Notes Before the Verdict

Roger Porter

As I lay suffering in the intense discomfort created by the countdown to the verdict that will inevitably change my city – maybe even the whole country – forever, I have come to realize what most saddens me about the murder of Oscar Grant and subsequent trial of Johannes Mehserle.

It isn’t the fact that Grant was shot in the back while he was laying face down on the ground, and it isn’t the fact that after the “accidental” shooting the first thing that Mehserle thought to do was to handcuff a mortally wounded man and search him for weapons (emergency medical personal wasn’t called until several moments later).

Oscar Grant leaves behind so many things, among them a daughter who is the same age as my little girl. The fact that his daughter Tatianna will never see her father again because of Mehserle’s deplorable actions on that platform that night is extremely frustrating, but there is one thing that bothers me even more.

What saddens me more than anything else about this murder is the collective failure of every branch of law enforcement to condemn or even criticize Mehserle for killing an unarmed man. There has not been one police officer of any kind to state publicly that what Mehserle did was wrong and that he does not represent all police officers.

I think about the reactions of the community when those officers were murdered on 74th and MacArthur. There wasn’t just one person who called 911 there where multiple calls. There was also a man who ran to the scene of the crime to perform mouth to mouth resuscitation on one of the officers. In the aftermath of the event, there were several religious leaders and community members who openly expressed there disdain for the actions of Lovelle Mixon because it doesn’t matter who you kill in a just society, murder is wrong – period.

But what happens to a society when the very people who are supposed to stand for justice do not see it that way? Perhaps even more importantly, how are we as a society supposed to react once we realize that the police reserve the right to take our lives without being held accountable by the courts or even on the most basic level, they won’t even be held accountable by their own peers?

How in a just society can we value their lives as dearly as our own while they shoot us in the back in front of scores of people and handcuff us while we quickly bleed to death?

I think about the concept of justice, and I pray that it be served soon in that court room in Los Angeles. But I also wonder about the lack of trust. How are we to ever trust these people who repeatedly place there “fraternity in blue” over the humanity of the very people who they have sworn to protect and serve?

This piece was originally published July 6, 2010 at

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