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

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

"For now and forever, I will live, breathe, sleep and not sleep with the memory of Mr. Grant screaming, 'You shot me,' and putting my hands on the bullet wound, thinking the pressure would help while I kept telling him, 'You'll be okay!'"

But Cephus Johnson, Grant's uncle, didn't buy Mehserle's words. While speaking to the media upon the Grant family's return to Oakland, Johnson noticed something missing from Mehserle's letter.

"This letter--let's be clear--was not address to us," said Johnson. "He states in the very beginning of the letter, 'Please let this message get to the public.' I didn't see my name or my sister's name at the top of that letter. It's very painful that the media portray this as a letter of apology to the family of Oscar Grant. This letter is not titled to us. Let's be clear.

"This is a letter that was perfectly designed to influence the judge, as well as the jury, to affect his sentencing," said Johnson. "It's garbage." Johnson also stated that the surveillance video of the incident showed Mehserle putting his knee in Grant's back after he was shot.

"He states that because of the public and death threats on his life [that] he wanted to have some dialogue and couldn't and he was forced to leave the state [of California]," said Johnson. "He can write this letter after he's served 14 years in prison, and maybe we'll believe him."

Minister Keith Muhammad, who's worked alongside and counseled the family of Oscar Grant, expressed a similar reaction to Mehserle's letter.

"While we understand the process of atonement, the very first step in atonement is to be truthful," said Muhammad, "to point out what is wrong and ultimately deal with the party that you have offended. A letter to the press is not a letter to the family of Oscar Grant. That is a political letter.

"This apology should have been delivered on January 1, 2009," Muhammad said.

Hope may be on the horizon in the form of federal government. The U.S. Department of Justice has decided to step in and investigate the case as a civil rights crime. Any federal time Mehserle receives from a civil rights conviction wouldn't be served until he completes his time for involuntary manslaughter. The last time the Department of Justice intervened in a high-profile case was the Rodney King trial.

According to the court's public information office, Mehserle's sentencing has been pushed back to the fall (October or November), with no exact date given.