Grant Family Voices Discontent with Mehserle’s Minimum Sentence

Ra Sheta Dulan

The family of Oscar Grant expressed disappointment at former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle’s sentence for the fatal shooting of the unarmed Grant at Oakland’s Fruitvale Bart Station on Jan. 1, 2009.

It was the minimum punishment possible after Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to two years in prison by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge, Robert Perry on Nov. 5. Mehserle, whose manslaughter conviction included a gun enhancement that increased his sentence, faced up to 14 years in prison.

Judge Perry, who called it an “accidental shooting,” tossed out the gun enhancement, which makes him eligible for parole in seven months.

The case against Mehserle provoked violent protests soon after the shooting and again in July when Mehserle was found guilty of a lesser crime in Los Angeles. Over 150 arrests were made after the rally tribute to Grant turned into a march through the downtown Oakland area, where people broke windows of storefronts and automobiles.

Reaction to the case has drawn comparisons to the infamous 1991 Rodney King beating by Los Angeles police officers, which inflamed a racial divide and led to the disastrous 1992 Los Angeles riots when the officers were acquitted of brutality charges.

The victim’s family expressed their anger, rage, pain and disappointment.

Grant’s aunt, Valerie Grant is furious about the minimum sentence Mehserle was granted. “The punishment doesn’t meet the crime,” she said. “I do believe it’s a racist criminal justice system.”

Grant’s cousin, Elijah Grant expressed very little satisfaction with the trial’s outcome. “It does not matter whether he done it on purposely or accidentally, why would he kill a man that has his hands behind his back in handcuffs?” he said. “How harmful can a man be with his hands cuffed to his back? The fact that he killed an innocent man on camera and still got away with it shows how corrupt the system is.”

Grant’s cousin, Jesten Grant also expressed his disappointment. “What I take from it is that my cousin’s life was not worth very much,” he said. “No amount of money or time will bring my cousin back. We have to go on with the rest of our lives knowing that justice was not served.”

In tearful testimony, Mehserle said he intended to use his Taser because he believed Grant might be reaching for a gun in his pants pocket.