Justice for Oscar Grant.

Julianne Ong Hing is providing some fantastic reporting of the trial of Johannes Mehserle, the BART police officer who shot Oscar Grant dead on a transit platform in San Francisco even though he was handcuffed and lying face down on the ground with a knee to his back. Here she is recounting the cross examination of Grant's friend Jackie Bryson, who watched his friend die before his eyes:

Bryson proved a formidable witness against the defense, however. His recounting of Grant's shooting, which came after three hours of combative back and forth with Rains, gripped the courtroom. “Smoke was coming out of his back, and they turned him over and there was a puddle of blood,” Bryson recalled. “I said, ‘Oscar, Oscar, stay awake.’ Everybody started screaming his name,” Bryson recalled. Bryson remembered someone begging for the BART police to call for help, but being told: “When you shut the fuck up, then we’ll call the ambulance.”

“His eyes is there, but blood starts coming out of his mouth,” Bryson remembered, the emotion bubbling up in his voice. “’Let me talk to him,’ I said, ‘I can keep him here. I know you don’t want him to die.’” Bryson told cops on the platform.

Behind me, court observers sobbed and winced in anguish. The grief and anger was still very fresh for people.

Hing says the prosecution hasn't been very convincing.

All throughout the prosecution, people in the audience kept waiting for the prosecution to produce a star witness or an explosive piece of evidence that just never surfaced...In the court of public opinion though, Mehserle is already guilty. He was guilty the minute those videos were uploaded onto YouTube, but not in the eyes of the court yet, and not by the legal definition of murder.

It is, frankly, very difficult to convict a police officer of murder for killing an unarmed black man even in a case as seemingly cut-and-dry as this one. The race of the officer is less of an issue than the race of the victim. The fear of young black men is widely shared across society, and because of that, people tend to excuse excessive force by authorities precisely because they share the fear that motivated them to pull the trigger. They empathize with the officer, while the terror that potential Oscar Grants feel is alien to them. What that ultimately means is that despite the circumstances, getting justice for Oscar Grant will be very hard.


-- A. Serwer

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