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Ex-officer convicted in California train killing

Associated Press | 7/13/2010, 8:21 p.m.

The jury included eight women and four men. None listed their race as black. Seven said they were white, three were Latino and one was Asian-Pacific. One declined to state his race. They left the courthouse under tight security.

“We as a family has been slapped in the face by a system that has denied us a right to true justice,” said Cephus Johnson, Grant’s uncle. “We truly do not blame the jury, but we blame the system.”

At least five bystanders videotaped the incident in what was among the most racially polarizing cases in California since four Los Angeles officers were acquitted in 1992 in the beating of Rodney King.

The trial was moved from Alameda County to Los Angeles because of racial tension and extensive media coverage.

The case was a rare instance in which a police officer stood trial for an on-duty killing that was captured on video from so many different angles.

Legal experts said the verdict shows the jury sympathized with Mehserle’s version of events.

“It is legally as low as they could go without acquitting him,” University of California, Berkeley law school professor Erin Murphy said. Prosecutors had a “huge hurdle” to overcome in convincing a jury that an officer with a spotless record meant to kill, even with video of the killing, she said.

Mehserle testified that he struggled with Grant and saw him digging in his pocket as officers responded to reports of a fight at a train station. Fearing Grant may have a weapon, Mehserle said he decided to shock Grant with his Taser but pulled his .40-caliber handgun instead.

Alameda County Deputy District Attorney David Stein said in his closing argument that Mehserle let his emotions get the better of him and intended to shoot Grant with the handgun without justification.

Defense attorney Michael Rains contended the shooting was a tragic accident. Mehserle had no motive to shoot Grant, even though he was resisting arrest, the lawyer argued.

Associated Press Writer Trevor Hunnicutt in Oakland and Thomas Watkins in Los Angeles contributed to this report.