Paul T. Rosynsky, 11/8/10
Although former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle was sent to prison last week, the legal issues surrounding his killing of Oscar Grant III will continue for months, if not years.
An appeal by Mehserle’s attorney of the involuntary manslaughter verdict has already been promised.
The United States Justice Department is investigating the possibility of a federal criminal civil rights complaint.
Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley is considering whether to file an appeal of the sentence.
And, two federal civil rights lawsuits continue to move through the federal district court.
Mehserle was sentenced to the minimum two-year prison term allowed for an involuntary manslaughter conviction. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Perry said he believed the 28-year-old made a mistake when he shot Grant in the back early Jan. 1, 2009.
Instead of ending an emotional saga that has lasted nearly two years, the sentence most likely sparked a longer legal battle as Mehserle, Grant’s family and the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office continue to fight for legal victory.
The first legal action likely to take place is a request by defense attorney Michael Rains for bail to be granted to Mehserle as his appeal is reviewed. A hearing is expected to occur within the next month.
Rains said Friday that he will appeal the jury’s involuntary manslaughter verdict with a hope to both clear Mehserle’s record of a crime and to prevent other police officers from enduring a criminal trial for making a mistake on the job.
Meanwhile, O’Malley must decide if her office will appeal Perry’s ruling that threw out the jury’s decision to find Mehserle guilty of a gun enhancement. The enhancement states that a person must have intentionally used a weapon in a crime, and Perry ruled Friday that evidence did not support that finding.
O’Malley issued a statement Friday saying that her office will consider an appeal.
“In stating his decision, Judge Perry acknowledged that his rulings are appealable,” the statement read. “The Alameda County District Attorney’s will now evaluate all legal options.”
While both the defense and prosecution wade though the appeal process, the U.S. Department of Justice will conduct its own investigation as it decides whether to file a criminal civil rights complaint against Mehserle and former BART police officer Anthony Pirone.
John Burris, an attorney representing Grant’s family and friends, said he has urged the justice department to pursue a criminal complaint because Perry’s sentence was too lenient for the crime.
Burris also said he believes Pirone should be charged for using excessive force against Grant and his friends.
Burris also is seeking millions of dollars in damages from BART for the killing of Grant in two separate federal civil lawsuits.
Burris said both cases, one in which Grant’s mother Wanda Johnson has filed a complaint and the other in which Grant’s friends have file a complaint, are continuing with a trial scheduled for next May.
“The family certainly wants prosecution to continue,” Burris said.