got a seat!) and at each station we passed through there were either cops and/or many more yellow safety-jacketed BART folks. Outside MacArthur was a BART police cruiser and some private (armed) security folks milling around outside. Not really that unusual to be honest.

There was a guy on the training giving out Oscar Grant fliers. Didn't manage to grab one but I can only assume it was declaring the trial an injustice etc.
posted by schwa at 6:55 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Awesome: Now you're making explicitly racist arguments.

Nope. Any more than there were racist anti-white arguments in jury selection problems in the South. There are sociological realities. This is one of them. I claimed at no point that these specific people had such attitudes - read what I wrote, and read the conditional I carefully inserted. But the reason why we take such things in account is precisely so that the appearance of fairness is preserved.

So I would kindly ask you to rely on the strength of arguments - if you are capable of it - rather than spurious accusations of racism.
posted by VikingSword at 6:58 PM on July 8, 2010


So now back to: why were black people excluded from the jury? Are there not enough black people in Los Angeles, or are there not enough fair-minded black people in Los Angeles?

Only 9.9% of LA is black. Defence can easily exclude a black person as one of their challenges knowing that there's only a 1/10 chance they'll get another.
posted by Talez at 6:58 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here is the most detailed source I have found on jury selection in this trial.
posted by enn at 7:04 PM on July 8, 2010


Talez: That's true but not a very fair characterization. When only a fraction of your jury pool is black, black people are less likely to respond to a jury summons, and are more likely to be excused for cause (note: "for cause" is not a bad thing necessarily) it is very easy to end up with a jury with no black people on it for reasons of simple mathematics.

People have a strange idea about Los Angeles. I think they formed their opinion based on watching cheesy gang movies in the 80s.
posted by Justinian at 7:05 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here is the most detailed source I have found on jury selection in this trial.

So there were five potential black jurors. Two were excluded for cause (out of nine who were excluded for cause). Three were excluded by peremptory challenge of the defense.
posted by fatbird at 7:11 PM on July 8, 2010


BART was much quieter today (yay I got a seat!)

Ha! I lit out from the office as soon as I heard there was a verdict pending. I've never seen a crush load on a Fremont train at 3:15 in the afternoon...!
posted by Lazlo at 7:11 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


fatbird: yes, that part was actually mentioned by mediareport above.

I was surprised that the prosecution hadn't exhausted its peremptory challenges — I'd really like to know why they didn't challenge the jurors with police officers in their families.
posted by enn at 7:13 PM on July 8, 2010


So there were five potential black jurors.

Yes, out of 50. This isn't a case of picking the 11 non-black people out of a huge group. Only 5 out of 50 were African American to start with and after exclusions for cause they were left with 3 out of 41. Well under 10%.

I think it is unreasonable to claim it self-evident that a system is broken when you end up with no african americans on a jury when there were only 3 in a jury pool of 41 after exclusions for cause. As I said, in the murder trial I sat on in the same courthouse, on the same floor, we ended up with 13 women and 1 man.
posted by Justinian at 7:16 PM on July 8, 2010


Interesting, Oakland is 30% black and Los Angeles is quite different, only 10% black. So by changing venues to LA, the demographics of the jury pool changed a lot.
posted by secretseasons at 7:20 PM on July 8, 2010


My default presumption is that any trial in this country involving a black victim or perpetrator is going to be unfair. There are multiple systems of "justice" in this country, and the one for black people is not the same as the one for white people. Black victims don't matter as much, and black defendants are treated more harshly. So long as that situation exists, then no trial can be fair.

As has been demonstrated statistically and repeatedly, this is absolutely true. I don't know what you can do about it on the level of the individual trial, though.
posted by fatbird at 7:24 PM on July 8, 2010


The judge ruled as a matter of law that insufficient evidence to support first degree murder had been presented, which was why it wasn't one of the jury's choices (though the prosecution tried for it.) Apparently a key piece of evidence was testimony by one of Oscar Grant's friends that he heard Meserhle say before the shooting that he was going to tase him.
posted by msalt at 7:26 PM on July 8, 2010


Oakland is 30% black and Los Angeles is quite different, only 10% black. So by changing venues to LA, the demographics of the jury pool changed a lot.

Not as much as you imply.

Had the trial stayed "in Oakland", it would have been held in Alameda county court, drawing a jury pool from the entire county. Alameda county is 13.5% black.
posted by toxic at 7:31 PM on July 8, 2010


Ha! I lit out from the office as soon as I heard there was a verdict pending. I've never seen a crush load on a Fremont train at 3:15 in the afternoon...!

You should have seen Embarcadero eastbound platform at 3:30. With a bike. Took me 5 trains till I could board.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:31 PM on July 8, 2010


toxic wrote: "Had the trial stayed "in Oakland", it would have been held in Alameda county court, drawing a jury pool from the entire county. Alameda county is 13.5% black."
Good point, thanks for the clarification.
posted by secretseasons at 7:40 PM on July 8, 2010


Wow. Just heard the verdict. Words fail...
posted by hermitosis at 7:49 PM on July 8, 2010


Guys, I'm not sure you understand. Some time in the past, Justinian may have been physically in the same building as Judge Perry. How can you possibly disagree with him on this stuff?

