People stand near a mural of Oscar Grant III in downtown Oakland, California, on July 8, 2010 after BART cop Johannes Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the shooting death of Grant. (Photo by Mike Anderson)
A federal jury on Tuesday found that Oscar Grant, Jr., the father of Oscar Grant III, is not entitled to monetary damages from the fatal BART shooting, which he claimed caused him a "loss of familial relationship” when his 22-year-old unarmed son was fatally shot at Oakland's Fruitvale Station.
Grant's father - a convicted murderer - had sued ex-BART police officer Johannes Mehserle in August 2009. BART, BART’s chief of police Gary Gee, and BART officers Anthony Pirone and Marysol Domenici were also named in the federal suit.
“Five years later, the wounds are still there – I’m relieved that we can finally put this tragedy behind us, not just for Johannes and his family, but for the entire community,” Mehserle’s attorney Mike Rains said in a statement.
Rains also defended Mehserle in the 2010 criminal trial, where he was convicted of involuntary manslaughter. Mehserle was given credit for time served in a Los Angeles County jail and released in June 2011.
Mehserle testified at both the criminal and civil trials that he believed he was reaching for his Taser, not his utility weapon when he shot Grant in a situation so famous it became a movie, "Fruitvale Station."
“The jury took into account the fact that Oscar Grant’s death was accidental and that his biological father had a limited relationship with his son and therefore was not entitled to monetary damages,” Rains said.
Waukeen McCoy, Oscar Grant Jr.'s attorney, was immediately available for comment following the verdict.
But he did speak after Mehserle was called to the stand on June 11. "He’s a parent," McCoy told reporters outside court. "He just lost his son. He lost his son and under the 14th Amendment, he has a right to collect damages for someone depriving him of a familial relationship."
Grant Jr. had claimed that Mehserle’s intentional shooting of his son deprived him of a previous existing relationship which involved deep attachments and commitments to one another, and the sharing of special community of thoughts, experiences and beliefs. Grant Jr. was sentenced to prison for first degree murder in 1985, before the birth of his son.
BART has previously approved a settlement with the mother of Grant III’s young daughter, Tatiana, in January 2010 for $1.5 million and a settlement with his mother, Wanda Johnson, for $1.3 million. BART also has awarded $175,000 to Grant III’s five friends. No awards were made by BART to Grant, Jr. who remains in prison.
The civil trial against Mehserle began June 9 and was presided over by the Honorable Edward Chen in San Francisco’s Federal District Court.