Questions on Oscar Grant

By Ta-Nehisi Coates

I hate to say this, but I really would not be surprised if they don't get Johan Mehserle on a murder charge. It just strikes me that this...

Defense attorney Michael Rains has maintained that Mehserle meant to pull out his Taser stun gun instead of his .40-caliber handgun when he shot Grant. In his opening statements, Rains said Mehserle told Pirone before the shooting, "Tony, Tony, Tony, I can't get his hands. I'm going to tase him."

Prosecutors believe Mehserle did intend to shoot Grant and that he used his weapon because officers were losing control of the situation.

...is a really high bar. It's not even clear to me that Mehserle intended to shoot him. I always thought that was beside the point. "I meant to tase him" has never struck me as an satisfactory explanation, and totally unsatisfactory excuse.

Proving intent strikes me as really difficult. For those of us who've watched police brutality cases, we've seen cops get off repeatedly because "intent" couldn't be proven. Indeed, it's a matter of credibility and, somewhat understandably, citizens tend to believe cops.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2010/06/questions-on-oscar-grant/58160/