A totally fascinating read.

I read a lot of blogs every day. There’s a folder in my RSS reader called “law” with somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 blogs in it. A lot of them are by criminal defense lawyers. Some are by journalists. A couple are by prosecutors, and a few are by public defenders. And a few are by cops.

I like the cop blogs Motorcop, Officer “Smith”: Thoughts From Behind The Badge, and Cop ‘n Attitude (which hasn’t been regularly updated for a while). They’re all pretty good writers, and they all offer a lot of insight into a job that’s very different from the one that we do here. It’s easy, when involved in criminal defense (even just as a blogger) to think of police as the enemy, and reading these guys helps keep a lid on that and reaffirms that everybody involved is a human who’s trying to do their best to make people safer and society more fair. Even if we don’t often see eye-to-eye on a lot of things.

But here’s something interesting: the officer who writes Motorcop has a blog post up about the forthcoming Mehserle verdict (not today, apparently…). This is the case in which a police officer, Johannes Mehserle, shot Oscar Grant in the back while he was lying face-down at the BART station in Oakland, California. There’s a lot of reading available on the subject, and I won’t recount the various opinions here, or even offer my own – you can probably guess where I weigh in.

What’s interesting, though, is reading a cop’s post in which he bends over backwards to agree with the suspect and insist that, according to the law, he should walk. He takes everything that Mehserle’s defense attorney says at face-value, and insists that even a guilty verdict for the charge of involuntary manslaughter is too difficult to ascertain beyond a reasonable doubt.

At the end of the day, Mehserle made a deadly error. As I read both the law and the jury instructions, I don’t think Mehserle is guilty of a crime.
It has been purported that Mehserle believed he was drawing his taser. Let’s ignore the cell phone videos, media coverage, and witness statements for a moment and look at common sense. Does it make sense that an officer, rookie or vet, would pull his duty weapon on a crowded platform with witnesses everywhere in a day and age of cameras documenting one’s every move, and intentionally kill a man while he is on the ground and unarmed? Give me a break.
Mitigation like that – “it just doesn’t make sense!” – comes up here often. In fact, most of the argument – trying to stake out what “beyond a reasonable doubt” really means, looking at mitigating circumstances, and things like that – are pretty familiar to people on our side of the criminal defense divide.
But it’s sure interesting to read them from a police officer.
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