3rd December 2009
The recent decision to move the criminal trial of Johannes Mehserle — the former BART officer who shot and killed Oscar Grant on New Year’s Day — to Los Angeles has once again thrust the city to the forefront of controversy involving police abuse and murder.
Nearly two decades after the Rodney King beating case and close to 45 years since Watts exploded in protest of law enforcement’s brutal behavior, the Grant case offers Los Angeles another opportunity to show the world how far we have progressed, or regressed, in ensuring that everyone — including police officers — is equal and accountable to the law.
As with any case involving law enforcement, it is not merely a legal matter. It is very much a battle for social power between the elements of the status quo (i.e. law enforcement, politicians, business) who benefit from police officers’ arbitrary violence against black people, in particular, and those who are fighting against it. Specifically, the Mehserle trial will go a long way in concluding if the state of California is willing to convict a police officer for murder.
While we are at least six months away from the start of the trial, its history-making potential begs for us to understand and analyze some important elements that will impact the verdict.