I actually agree with him. I just needed to get the above off my chest.
posted by cucumber at 7:50 PM on July 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Justinian may have been physically in the same building as Judge Perry.

And I'm an expert on anthropology because I'm a mammal.

I with Justinian for the most part but that in itself is not a qualification.
posted by Talez at 8:03 PM on July 8, 2010


Apparently a key piece of evidence was testimony by one of Oscar Grant's friends that he heard Meserhle say before the shooting that he was going to tase him.

To be fair, that's not why the judge excluded a charge of 1st degree murder.

I'm pretty sure it is pointless for VikingSword but for anyone else who might not have followed along very closely, what VS is arguing for would not have brought justice; it would have brought a blanket acquittal.

VikingSword has argued that this was a miscarriage of justice and the prosecution should have gone all-out for first-degree murder. In point of fact, the prosecution charged Mehserle with murder. They could have charged him with manslaughter which is much easier to prove. They did not; they did exactly what VikingSword claims they did not do, attempt to convict Mehserle of murder.

The judge, after the evidence was presented, excluded first-degree murder for lack of evidence. Because there was absolutely no evidence of any sort that Mehserle planned to execute Grant and then carried out that plan. Remember, even if you believe Mehserle decided to kill Grant and deliberately shot him, that is not enough to support a 1st degree charge. So the judge excluded 1st degree.

Now lets be clear on this next part. Someone did argue that the jury should only be able to choose between murder and not guilty. Besides VikingSword, I mean. Can you guess who that was? It was not the prosecution; it was, in point of face, the defense. Yes, the defense also wanted this to be a blanket murder trial with no manslaughter charge.

Why? Because they know goddamn well that given those choices their client would probably have walked. There was absolutely no evidence that this was a first (or even second) degree murder. It was a manslaughter. A good argument can be made that this case was overcharged, not undercharged. Nobody who was paying attention with an open mind believed that a jury was going to convict on a murder charge here but the D.A. charged murder. For one of two reasons... either as leverage to try to get a plea bargain (which is overzealous, not underzealous prosecution) or as a sop to an angry public (which is overzealous, not underzealous prosecution). So either way the prosecution erred on the sized of being overzealous.

So VikingSword, while claiming to be out for justice, is arguing the same thing that the defense argued; that this should be a murder trial, full stop. In which case either Mehserle would be convicted of an inappropriate charge because of an overzealous prosecutor pandering to the public or Mehserle would have walked. And the proper result would have been Mehserle walking, as sickening as it is to say. Read a summary of the evidence for yourself; there is no way that pre-meditation was proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Hell, if anything it's more likely that there was no pre-meditation. A man should be convicted because this might have been a murder instead of a manslaughter? We convict for "might" now?

This isn't about people yelling for justice. This is about people howling for blood, a prosecutor pandering to them, and a defense team trying to take advantage of useful idiots to exclude anything but a murder charge.

If only a murder charge had been allowed during deliberation, as some in this thread have argued, there could have been no justice here. Not for anyone.
posted by Justinian at 8:09 PM on July 8, 2010 [10 favorites]


I with Justinian for the most part but that in itself is not a qualification.

That was a pretty crappy summary of what I said. I did not say I have some knowledge because I have "been in the same building" as Judge Perry. I said I've been in the same few courtrooms on the high security 9th floor of the Los Angeles Superior Courthouse as this trial, day after day, for months. With the same jury selection process overseen by the same people. The same judges, lawyers, clerks, and bailiffs. And while it is quite possible Perry was the judge on my case I did not claim that because I can't find a frigging picture of the man anywhere and it's been a number of years. His name is familiar and he would have been in one of the (few) courtrooms on the high security floor, but I honestly don't know one way or the other.

But these courtrooms are not islands, they are part of a system, and I do have first-hand experience with the specific very localized system where this trial was held. I went through voir dire, I talked to the lawyers, I talked to jurors on other cases, I talked to the cops and bailiffs. Saying that I was "in the same building" as Perry is kind of deliberately insulting.
posted by Justinian at 8:15 PM on July 8, 2010


Justinian:

So, my argument was this: that out of 12 jurors, none were black, and at least five had police family connections, while one potential black juror was disqualified for having had a bad experience with the police. Taken in tandem, this at least gives the appearance of a stacked jury.

Your reply appears to have been, if I'm reading it correctly, "Well, I once served on a high-profile case, so I'm expert, and you just wouldn't believe all the security in that building."

This is such a complete non-sequitur that maybe I missed an actual argument? If that's actually what you said, with a straight face, I honestly don't know how to answer. How on earth could that be a refutation of the observation that the jury appears badly biased?

