The judge in the Johannes Mehserle murder trial decided to allow jurors to choose either voluntary or involuntary manslaughter as possible verdicts, along with second-degree murder and acquittal, the Chron and Trib report. The ruling was a blow to Mehserle’s defense team, which sought to limit the verdicts to murder or acquittal in the hopes that the jury would not find enough evidence to sustain a murder charge in the killing of Oscar Grant and thus would be forced to find the ex-BART cop not guilty.
However, Judge Robert Perry also ruled out first-degree murder in the case, saying there was insufficient evidence to prove that Mehserle killed Grant with “premeditation.” Second-degree murder carries an automatic sentence of 15 years to life in prison, but it could go up to 40 years to life if Mehserle also is convicted of using a gun to commit murder. If convicted of voluntary manslaughter, Mehserle would face a sentence of three to 11 years in prison. For involuntary manslaughter, his sentence would be two to four years.
Prosecutor David Stein argued that if Mehserle purposely shot Grant to death, then it’s second-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter. And if he did it by accident, then it’s involuntary manslaughter.