A jury today found in favor of former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle in a federal civil trial filed by the father of Oscar Grant III, who was fatally shot by Mehserle at an Oakland BART station in 2009.
The jury of six women and six men awarded no damages to Oscar Grant Jr., the father of the 22-year-old Hayward man who was fatally shot by Mehserle at the Fruitvale BART station in the early morning hours of Jan. 1, 2009.
Mehserle has said he meant to pull out his Taser stun gun to subdue the younger Grant, but accidentally pulled out his service pistol and shot him as he was lying face-down on the train platform.
Oscar Grant Jr., who has been serving a life sentence since before his son was born for a 1985 slaying in Oakland, sued Mehserle over the loss of the familial relationship between father and son.
To find in favor of Oscar Grant Jr., the jury would have to have found that there was a strong bond between father and son despite his father’s incarceration, and that Mehserle had acted with the intention to harm Oscar Grant III when he shot him.
The jury found neither condition to be true.
Oscar Grant Jr.’s attorney Waukeen McCoy said outside of court that he was “disheartened” by the verdict.
McCoy said that according to testimony from Oscar Grant III’s mother, Wanda Johnson, the two were close ever since the younger Grant was very young and the family visited Oscar Grant Jr. frequently in prison:
“It’s very clear to me that the relationship was strong.”
McCoy also disputed Mehserle’s defense that he had meant to draw his Taser instead of his gun, arguing that Mehserle had drawn his Taser without issue earlier during the incident:
“They had him under control. … There’s no threat.”
McCoy said the Taser explanation “was just to confuse the jury.”
Mehserle’s attorney Michael Rains said in a statement that he is:
“What Johannes did was unintentional and would have been prevented by better training. This is the ninth time since Tasers started looking and feeling like handguns in 1999 that a law enforcement officer has accidentally shot a suspect who they intended to tase.”
Rains had argued during the trial that Oscar Grant Jr.’s relationship with his son was limited, that he did not know key details about his son’s life, and he raised questions about how often they actually spoke.
Oscar Grant Jr.’s sister, Bertrina Grant, bristled at the suggestion that Oscar Grant III did not have a close relationship with his father or his father’s side of the family:
“He always had a relationship with his daddy’s side. … He stayed with me — he knew his father was in jail.”
Bertrina Grant said that she came from Sacramento to watch the trial and that other members of Oscar Grant Jr.’s family attended after traveling from as far away as Minnesota, Texas and South Carolina.
BART was excluded as a defendant in the case. The transit agency previously agreed to settlements of $1.5 million with Grant’s young daughter; $1.3 million with his mother; and $175,000 with five friends of Grant’s who were detained at the station.
In a separate suit tried simultaneously, the family of Oscar Grant III’s best friend Johntue Caldwell sued BART police Officer Marysol Domenici for allegedly using excessive force in threatening him with a Taser on the BART platform immediately after Oscar Grant III was shot. The jury found in favor of Domenici.
The case was brought by Caldwell’s mother after Caldwell died in an unrelated shooting in 2011.
— Scott Morris, Bay City News