Are you trying for the Chewbacca defense? "I was on a major case once, and there was high security, and you can't have bias behind security gates. It does not make sense!"
posted by Malor at 8:16 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Uh, I know you were kidding, cucumber. I'm probably too annoyed if the fact that you were kidding didn't stop me from replying!
posted by Justinian at 8:16 PM on July 8, 2010


There's no observation that the jury appears badly biased, Malor. There's a couple keyboard jockeys with no actual knowledge of the subject, no experience with the process, and no understanding of the case at hand spouting off.

And if you can seriously summarize my point about having been through the exact process as these jurors, in the exact location, with the exact people presiding as a non-sequitur I don't know what to say to you. Would you also consider it a non-sequitur if someone said that they'd spent a whole bunch of time around Mehserle and his buddies and he was clearly a racist who talked about wanting to shoot a black guy?

If people are claiming the jury selection process is biased, it seems goddamn relevant that someone in the thread has gone through the exact jury selecton process as the people in this trial, in the same courthouse, on the same floor, with the same system, and possibly in the same room with the same judge. Doesn't it?
posted by Justinian at 8:21 PM on July 8, 2010


^Were it not for the prospect of riots Mehserle wouldn't even be on trial.

Citation, please.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 8:23 PM on July 8, 2010


But, as far as I can see, it is a non-sequitur. Yes, there's a big process for picking jurors. That doesn't change the fact that the rules were changed to allow jurors with police connections.

Just because the process was all serious and Behind Security Gates doesn't mean it worked.
posted by Malor at 8:24 PM on July 8, 2010


You might not think my experience is dispositive, and I'd probably agree. By itself it isn't proof of anything. It's more experience and evidence than anyone else has presented, though.

But it's clearly and obviously not a non-sequitur. One of us doesn't know what non-sequitur means and I don't think it's me.
posted by Justinian at 8:32 PM on July 8, 2010


That doesn't change the fact that the rules were changed to allow jurors with police connections.

How were the rules changed, Malor?
posted by fatbird at 8:32 PM on July 8, 2010


To be clear, I'm actually largely in agreement with most of what you're saying here, but I think this part of your argument falls flat on its face. The existence of a system for picking jurors, even if it works most of the time, is not evidence that it worked correctly in this case, particularly when the normal rules were relaxed.

No matter how seriously you treat something, that's not insurance against getting it wrong sometimes, and it sure looks like that's what happened here. And I say this even though I do agree with you that the actual outcome was probably the most reasonable one.... because people who don't take the time to look all the way through the case are likely to see the inappropriate juror pool, and assume that the case was deliberately mistried.

I would feel much better about this trial if there had been no family connections with police in the juror pool, and at least a couple of blacks... even if the outcome was precisely the same.
posted by Malor at 8:33 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Malor: I guess I'd just point out that my experiences with the system in question are not necessary for the rest of my argument. I could live in Poughkeepsie and never been within a thousand miles of Los Angeles and everything I've said would still be, to the best of my knowledge, accurate.

Still, I think my experience is, as I said, relevant but not dispositive. It's true that you can always get things wrong sometimes... but the level of seriousness with which you treat the system greatly influences how often that is. That I found the exact system used for this trial, in the same place etc etc, to be in no way biased towards the police (and, frankly, rather biased AGAINST the police) does affect the relative probability of bias in this case. If you want to completely discard that, though, go for it. It doesn't actually change much.
posted by Justinian at 8:39 PM on July 8, 2010


fatbird: How were the rules changed, Malor?

Hmm, in double checking back to the original (fairly slanted, admittedly) source I have for that, it looks like Mehserle's attorney argued that police officers themselves should be allowed on the jury, but it wasn't actually granted. The author then sort of implies that the four (not five, as I'd incorrectly remembered) jurors with police connections wouldn't normally have been allowed, but he doesn't explicitly say so. So the rules may not have been changed, and I retract this assertion, and will repeat the fact that I got that number wrong: it's four police-connected jurors, not five.

Regardless, I'd still feel a lot better about this verdict if there hadn't been any such connections, and with at least a couple of black jurors. Even if it was exactly the same (and I think that's the most likely outcome), I'd feel better. Even the appearance of impropriety is particularly damaging when trying people in positions of authority and/or power.
posted by Malor at 8:43 PM on July 8, 2010


Sounds like it's goin down.

20:40 PDT Police are now warning those still on the streets to disperse or risk serious injury.

20:30 PDT Police have declared an unlawful assembly in Downtown Oakland. People are breaking windows at a Foot Locker in Downtown Oakland.

posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:47 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Malor: Sorry about my intemperate tone in one of my previous comments. I realize it isn't you I was getting increasingly annoyed arguing with.

My main issue with what you're saying is that you're taking the make-up of the jury pool as prima facie evidence of bias. Or at the very least (in your last comment) as evidence of the appearance of bias. Given the composition of the LA jury pool I don't see how you avoid juries like this without deliberate and radical quota systems. Which I wouldn't support.

As to whether it gives the appearance of impropriety... well, that's in the eye of the beholder. I don't think it's possible or even desirable to base your system on eliminating every possible source of perceived bias.

