Monday, June 28, 2010

Mesherle Weeps On the Witness Stand

The San Francisco Chronicle reports on the testimony of former Oakland BART officer Johannes Mesherle, the transit cop who shot and killed Oscar Grant at point blank range and caught on cell phone video.  This is from Demian Bulwa's story:

"'I didn't think I had my gun.'

Those were the words Friday of former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle, who wept on the witness stand at his murder trial as he testified that he had accidentally shot and killed Oscar Grant while intending to fire Taser darts into the unarmed man's back.  But after waiting for a year and a half to hear an explanation from Mehserle, Grant's family was not satisfied. They said the story was a lie, the tears a piece of courtroom theater.

Mehserle said that seconds before the shooting, he had decided to shock the 22-year-old Grant with a Taser because he saw him dig his right hand into his pants pocket - the same hand Mehserle was trying to handcuff on the platform of the Fruitvale Station in Oakland during an arrest early Jan. 1, 2009.

The pistol pull was smooth, with no 'red flags' to tell him he hadn't grabbed his Taser, said the 28-year-old ex-officer. He didn't realize he had shot Grant, he testified, until he looked at his right hand after firing and saw he was holding his pistol.

'I didn't think I had my gun,' Mehserle told the jury in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom. 'I remember the pop. It wasn't very loud. It wasn't like a gunshot, and I remember wondering what went wrong with the Taser. I remember looking to my right side and seeing my gun in my right hand,'  Mehserle said. 'I didn't know what to think. I just thought it shouldn't have been there.'

Defense attorney Michael Rains asked Mehserle what he remembered after that, and the former officer, by now crying, struggled with the words. "I remember Mr. Grant said, 'You shot me,'  he said.

Heckler's yell bring arrest

Grant's mother, Wanda Johnson, quickly left the courtroom as a Bay Area man identified by friends and authorities as Tim Killings, 24, stood and yelled, 'Maybe you should save those f- tears, dude.'  Bailiffs arrested Killings on suspicion of disorderly conduct and led him from court, and Judge Robert Perry declared a brief recess."
As you will recall from my earlier posts on this sickening-video recorded homicide, the prosecution of former officer Mesherle will turn on the concept that we talk about repeatedly on Bad Lawyer--mens rea, what was Mesherle's intention. It sounds like Mesherle's testimony helped him bring perspective on this awful event.  There certainly is the "taste of hell" in this unnecessary tragedy, and lessons for all of us abounding., especially the lesson of abuse of police power.

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