In the court of public opinion, however, facts play a minor role. Oscar Grant’s grieving family, egged on by ambulance-chasing lawyers, radical political groups, and every race-baiting organization on the West Coast, pressed for the maximum charges against Mehserle, in a gamble for a full murder conviction, even though it was inappropriate and they had a slam-dunk case for a lesser charge (such as involuntary manslaughter). However the judge’s jury instructions, not public opinion, will determine whether “lesser included charges” like manslaughter can be considered. The trial was moved to Los Angeles because of overexposure in northern California, and it is due to wrap up in a day or two.
When it’s over and the jury comes back with a verdict — watch out. Things are likely to get ugly. Very ugly.
Rumors of a riot after the verdict have been swirling for months, and have increased exponentially in the last few days:
All over the city, there’s talk of a riot if Mehserle is not found guilty of murder or manslaughter. Flyers and graffiti are posted everywhere demanding justice for Grant. Bloggers and columnist[s] are already speculating about how deep the civil unrest will become. Rodney King’s name is tossed about and the police are getting ready to crack heads if a riot goes down.
To get a taste of the mood around Oakland, look at the photos which have been scattered throughout this post. They were taken from this YouTube video and show graffiti sprayed earlier this week around Oakland’s most scenic spot, Lake Merritt. The sentiments range from “Mehserle Must Die!” to “LA Better Get It Right! Or else!” to the chilling “Oscar’s revenge? Mehserle’s kid!” And with the words “Cops bleed too” adorning the city streets, I have the feeling we may indeed be in for a repeat of the 1992 Rodney King Riots.
What’s your take on the case and on the inevitable civil unrest that will follow, whatever the verdict may be? What charge should Mehserle be convicted of, if any? If I was on the jury, I’d vote for negligent homicide, a few years in jail, and a guarantee that he’d never work in law enforcement again. (If he’s incompetent enough to draw the wrong weapon in a stressful environment, he should not be trusted to safeguard the public.) But murder? Forget it.