Think about it: you've said you'd feel better with a couple of black jurors. How does that happen without deliberating skewing the jury pool? Black people make up less than 10% of the jury pool and considerably less than that once you get to jury selection. There are only 11 people on a jury. How do you get several black jurors on a jury of 11 when there are only 3 black people left in the entire jury people? Say that black people are automatically on the jury?

That would present even bigger problems, wouldn't it?
posted by Justinian at 8:53 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


"So, my argument was this: that out of 12 jurors, none were black, and at least five had police family connections,..."

...a full four members of the final jury have police among their family or friends. is what was quoted and linked upthread from counterpunch.org and that is the only source I've found. My google might be fail tonite, I'm tired.

Has anyone found a source that says how many of the 4 have police among family and how many have police among friends and if so how close of family for the jurors that applies to?
posted by vapidave at 9:42 PM on July 8, 2010


I think it's also worth mentioning that bias is a two-way street. Pick a jury member at random and there's always the possibility that he or she will be biased, regardless of race. The assertion that a jury with a few black folks on it would be inherently more "fair" is ridiculous. Who is to say that these jurors wouldn't be unduly biased against Mehserle simply because of his race? Or the opposite scenario, in which you have a minority juror who doesn't mind giving the cops the benefit of the doubt? The idea that your average black juror is more likely to be "fair" is ridiculous.
posted by dhammond at 9:42 PM on July 8, 2010


Place me with the jury, I'm white have several close family members in the police force and I still would say he murdered Oscar Grant.
posted by pianomover at 10:00 PM on July 8, 2010


Note that the bit about being tried by a jury of one's peers isn't from the Constitution. It's a little bit older than that. It comes from:
nisi per legale judicium parium suorum vel per legem terre.
meaning [no man shall be tried except by...] "a jury of his peers and the law of the land". Which is from the Magna Carta. In 1215. So this is actually one of the two oldest bits of modern law we have, the other being the idea of habeus corpus.

But being tried by your peers in this context didn't mean being tried by people you hung around with who all looked like you and so forth, it meant that you were to be tried by a jury of people and not simply arbitrarily tried by the King. It's not a promise that the people who judge you will be very much like you, only that they won't be an arbtrary higher governmental authority.
posted by Justinian at 10:12 PM on July 8, 2010


Still, I think my experience is, as I said, relevant but not dispositive.

It's not relevant. Your experience in this situation is as though you had served in the military and you claimed that made you able to make decisions of state. Or being a patient of a doctor and claiming an ability to identify his malpractice in an unrelated patient. It's as though you claimed that, by eating corn on the cob, you are capable of knowing when to sow the crops. Modern jury trials are designed for one thing only: swaying the jury. From jury selection to jury decision rules, your were being manipulated. Your attendance at Schindler's List does not make you a director, and your experience as a juror does not make you a scholar of law.
posted by one_bean at 10:21 PM on July 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


'sides, if you really did know anything, you'd have been excused.
posted by ryanrs at 10:38 PM on July 8, 2010


  • 21:44 PDT Youths are shouting at rioters in Downtown Oakland, telling them to go home.

  • Hundreds of police officers from Berkeley, Fremont, Hayward, San Francisco and other departments have been on hand today and tonight helping Oakland police with the protests, violence and looting in downtown. Now, at least 60 police officers from Contra Costa County are being brought in to assist.

    10:05 p.m. Massive looting happening

    The crowd just broke into the Oakland Coin and Jewelry Exchange and raided the place, and police are actively moving in. Oaksterdam* at 19th and Broadway had its windows broken.

  • ---
    * They started smashing the windows at Oaksterdam University. Where they teach you how to become a pot grower and supply the California cannabis industry.

    Proof positive right there: these were mostly out of town rioters. Those kids yelling at the rioters to go the fuck home, those were the locals.
    posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:43 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


    You can listen to the police scanner here, and the live video feed (linked above) has resumed here.
    posted by vapidave at 11:03 PM on July 8, 2010


    Well, ganking shoes from a Foot Locker is certainly the best way to avenge Mr. Grant and establish a new paradigm of police oversight by civilian authority. Bravo.
    posted by Burhanistan at 11:08 PM on July 8, 2010


    C'mon. If looting a foot locker is the worst thing that happens, yay.
    posted by ryanrs at 11:41 PM on July 8, 2010


    I cannot imagine how powerless I would feel, living in that community and thinking "well, first they can shoot one of us, then get off with relatively light punishment, and then some other folks are going to come in and tear our neighborhood and businesses up."
    posted by davejay at 11:54 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


    * They started smashing the windows at Oaksterdam University. Where they teach you how to become a pot grower and supply the California cannabis industry.

    Actually, that isn't even Oaksterdam University anymore, OU expanded and moved up the street. But the signs are still up and yes, the windows were smashed. The jewelry store on Broadway between 19th and 20th had the security grill torn down, windows smashed and completely cleaned out. Foot Locker was looted but somehow seemed boarded up again. There were empty shoe boxes all over the street in front of the store and many pairs of old abandoned shoes left after people got new ones.

    The riot was diffuse and not even all that loud by about 10:15. Police had only a small area in the city center cordoned off and I was able to bike around pretty much freely. Many windows were broken, there was a lot of new spray paint grafitti, but "massive looting"? Not really, from what I could see.

