Radley Balko writes a sober-minded column on the fate of Johannes Mehserle:
There's also the appearance of a double standard. Mehserle's defense is that he made a mistake. In the heat of the moment, Mehserle inadvertently reached for the wrong weapon. But Mehserle had training. He had other cops there backing him up. If we're going to be sympathetic to him, we should also show some sympathy and understanding for people like Cory Maye and Ryan Frederick, both of whom were tried for murder for killing police officers who broke into their homes at night. Both Maye and Frederick say they mistook the raiding cops for criminal intruders. Maye was convicted of capital murder. Frederick's jury opted for voluntary manslaughter.
That said, Mehserle shouldn't be required to suffer the accumulated anger stemming from other problems in the criminal justice system. He should be convicted of—and punished for—the crime the evidence presented at his trial proves he committed, nothing more. His jury did the right thing.
I think Balko's right that a great deal of the anger toward the Mehserle verdict comes from a perceived double-standard regarding how much leeway authority figures are given compared to regular citizens when it comes to making fatal mistakes, (especially when those people happen to be black) and that Mehserle doesn't deserve to be held responsible for an imbalance in the system. But while I agree that Mehserle wasn't guilty of murder, I don't buy that he didn't know he wasn't pulling out his Taser, and according to Julianne Hing's excellent analysis of how the jury arrived at such a weird verdict, the gun enhancement charge suggests the jury didn't buy it either.
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