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Former BART Officer Johannes Mehserle to be released from jail

6/10/2011, 12:42 a.m.
Former BART Officer Johannes Mehserle to be released from jail

Former Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Officer Johannes Mehserle, who shot and killed unarmed Black male Oscar Grant, will be getting out of jail soon.

With credit for time served and leniency from Judge Robert Perry, Mehserle will walk from Los Angeles County Men's Central Jail free man after serving 11 months of a two year sentence. He slated to be released either late this week or in the middle of next week. Rumors have circulated online that he'll be released on Sunday.

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. Cell phone video of the incident eventually made its away online.

The verdict sparked outrage among many in the Black community. 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, after the verdict last year. "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 encounters with police, positive or negative, but White jurors that had relatives or friends in law enforcement were allowed on the jury.

Judge 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.

Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums discussed his feelings hours after the Grant verdict last year. "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," he said. "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."