    The cops started clearing sides of blocks by marching en mass, but I saw no arrests. The news vans were parked right next to the cordoned-off city center and the perfectly-coiffed newscasters seemed to have nothing to do. The weather is probably a factor, Oakland is cool and foggy tonight.

    As I turned to ride home, I was passed by dozens of CHP cars going fast, returning to the CHP office up Telegraph. I imagine they were in a hurry to clock out and get home.
    posted by telstar at 12:17 AM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


    VikingSword: "So I would kindly ask you to rely on the strength of arguments - if you are capable of it - rather than spurious accusations of racism."

    Seriously. VikingSword's argument is unassailable:

    1) If the system was just, they would convict him of murder.
    2) They did not convict him of murder.
    3) Therefore, the system is not just.

    There's no arguing with that logic. It does however beg the question... what if they allowed black people on the jury?
    posted by team lowkey at 12:29 AM on July 9, 2010


    The first reports from the San Francisco Chronicle make it sound an awful lot like the Revolution Books crowd were major participants in the brief rioting that occurred this evening. It's not surprising, but it's still depressing. Chronicle also says that there appeared to be at least fifty arrests.

    I agree with Danila that black people face unfair disadvantage in our justice system, and that it's seriously unrighteous to remove people from a jury selection pool solely on the basis of race (though I have no idea if that's truly what happened here). However, I think it would have been extremely difficult to get a second-degree murder conviction in this case, even if Oscar Grant had been white. "Reasonable doubt" probably would have precluded it. That the jury was permitted to consider voluntary or involuntary manslaughter was seen as a victory for the prosecution, and for good reason.
    posted by hat at 12:45 AM on July 9, 2010


    There's some more discussion of the conviction options here:

    Manslaughter on the table in Mehserle trial
    Jurors in the trial of former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle will be given the option of convicting him of second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter or nothing at all, a judge ruled Wednesday on the eve of closing arguments. [...]

    "The defense wanted all or nothing, betting that the jury would not find him guilty of murder," said Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor who teaches at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. "This gives the jury a compromise position." [...]

    For each of the three possible crimes, the judge said, jurors will be given two theories under which they can convict if they choose to.

    Second-degree murder theories:
    1) Mehserle unlawfully intended to kill Oscar Grant.
    2) He intentionally committed an inherently dangerous act, while knowing it was dangerous and acting with conscious disregard for human life.

    Voluntary manslaughter theories:
    1) Mehserle killed Grant in the heat of passion.
    2) He acted in "imperfect self-defense," based on an actual but unreasonable belief that he needed to use lethal force.

    Involuntary manslaughter theories:
    1) Mehserle committed a lawful act but with "criminal negligence."
    2) He committed a crime - using excessive force on Grant by deciding to shock him with a Taser - that was not in itself potentially lethal, but became so because of the manner in which it was committed.
    posted by hat at 12:55 AM on July 9, 2010


    Seriously. VikingSword's argument is unassailable:

    1) If the system was just, they would convict him of murder.


    Are you being sarcastic?
    posted by uncanny hengeman at 1:01 AM on July 9, 2010


    Yes.
    posted by team lowkey at 1:12 AM on July 9, 2010


    Phew. I was about to respond as if you weren't.
    posted by uncanny hengeman at 1:24 AM on July 9, 2010


    But I thought the question must be hidden somewhere in the argument for it to be begging to be asked? I see no mention of black jurors in your summary.

    Or do I need to go back and look at his posting history to find the begging question. And that all seems a bit too difficult...
    posted by uncanny hengeman at 1:29 AM on July 9, 2010


    Begging the question (or petitio principii, "assuming the initial point") is a logical fallacy in which the proposition to be proved is assumed implicitly or explicitly in the premise. The word beg, when used in this phrase, does not mean "asking for something", instead it means to dodge or avoid.

    Sorry for the confusion. VikingSword was using a classical logical fallacy (which is explicit in the argument as I composed it; the thing to be proved is stated as fact in the premise). The phrase has since changed to mean "raises the question". I was trying to slyly refer to the prior meaning while using the current meaning. But since the joke had to be explained, it probably wasn't very good.

    posted by team lowkey at 1:48 AM on July 9, 2010


    I was trying to slyly refer to the prior meaning while using the current meaning.

    I hate it when that happens. A new meaning, eh?

    Thanks for the heads-up on that development. I never knew. Same thing's happened with "irony," hasn't it? The Alanis Morrisette version is now acceptable? :)
    posted by uncanny hengeman at 2:28 AM on July 9, 2010


    Your attendance at Schindler's List does not make you a director, and your experience as a juror does not make you a scholar of law.

    And, if I had claimed to be a scholar of law or anything close, your comment would actually be relevant. That is, if claiming to have gone through the same process as the jurors in this case, for a case of the same high profile nature as theirs, in the same courthouse, on the same high security floor, with many of the same participants, were claiming to be a scholar of law then you might have a point. But it isn't, and you do not. We are all dumber for having read your comment.
    posted by Justinian at 3:06 AM on July 9, 2010


    the same process as the jurors in this case, for a case of the same high profile nature as theirs, in the same courthouse, on the same high security floor, with many of the same participants

    Please just stop.

