Mehserle Claims Mistake in Bart Shooting of Oscar Grant

johannes20mehserleAs expected, ex-transit officer Johannes Mehserle, 27, is claiming that he shot Oscar Grant by mistake in the infamous video from the BART station in Oakland, California. He insists that he thought that his gun was his taser when he shot Grant in the back.

This was the only practical defense that Mehserle could advance beyond insanity (which would not have been particularly viable). In fact, such cases have occurred before in California. As discussed here, Madera officer Marcy Noriega in 2002 sought a man who was handcuffed and confined in the back of a squad car. Twenty-four-year-old Everardo Torres was allegedly trying kick the windows out so Noriega grabbed what she thought was her taser and shot him in the chest. She faced no charges.

Another such incident occurred in Virginia when Frederick P. Henry was fleeing arrest and Somerset County Deputy Sheriff Robert Purnell fired what he allegedly thought was his taser. It turned out to be his Glock .40-caliber handgun. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that a trial was appropriate, though the official could argue mistaken use of the weapon as a defense.

It will be interesting if Mehserle’s taser was a Taser M26. The Torres family sued the manufacturer for making the taser resemble a real gun under a product liability theory. It was thrown out by the court.

The defense in Mehserle could be strengthened by the casual appearance of the officer in shooting Grant. His counsel is likely to argue that, unless Mehserle was insane, he could not realistically hope to execute a man in broad daylight, even without video cameras. One interesting question will be whether the jury will be able to view a new tape showing a second officer striking a man before the shooting without provocation, here. If the man was Grant, it would presumably be relevant and material. It would, however, likely work against the defense (though, if it was Grant being struck, it could be cited as proof that he was unruly). It will also be interesting if the defense seeks to call officers like Noriega to support its taser confusion argument.

I was a bit surprised by Judge Morris Jacobson statements during the bail hearing where he granted bail but expressed his skepticism that Mehserle appeared willing to “make up something that’s not true” to escape responsibility. That seems a pretty incautious and biased statement from a judge in a pre-trial proceeding.

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21 thoughts on “Mehserle Claims Mistake in Bart Shooting of Oscar Grant”

  1. Все-таки интересное изобретение – блог. Казалось бы обычный сайт, но видоизменили подачу информации, отдали вебсайт в руки одного человека и открылась еще одна грань общения со всем миром. 🙂

  2. His counsel is likely to argue that, unless Mehserle was insane, he could not realistically hope to execute a man in broad daylight, even without video cameras”

    What surprised me about the video’s I’ve seen is that the officer wasn’t acting very upset after he shot Grant. I had to watch the videos a couple of times to see when the shooting took place because I couldn’t tell from police reactions. Maybe insanity (dissocial personality )isn’t such a bad defense.

    Mojo: I agree in this case. Grant was subdued, tazing him was unnecessary so I’d phrase it “Oops, I didn’t mean to kill him, I was just going to torment him some.”

    FFLEO “I disagree with chimene’s comment to outlaw Tasers. Tasers should not be outlawed, but LEOs who misuse them must receive severe legal penalties”

    Under normal circumstances I would tend to agree with this point of view. Non-lethal means to subdue someone are always desirable. With Tazers though you see a persistent use of them to torture and (inadvertently?) kill people and there are no legal sanctions against the individuals forthcoming. Civil sanctions are similarly lacking in fact if not theory. In the absence of sanctions (which is what we have now) Tazers need to be removed as a tool for police. Police are more likely to recieve sanctions if they are caught extorting donuts from shopkeepers IMO.

  3. Is “Oops” really a defense?

    “Oops, I had too much to drink and ran that person over …”

    “Oops, I meant to only stab my husband a little, and I accidentally stabbed him a lot …”

    “Oops, when I shot him with my gun, I thought I was shooting him with something else?”

    I realize there could be some good arguments made to defend this guy, and certainly it would only take a clever attorney to make this about proper equipment training, and “the similar handles on the gun and taser”, and the “heat of the moment” scenario causing confusion, but essentially this guy seems to be saying, “Oops.”

    And I recall when we would all rail against the improper use of the taser on civilians, but how about the improper use of a gun in place of the taser?

    Oops indeed …

  4. FFLEO,

    What are your thoughts on the developed but un-deployed foam glue gun technology? I realize it’s probably more utilitarian for crowd control, but while we’re on the subject of non-lethal weapons . . .

  5. Officer Mehserle should have never been granted bail for his own protection and to give some credence that the judicial system was impartial, especially given the video evidence of the shooting. The officer changed his story several times and his apparent lies were euphemized as inconsistent statements. As I have argued before within his blawg, governments are allowing incompetent persons to become LEOs through the lowering of psychological, physical fitness, and no criminal record entrance and retention standards.

    I disagree with chimene’s comment to outlaw Tasers. Tasers should not be outlawed, but LEOs who misuse them must receive severe legal penalties. Although I never carried a Taser, any officer’s claim of mistaking a heavy loaded firearm for a Taser is ridiculous or that he is an incompetent fool who should never work as an LEO. I would suggest one easy, commonsense remedy. A Taser must never be carried on the LEOs strong side—where he carries his service firearm—and only allow it on the weak side. A right-handed officer must carry the Taser on the left side of his duty belt.

