Mehserle’s body language after he fires the shot to me indicates panic and confusion, not satisfaction at having just carried out a deliberate execution, as some local politicians have portrayed it. I find the explanation that Mehserle thought he he had grabbed his taser to be not only plausible, but likely.
That doesn’t mean Mehserle should get off. He’s clearly at fault. Whatever line of work he finds next, a portion of his paycheck should go to Oscar Grant’s family for the rest of Mehserle’s life. That should probably go for the people who trained him, too (though that isn’t going to happen). Moreover, Mehserle should never wear a badge again. Oscar Grant’s death will either haunt him for the rest of his life, or it won’t. In either case, it disqualifies him from being a cop. If it’s determined that there was no reason for Mehserle to draw his taser (Grant appears to be handcuffed and on his stomach in the videos), then he’s guilty of excessive force, and a manslaughter charge might be appropriate. […]
At the same time, I’d pose this question to the Mehserle defenders I’ve seen on police forums and bulletin boards: I’m sympathetic to the argument that 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, where’s the sympathy for people like Cory Maye or Ryan Frederick?
Why should we assume good intentions when a cop with training, wide awake and conscious, with other cops all around him makes a mistake that ends with a fatality, but assume the worst when a civilian is awoken by the sound of police breaking into his home, and in the heat of the moment, fires a gun after mistaking them for criminal intruders?
I think a manslaughter charge is clearly appropriate.