    You accept it makes no difference to your arguments and the fact that you played a teeny tiny part in a criminal case (even one in the same place with the same ......) gives you no more authority than anyone else.
    posted by Reggie Knoble at 4:55 AM on July 9, 2010


    Your attendance at Schindler's List does not make you a director

    Yeah but if you're good at projection it makes you into someone who would have prevented the holocaust.
    posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 4:58 AM on July 9, 2010


    Of all the movies to pick.
    posted by smackfu at 5:53 AM on July 9, 2010


    Reggie, please find a clue. I never claimed any authority, I said I had a small amount of experience with the process we were talking about. That being the process of selecting a jury for high profile cases in the L.A. superior court. If you would like to pretend otherwise, please go ahead.

    Do you actually have an opinion on the topic at hand or would you prefer to snipe about tangential issues?
    posted by Justinian at 6:01 AM on July 9, 2010


    Please just stop.

    ??? Huh?

    Please just stop making sense? Please just stop posting retorts and let the wrong side of the argument have the final word?
    posted by uncanny hengeman at 7:36 AM on July 9, 2010


    Do you actually have an opinion on the topic at hand or would you prefer to snipe about tangential issues?

    My opinions have already been expressed, no need for piontless repetition. Which was kind of my point.
    posted by Reggie Knoble at 8:07 AM on July 9, 2010


    When a significant part of the argument here is jury selection, how is the experience of someone who went through the exact jury selection process in question, not relevant?
    posted by fatbird at 8:11 AM on July 9, 2010


    Becuase every jury is different?
    posted by Big_B at 8:23 AM on July 9, 2010


    Because it was so long ago he doesn't remember the judge and things could have changed in the interim?
    posted by desjardins at 8:26 AM on July 9, 2010


    When a significant part of the argument here is jury selection, how is the experience of someone who went through the exact jury selection process in question, not relevant?

    Malor: I guess I'd just point out that my experiences with the system in question are not necessary for the rest of my argument.
    posted by Reggie Knoble at 8:32 AM on July 9, 2010


    Sorry, meant to add that he hasn't actually said anything relevant about jury selection, just that there is lots of security and that it is taken seriously which nobody ever doubted.

    So if there is no useful information and it doesn't affect his actual arguments then what is it but an attempt to claim some sort of authority?
    posted by Reggie Knoble at 8:50 AM on July 9, 2010


    Anyone else think the jury trial system and selection process are broken beyond repair and that we might need to start think about replacing it with something else?
    posted by infinitywaltz at 8:52 AM on July 9, 2010


    The start of the riot sounds suspect. Officers declare "Unlawful Assembly", then, as if on cue, "anarchists" begin breaking stuff while the police watch, before moving in.
    posted by yeloson at 9:14 AM on July 9, 2010


    SF Gate: Officials said the main instigators appeared to be organized "anarchist" agitators wearing black clothing and hoods. Many of the most aggressive demonstrators smashing the windows of banks and shops were white.
    posted by yeloson at 9:27 AM on July 9, 2010


    Seriously. VikingSword's argument is unassailable:

    1) If the system was just, they would convict him of murder.
    2) They did not convict him of murder.
    3) Therefore, the system is not just.

    There's no arguing with that logic.


    Right, because the best way to present an argument is to invent one and then claim that that's what your opponent said. For the last time, this is not at all what I claimed.

    Here is what I did claim:

    1)Just as in cases in the South, where f.ex. a KKK murderer is on trial, dispassionate observers can opine: "If this were a fair trial, he'd be found guilty", expressing their opinion of what the likely outcome would be. However, nobody is claiming this is how the outcome "must" be - rather it is their *opinion* of what would result IF the the trial is "fair".

    2)If the trial were fair, then it is possible for there to be any outcome - including the freeing of the KKK accused, and people accept that, because they plainly perceive that the trial was fair. Again, the key part is "fair". As I have said repeatedly, you gain the ability to accept unlikely outcomes only if you perceive the system to be fair - f.ex. if you believe strongly that you left money on a table at you Dad's place, and Dad checks and says "no", you accept it, if you have reason to trust him as he's always been an honest person - but if he's an alcoholic who habitually lies and steals, you are not likely to give up on your conviction. That is why the appearance of justice is so important, and why pains are taken to preserve the reputation of the justice system. It has failed here historically, and in this specific instance - seen next point.

    3)The trail was not seen as fair, at almost any juncture. The jury selection process carefully excluded black people from the trial (as in the example of the KKK person, above). When that would have been too difficult in the community where the person was charged, they went ahead and moved the trial to where there were fewer blacks. Moving a trial is a careful balance between the rights of the accused to a fair trial and not jury-rigging. Why did they move it to a place that had fewer black people, rather than merely a place that didn't have as much exposure to the case? And so on, and so on at multiple junctures.

