A federal jury in San Francisco has rejected a civil rights lawsuit filed by the father of Oscar Grant III, the man shot and killed by BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle on New Year’s Day 2009.
Grant’s father, Oscar Grant Jr., is among several people who sued BART or Mehserle in the wake of the fatal shooting at East Oakland’s Fruitvale Station. BART settled one of those suits, filed on behalf of Grant’s mother and daughter, for $2.8 million. The agency also paid $175,000 to settle a suit by several of the men detained with Grant on the Fruitvale platform.
Grant’s father’s suit claimed that Mehserle had wrongfully denied him a family relationship with his son. That claim was disputed by the defense, which pointed out that the elder Grant has been in prison, serving a life sentence for murder, since his son was an infant.
That argument appeared to sway the jury of six women and four men, who were asked to answer two questions: Did Oscar Grant’s father prove that he had maintained a deep familial relationship with his son? And did Mehserle harm the younger Grant “with a purpose … unrelated to a legitimate law enforcement objective?”
The jury unanimously answered no to both questions.
The Grant shooting touched off a series of protests in Oakland and demands that Mehserle face trial in the case. Alameda County prosecutors charged him with second-degree murder. During his trial in Los Angeles, Mehserle testified that the shooting was a mistake. Mehserle said that as he and other officers attempted to handcuff Grant, who was face-down on the southbound Fruitvale platform, he intended to draw his Taser to subdue the 22-year-old Hayward resident. Instead, he drew his semi-automatic pistol and shot him in the back.
A Los Angeles jury convicted him of a lesser charge, involuntary manslaughter. He was sentenced to two years in prison and was paroled after 11 months.
Here’s the jury’s verdict form in Oscar Grant Jr.’s lawsuit: