Jurors found a former Bay Area Rapid Transit officer guilty of involuntary manslaughter for the killing an unarmed man at an Oakland subway station Thursday.
Mehserle, 28, pleaded not guilty to murder in the shooting of 22-year-old Oscar Grant. Grant's family held hands as the verdict was read and let out a collective sigh after learning about the verdict.
The courtroom was packed. Oscar Grant's mother and his family prayed "that they would be granted success."
The first verdict was not guilty of second degree murder and the second verdict was not guilty of voluntary manslaughter.
As the second verdict was read, Mesherle began to cry and there was a clear look of relief on his face.
Mesherle was found guilty of the third verdict of involuntary manslaughter. The family had little reaction to the reading of the verdicts in the courtroom but one member of the Grant family said he did not believe that Mesherle would spend even one day in jail.
"As you can imagine we are extremely disappointed with this verdict," said John Burris, the Grant family lawyer. "The verdict is not a true representative of what happened to Oscar Grant and what the officer did to him that night."
Grant's uncle, Cephus Johnson, said the family was shocked that a decision came back so quickly and that they were disappointed with the verdict.
"I'm hurt. My sister is crying," he said. "But those in the community will express their feelings in a way that is appropriate to themselves. I have said from the beginning and I will say it again, we are a family of non-violence."
Surprisingly the judge ordered that Mesherle be remanded on the spot because of the sensitivity of the case. Mehserle was placed in handcuffs and taken away after the verdict. He turned to his family and mouthed, "I love you, guys."
Involuntary manslaughter carries a sentence of two to four years. Mesherle will be back in court on Aug. 6 for sentencing. Burris said the family will ask for a maximum sentence to restore some sense of justice. But he urged Grant family supporters to not respond with violence.
"We do not accept the verdict, we do not like the verdict but we do not want anyone to be injured or any more lives to be lost," he said. "A large group gathered shortly after the verdict was read outside the courthouse in Los Angeles."
The jury deliberated more than six hours over two days to convict Mehserle.
A jury in Los Angeles ended its first day of deliberations Friday without reaching a verdict in the case. Jurors deliberated for two hours and 20 minutes after getting the case at 1:40 p.m. last Friday, then adjourned for the long holiday weekend.
They didn't deliberate on Tuesday because a juror was sick. On Wednesday, they started from scratch after one juror had to be replaced because he went on a previously planned vacation.
Jurors then deliberated for only two and a half hours on Wednesday because one of the jurors had a medical appointment. There are eight-women and four-men on the jury.
None of the jurors listed their race as black. Seven said they were white, three were Latino, and one was Asian-Pacific. One declined to state their race.
The judge gave jurors four options during deliberations. Jurors were told they could convict the former officer of second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter, or they could acquit him.
The trial was moved from Alameda County to Los Angeles because of racial tensions and intense media coverage. The trial garnered a lot of attention because several bystanders videotaped the New Year's Day 2009 incident -- perhaps the most racially polarizing trial in California since four Los Angeles police officers were acquitted in 1992 in the Rodney King beating case.
Mehserle's lawyer, Michael Rains, has admitted that Mehserle shot and killed Grant, a 22-year-old Hayward resident, on the platform of the Fruitvale station in Oakland shortly after 2 a.m. Jan. 1, 2009, after he and other officers responded to a report that there was a fight on a train.
But Rains claims the shooting was an accident and Mehserle, 28, who's free on $3 million bail, meant to use his Taser stun gun on Grant.
Whatever the verdict, officials in Oakland are prepared for reaction from the public. Officers underwent crowd-control training and were put on 12-hour shifts as they awaited a verdict
While community activists have promised to gather at Oakland City Hall regardless of the verdict. Both police and community leaders have been spreading the word to keep the peace on the streets.