    Appearance of justice is important for the outcome to be accepted. How do we know it has failed? Actually, it is not difficult at all: if large numbers of observers say it has failed. This is the case here. Therefore: failure.

    Now, it may be, that in fact, the outcome would have been the same with an entirely fair system, and it is also possible that a particular trial was fair. But as long as there is no appearance of fairness for a large number of people, that represents a failure on some level - especially for members of a community that has been historically and also at present time strongly discriminated against in the justice system, and the offender has been historically, and also at present, a member of an organization that has victimized the said community. This btw. need not be only in one direction - it can be the opposite, as in the OJ case. Here the defendant was black, and the victims white. People still have an opinion that OJ was guilty - even though, there isn't the overlay of folks thinking that the system was biased against OJ... imagine how much worse it is now, when you add that into the mix.

    So go ahead and keep inventing what I supposedly said, so it's easier to argue against that, but I really am not going to respond anymore to people who invent any old nonsense and then attach my name to it, so go ahead and have fun on your own.
    posted by VikingSword at 9:51 AM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


    Officials said the main instigators appeared to be organized "anarchist" agitators wearing black clothing and hoods. Many of the most aggressive demonstrators smashing the windows of banks and shops were white.

    I am so, so tired of these assholes.
    posted by empath at 10:26 AM on July 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


    Officials or anarchist agitators?
    posted by infinitywaltz at 10:36 AM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


    The start of the riot sounds suspect. Officers declare "Unlawful Assembly", then, as if on cue, "anarchists" begin breaking stuff while the police watch, before moving in.

    What exactly do you suspect? That undercover police actually smashed the windows? I don't understand.
    posted by msalt at 10:44 AM on July 9, 2010


    I've been wondering about how the Oakland Police Department layoffs would play in this rioting situation. The number of cops to lay off in June was as high as 200, and now seems to be down to about 80. As far as I can tell nobody has been laid off yet.

    Police and Fire departments in Oakland consume about 85% of the budget.

    The union is warning that public safety will be compromised if the cops are laid off. A riot is a perfect place to demonstrate that.
    posted by the Real Dan at 10:45 AM on July 9, 2010


    Department of Justice to review shooting
    posted by desjardins at 10:45 AM on July 9, 2010


    Why did they move it to a place that had fewer black people, rather than merely a place that didn't have as much exposure to the case?

    Like where? What other community in the state outside of the bay area has a similar percentage of black people? Here's a list of cities for you to peruse. Sacramento and Fresno are much lower. I don't live in CA but I'm pretty familiar with geography and demographics and I don't think such a place exists.
    posted by desjardins at 10:51 AM on July 9, 2010


    OK, so Compton has a higher percentage of African-Americans than does Oakland, but it's still in Los Angeles County so it wouldn't matter since it's the same court. FWIW Alameda County, which contains Oakland, is only 15% black, not much higher than LA's 10%. So the outcome may not have been much different.
    posted by desjardins at 10:57 AM on July 9, 2010


    Also also (sorry!) California as a whole has a much lower percentage of blacks (6.7%) than does the US as a whole.
    posted by desjardins at 10:59 AM on July 9, 2010


    SFist: Of the 78 arrested, only 1/4 were from Oakland
    posted by yeloson at 11:21 AM on July 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


    Well, they could have moved it to Orange County, which has a whopping 2% black population. So, could have been worse (even worse would have been Nevada County, in the Sierra - .6%). Most - all? - of the counties outside the Bay Area have a smaller African American population than Bay Area counties. That's how California is.
    posted by rtha at 11:28 AM on July 9, 2010


    the Real Dan, in regards to the lay-offs as they relate to the "riots", an officer we know on the police force said that his cousin was slated to be one of those 80, but they are waiting until a week or so after the verdict to let people go.

    As an aside, I am quite pleased with Oakland right now and the community organizing that seems to have been effective in avoiding a repeat of the '09 situation. Those out of town agitators really bug me.
    posted by waitangi at 11:31 AM on July 9, 2010


    What exactly do you suspect? That undercover police actually smashed the windows? I don't understand.

    It's not a new tactic.
    posted by yeloson at 11:36 AM on July 9, 2010


    I wonder how the anarchist-supporters in the G20 thread feel about the anarchist instigators in the Oakland riot.
    posted by desjardins at 12:02 PM on July 9, 2010


    Mehserle has issued a letter to the public, written before the verdict, expressing his regret and remorse.
    posted by mudpuppie at 1:51 PM on July 9, 2010


    Wow, I know that newspaper comments are generally terrible, but the comments on Grant's photo are repulsive. (sort by popularity for an even worse view)
    posted by desjardins at 2:11 PM on July 9, 2010


    3)The trail was not seen as fair, at almost any juncture.

    Ah, the passive voice is is the thing. Was not seen as fair by whom? And was that view accurate or inaccurate? Those are the big questions.

    The jury selection process carefully excluded black people from the trial (as in the example of the KKK person, above).

