Which doesn't please me.
Here is my take on it. Either it was involuntary manslaughter, or it was 1st degree murder.
Why? Because he's a cop. He gets a lot of training, POST and departmental, and ongoing. So if he actually finished taking part in restraining the guy, stood up, stepped back, and knowingly drew his gun to shoot him... that's 1st degree murder.
Why? Because there a lot of steps in that chain. A host of places he could have stopped and said... "shit, I'm gonna kill this guy," which means it fills the defintion: All murder which is perpetrated by means of a destructive
device or explosive, a weapon of mass destruction, knowing use of
ammunition designed primarily to penetrate metal or armor, poison,
lying in wait, torture, or by any other kind of willful, deliberate,
and premeditated killing...is murder of the first degree. All other
kinds of murders are of the second degree.
To prove the killing was "deliberate and premeditated," it shall
not be necessary to prove the defendant maturely and meaningfully
reflected upon the gravity of his or her act.
Since knowingly pulling a pistol from the standard types of duty holster takes a couple of deliberate actions, and standing up to get range is a deliberate action, and the victim was immobilised on the ground, and so not a threat to life, limb, etc. If Mehserle intentionally shot him... it's either involuntary manslaughter, or it's murder. If it's murder, it's 1st degree.
That, at least, is my take on it.
All of which is important. Why? Because Mehserle was a cop. They get privileges the rest of us give up. They get to walk around and make us obey the rules. They've got the power to detain us, fine us, arrest us. They are given great leeway in the use of force.
They get, in fact, too much. I hate TASERs. I hate them for the casual way in which cops use them to gain abject compliance (e.g. the "don't tase me" plea from the UCLA library) And BART has terrible problems with them.
I've spent a lot of my life in the near proximity of deadly weapons. I've been training with firearms since I was five. I spent most of my adult life as a soldier. I've spent more nights with a rifle in arms reach than half the people who get married spend with their spouse. I know a little about what the training ought to do.
It ought to make getting the weapon to a ready state something damn near automatic. All the complex movements (and police holsters are complex; they are meant to be impossible for anyone but the wearer to remove the weapon) have to be so ingrained in the muscles the body just does them.
Ponder the amount of work your body does to walk across a room. Ponder how much you don't have to think about it. That's the level of automatic the skill of, "clearing the holster" has to be.
Then comes the question... To shoot, or not to shoot. Police departments spend a lot of time teaching that skill. Once the weapon is out, the cop has to decide.
Why? Because the effect of shooting when not needful is so horrendous.
Not so with TASERs. They are, "non-lethal" (though as Digby has been pointing out, we pretty much have only Taser International's word for that) so they can be whipped out without the same sorts of care.
Which they are. There is no inquiry when someone is tased. Worse, the departments blithely ignore TASER abuses. BART, which had a moratorium on them (not, as one might think because of this shooting, but because a cop shot one, from his cruiser, at a 13 year old on a bicycle) just let them back on the street. What happened... a BART cop shot a fare jumper in the back with one.
Because the suspect was committing contempt of cop.
Johnson "clenched his fist and squared off against the officer in an aggressive fighting stance," then turned and started walking down Shattuck Avenue, Alkire said... So he pulled out his electric-shock weapon and warned Johnson three more times to stop or he would be Tasered.
"At this point, the subject just kept walking away, and (the officer) felt it was reasonable to use the Taser - which he did," Alkire said...
The BART spokesman and Alkire said the officer had made a "judgment call" that could be justified.
"You could let the suspect go, but now you are sending a message to all suspects that they can put up a fight with officers, and we will have no law and order on the system anymore," Linton Johnson said.
That's the culture of cops and TASERs. It's the culture which says it's ok to tase someone who's cuffed, and pinned to the ground, but "abusive." I say that because no one in the places where such things are decided, has been refuting the idea of Mehserle's defense as unconscionable.
That idea, that cops deserve deference, and are entitled to punish us for, "sass" is pretty much at the heart of this, and I don't see signs of it changing.
I think this was a horrible accident. But a sort of horrible accident we can't afford to ignore. That he was a cop means it had to be prosecuted. We give cops the authority to constrain us. We can't allow them the ability to take advantage of that trust, and make this sort of mistake with no repercussion.
I'm sad. Sad that it happened. Sad that there is a dead man. Sad there is a living man with a life unalterably changed. Sad that there is a crowd of anarchist idiots trashing Oakland.
Sad that the systems we use to train cops aren't better built. Sad that TASERs are built to look, and feel, like guns.
Sad that I am so upset by all of the above.
Sad that, honestly, I don't think any of the things I think led to this are gonna change at all.
Just fuckin' sad.