    A Taser is a good tool in the ‘use of force continuum’ available to an LEO. As such, I would say *outlaw the fool not the tool.*

  6. How about no guns only tasers; or since that is not likely each Officer may carry only one or the other not both!

  7. Tasers should be outlawed. The police have shown that they can’t properly train people to use them appropriately; and that the “culture” of the police has deteriorated to where ANYTHING can and will be called “resisting” and thereby qualifying for tasing.

    It doesn’t matter what they’re manufactured to look like any more. The police in this country have FAILED to use them responsibly and they should be removed from the police “arsenal”. Period.

  8. Who can know the mind of a policeman. I saw the video and was pretty surprised, I actually thought he had the gun held on the guy and it went off by mistake. So it might make some sense that he thought it was a taser. Although the guy looked like he was, at the time of being shot/tased, acting pretty docile.

    How do you tell with stuff like this. If he gets a jury that dosent like cops he goes to jail, if he gets a jury that likes cops I think he gets probation and is no longer a cop.

  9. I am glad that the google warning language was taken off the site. It is amazing that one could confuse a taser for a handgun. I have to agree with Mespo’s take that the change of story plus the weak claim of confusion does not bode well for the officer. The video of the incident does not even show a need for the individual to be tazed, let alone shot.
    It looks like the Von Troll family has had another regeneration and continues its barrage of Prof. Turley’s site. I wonder if there is any connection between the Von Troll spammers and the invalid warning that could be found when you googled Prof. Turley’s site? The warning has since been removed,but I am sure that some people stayed off of the site because of it. It is sad that you cannot use facts and the truth to discuss or argue your point so one has to resort to shameful cyber attacks.

  10. district pro: re: Charlie Rangle, Tim Geitner and Tom Daschle, the government is missing out on hundreds of billions in revenue.

    This could be the turning point of America just like in 1982 when Americans realized that the Democratic party were mobster like in their actions.

    Tom Daschle has long been known to be a scoundrel as has Rangle. I think this is just the tip of the iceberg. We would’t even need a stimulus bill if the wealthy liberals would simply pay what they owe.

    I think the next person’s tax to take a look at is George Soros and all Hollywood actors.

  11. Iran says Obama’s offer to talk shows US failure

    Jan 31 08:16 AM US/Eastern

    US President Barack Obama’s offer to talk to Iran shows that America has failed, the government spokesman said on Saturday.

    “This request means Western ideology has become passive, that capitalist thought and the system of domination have failed,” Gholam Hossein Elham was quoted as saying by the Mehr news agency.

    “Negotiation is secondary, the main issue is that there is no way but for (the United States) to change,” he added.

    After nearly three decades of severed ties, Obama said shortly after taking office this month that he is willing to extend a diplomatic hand to Tehran if the Islamic republic is ready to “unclench its fist”.

    In response, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad launched a fresh tirade against the United States, demanding an apology for its “crimes” against Iran and saying he expected “deep and fundamental” change from Obama.

    end of article

    Well, so much for “dialogue”. Many said as much. I hope Obama learned a lesson.

  12. Jonathan, how do we send a message to our elected officials that this rampant tax cheating has to stop. I am dismayed that our President stands by people that are not complying with our tax laws.

    If one extrapolates lost tax revenue based on just Charlie Rangle, Tim Geitner and Tom Daschle, the government is missing out on hundreds of billions in revenue.

    I think it is time to make tax evasion an instant 10 year sentence when the amount exceeds $25,000 total over the course of 3 tax years. Maybe then people will sit down and spend time with their tax consultants or actually pay attention to the questions in the tax software.

    tens of millions of American households pay the taxes they owe and many of us pay more than we owe just to be on the safe side. All that good will is being wiped out by the likes of Charlie Rangle, Tom Daschle, & Tim Geitner.

  13. And the vikings all sing . . .

    spam spam spam spam spam spam spam spam
    wonderful spam
    beautiful spam
    spam spam spam spam spam spam spam spam

  14. To all here. I am fed up with Democrats already and will vote straight republican in 2010. This is ridiculous. See the new ABC News update:

    The report indicates that Daschle’s failure to pay more than $101,000 taxes on the car and driver a wealthy friend let him use from 2005 through 2007 is not the only tax issue the former Senate Majority Leader has been dealing with since his December nomination prompted a more thorough examination of his income tax returns.

    Mr. Daschle also didn’t report $83,333 in consulting income in 2007.

    Additionally, Mr. Daschle claimed almost $15,000 in charitable donations in recent years to organizations that don’t qualify for the deduction.

  15. The basis for the Judge’s remarks seem to be that Mehserle first told this story in court and not to investigators:

    “Jacobson, however, expressed skepticism, noting that Pirone had also told investigators that Mehserle, after the shooting, said, “Tony, I thought he was going for a gun.”

    The assertion that Mehserle meant to fire his Taser “appears to me to be a change in his story,” Jacobson said. “He has a willingness to add to the story, to change the story, to make up something that’s not true to avoid consequences.”

    I guess the Judge calls ’em as he sees ’em. Not to carry the sports analogy too far, but I think the video review will support the Judge’s call here.

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