    "Carefully excluded" black people? The jury pool ended up with 3 black people out of 41. There are 11 seats on the jury. Is it your contention that any black person who is not excluded for cause should automatically be placed on juries in L.A. county?

    Why did they move it to a place that had fewer black people, rather than merely a place that didn't have as much exposure to the case?

    Alameda county is almost 15% black and easily one of the highest in the state. LA county is about 10% black. So you're screaming about a less than 5% difference. Exactly where in that 5% range would the injustice cease? 11% black? 12%? Oh, and I assume you have a suggestion for an urbanized county in California which would meet your criteria of having a significantly higher black population than L.A. county and being able to handle this case? I mean, I assume you do have a county in mind because otherwise you're just talking bullshit.

    Oh, I can't do it. It was a trick question! Fun! There isn't such a county! Solano county has a very slightly higher percentage of black folks but it's right up there by Oakland and is only a couple percentage points higher and is far less capable of handling such a case. So, yeah, you're just making stuff to be outraged about up.

    And so on, and so on at multiple junctures.

    And so on meaning you could continue to list a bunch more nonsensical reasons?
    posted by Justinian at 3:07 PM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


    SFGate comments are disgusting at the best of times and particularly bad when it's anything related to Oakland. From the outright racist to the I'm not racist but oh those terrible savages in Oakland sorts... ptui.
    posted by Lexica at 3:14 PM on July 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


    Damnit desjardins, now I went and read those comments and am too angry to get back to work. And that's with a good chunk of the comments having been removed for being too inflammatory!
    posted by aspo at 3:26 PM on July 9, 2010


    In the course of my job, I read transcripts of jury trials all the time - and I'm not at all surprised there were no black people on this jury. Not because it's all skewed and unfair, but because the jury selection process is more complicated than that. They are much more concerned with people's attitudes, and a person who loves the police and a person who hates the police are both people who shouldn't be on a jury. If they have a family member who is a police officer, it depends how close the relation is - if it's a spouse, forget it. And I'm talking ranging from murder cases to drug possession. They ask potential jurors what T.V. shows they watch, what newspapers they read. They might drop a juror because of their hobbies or life experiences. It goes on and on...so I'm not inclined to believe that it's purely racial profiling that went into the make-up of this jury.
    posted by agregoli at 5:03 PM on July 9, 2010


    I hoped to talk to Ms. Johnson (Wanda Johnson, Grant's mother) and Ms. Mesa (Sophina Mesa, Grant's girlfriend and the mother of his daughter) in the days following this terrible event, but death threats toward my newly-born son, my friends and family resulted in no communication occurring.

    The only way this makes sense is if he somehow suspected the family to be issuing the death threats. What a coward.

    For now, and forever I will live, breathe, sleep, and not sleep with the memory of Mr. Grant screaming "You shot me" and putting my hands on the bullet wound thinking the pressure would help while I kept telling him "You'll be okay." I tried to tell myself that maybe this shot would not be so serious, but I recall how sick I felt when Mr. Grant stopped talking, closed his eyes and seemed to change his breathing.

    Weird how he left out the part where he took those hands and put them in handcuffs.
    posted by one_bean at 5:49 PM on July 9, 2010


    Weird how he left out the part where he took those hands and put them in handcuffs.

    Was Mehserle the one who actually cuffed Oscar, or was it one of the other officers on scene?
    posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 6:37 PM on July 9, 2010


    "I wonder how the anarchist-supporters in the G20 thread feel about the anarchist instigators in the Oakland riot."

    I'm too terrified of jail-time myself to engage in fighty vandalism, but I've been thinking about Black Bloc type action and decided it's fucking awesome. Good on them, I say, they're out there having a go and taking a risk. I admire that.

    I like 'instigators'.
    posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 8:29 PM on July 9, 2010


    I'm too terrified of jail-time myself to engage in fighty vandalism, but I've been thinking about Black Bloc type action and decided it's fucking awesome. Good on them, I say, they're out there having a go and taking a risk. I admire that.

    I like 'instigators'.


    On behalf of Oakland, fuck you douchebag. We have to live here.
    posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 11:43 PM on July 9, 2010 [9 favorites]


    I'm too terrified of jail-time myself to engage in fighty vandalism, but I've been thinking about Black Bloc type action and decided it's fucking awesome. Good on them, I say, they're out there having a go and taking a risk. I admire that.

    I like 'instigators'.


    You are everything that is wrong with the left in this country.
    posted by Snyder at 7:12 AM on July 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


    Too soon, Gamien, too soon.
    posted by bam at 3:16 PM on July 10, 2010


    VikingSword: Why were black people excluded from the jury?

    Why were 3 blacks (out of 41 remaining jurors) peremptorily removed from the pool? Perhaps because they had family members or friends who were police officers. Or maybe they expressed pro-police attitudes. It's striking that you don't consider those as possibilities.
    posted by msalt at 4:37 PM on July 10, 2010


    When Police Shoot And Kill Unarmed Men
    posted by homunculus at 1:09 PM on July 14, 2010


    Oakland cops not coming unless crime is violent
    posted by homunculus at 11:00 AM on July 17, 2010


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