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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Johannes Mehserle Charged With Murdering Oscar Grant - But More Questions Remain

Alameda Country District Attorney Tom Orloff announced that his office has charged Johannes Mehserle with murder in the shooting death of Oscar Grant on New Years Day. Orloff, according to the Press-Enterprise, went on to say that "At this point, what I feel the evidence indicates, is an unlawful killing done by an intentional act and from the evidence we have there's nothing that would mitigate that to something lower than a murder..."

Mehserle was arrested on a fugitive warrant for those charges yesterday evening in Nevada and is to be transported back to Alameda County, California some time before Friday after he waived his rights to an extradition hearing today in a Nevada court.

While the attorney representing Grant's family said the news of these charges was "terrific" and "consistent with the evidence I have seen". The rapid turn-around from previous delay tactics used by the BART authority and the District Attorney's office leaves some questions unanswered.

First, if the evidence of intentional murder gathered by the BART authorities and DA's office in this case were so conclusive, why is it that in previous news conferences the BART authority stated that, despite confiscating numerous cell phone cameras and other video evidence from several witnesses that night, the videos they had collected were too inconclusive to draw any conclusions?

Those previous statements either evidence an attempted cover-up by BART officials that should be investigated as aiding and abetting a murder suspect, or these statements indicate that officers who confiscated evidence of a crime that night had tampered with evidence of a murder and must be investigated.

Either way, the contrast between the DA's charge that the evidence was conclusive and BART's previous statements that it was inconclusive demands answers.

Next, there has been no word on whether other officers are being investigated for their participation in the murder of Oscar Grant. As our analysis of the video evidence that was released to the public by witnesses showed, another officer had punched Oscar Grant before he was taken to the ground, restrained, and then shot in the back by BART officer Mehserle.

This alone would make that officer an accessory to murder if it wasn't also for his assistance in holding Grant down with his knee on Grant's neck when he was shot. As our analysis showed, that second officer watched as Mehserle started to draw his service weapon and shifted his hold on Grant in order to move out of the line of fire while still restraining Grant when he was shot.

Clearly this would evidence that the other officer was aware that Mehserle was about to shoot Oscar Grant and that his actions to continue to hold Grant on the floor of the station while Mehserle fired would make him an accessory to murder. Since this is the case, the silence about whether other parties might face charges in this case is equally disturbing as the disparity of statements between BART and the District Attorney's announcement today.

The arrest of Mehserle gives us more questions than answers, and those questions demand further investigation and transparency, not more silence and inaction.

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