A Los Angeles judge has denied a request for bail made by a white former transit officer convicted of killing an unarmed black man on an Oakland train platform on New Years day two years ago. Johannes Mehserle, the former officer, was charged with murder in the death of Oscar Grant, but was later found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, the least severe of all the charges against him. The conviction carries with it a two year prison sentence that could easily be reduced to just seven months in jail because of time already served.
Though the shooting happened atop an Oakland train platform, the trial was moved to Los Angeles amid concerns that widespread outrage from the city’s black community would prevent Mehserle from getting a fair trial in the area. The 28-year-old Mehserle immediately appealed the conviction, and sought to be released on bail while the case was reviewed.
Michael Rains, Mehserle’s attorney, made his case to Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Perry that Mehserle met all the criteria for bail while the appeal was being considered. According to the San Jose Mercury News, that criteria included: not being a flight risk, not being a danger to society, and not having substantial issues on appeal that would lead a judge to believe a conviction could be overturned. Deputy District Attorney David Stein argued that the criteria Rains cited wasn’t strong enough for an appellate court to overturn the conviction, and were already dealt with when Mehserle’s conviction on gun charges was overturned.
"Two defense issues remain … neither raises a substantial legal issue for appeal," wrote Stein and senior deputy district attorney Michael O’Connor in legal papers, according to the Mercury News. "Defendant has not shown a substantial legal question that will result in reversal."
Rains will likely still fight for bail. In his assessment, the appeals process will likely take longer than seven months, when Mehserle is due to be released from custody.
Julianne Hing has previously reported on the real lesson of Mehserle’s trial for communities battling over zealous cops: that real justice is found in prevention.