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Oscar Grant's family vows to fight 'garbage' verdict

Stephon Johnson | 4/12/2011, 5:24 p.m.

Justice may not have been served for Oscar Grant's family, but the fight isn't over.

Former Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Officer Johannes Mehserle was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Oscar Grant in the early hours of New Year's Day 2009 on a train platform. Mehserle shot Grant in the back while he was handcuffed on the ground.

The ruling sparked outrage among many in the Black community and beyond. Grant's family, local activists and even the mayor of Oakland had something to say after the verdict.

"We will continue to fight for our equal rights," said Wanda Johnson, Oscar Grant's mother. "Certainly, we have seen how this judicial system has worked. To my family in Oakland, this battle is not over. We will be a people who are heads and not tail. We will be a people who are first and not last. We will be a people who are respected. Equal!"

Many questions arose in the aftermath of the verdict. Los Angeles, where the trail was held, is 25 percent white, but the jury in Mehserle's trial was 75 percent white. According to Grant's family attorney John Burris, potential Black jurors weren't selected if they had had encounters with police, positive or negative, but white jurors who had relatives or friends in law enforcement were allowed on the jury.

Judge Robert Perry had instructed the jury to leave when the video of the incident in question was broken down. He didn't want the tears of Grant's friends in the audience to impact the jury. But the jury was allowed to stay in court when Mehserle broke down and cried on the stand. Also, guards would not let Grant's family in the courtroom when the jury had reached a verdict. While local political officers and the mainstream media didn't report these things, some were more prepared for the aftermath of the verdict. Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums discussed his feelings hours after the Grant verdict.

"This community has waited with bated breath for this moment in anticipation of this verdict and have come to this moment with pain, passion, anger, fear and hope," said Dellums. "Many voices in the community are crying out for justice. Why so much attention on this particular case? This is not the first young African-American male that has lost his life to this kind of tragedy."

Mehserle wrote a letter dated Sunday, July 4, just four days before the jury found him guilty of involuntary manslaughter, that mainstream media labeled an "apology" to the family of Oscar Grant. In the letter, Mehserle stated that Grant's death with follow him everywhere he goes and pleaded for forgiveness.

"Please try to get this message to the public," Mehserle wrote. "I have and will continue to live every day of my life knowing that Mr. Grant should not have been shot. I know a daughter has a lost father and a mother has a lost son. It saddens me knowing that my actions cost Mr. Grant his life. No words express how truly sorry I am.