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BART Excused From Oscar Grant Civil Lawsuit

| May 11, 2011
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Wanda Johnson, the mother of Oscar J. Grant III, is comforted by her supporters outside the Los Angeles Superior Court after Johannes Mesherle was sentanced to voluntary manslaughter. Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty

A $50 million civil case about the shooting death of Oscar Grant III can proceed to trial, but without BART, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn Patel also said that the lawsuit filed by Oscar Grant’s mother and friends should be decided by a jury.

However, she dismissed claims that BART failed to properly train its officers and did not properly investigate complaints of excessive force. Meaning, BART cannot be held responsible for the killing and cannot be sued.

The lawsuit will now focus only on the officers who were present when Grant was killed at the Fruitvale BART station on January 1, 2009: Johannes Mehserle, Marysol Domenici, Jon Woffinden and Emery Knudtson. The suit accuses the BART police officers of excessive force, unlawful detention and a violation of Grant’s civil rights.

Videos of the incident showed Mehserle and the other officers responding to a fight on the Fruitvale platform. The officers then tried to handcuff him as Grant lay on his stomach unarmed. At that point Mehserle stood behind Grant, pulled out his gun and fired a shot into Grant’s back.

Mehserle was charged with murder, but found guilty of voluntary manslaughter, and was sentenced to two years in prison. The Department of Corrections has said that Mehserle could be released as early as mid June for good behavior and time served, as reported by ABC News.

The U.S. Justice Department is also involved in a separate investigation into whether BART violated Grant’s civil rights.

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Category: Law

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About the Author ()

Lisa Pickoff-White is KQED's Senior Interactive News Producer. Her work has been honored with awards from the Online News Association, Investigative Reporters and Editors, Society of Professional Journalists and SXSW Interactive. Lisa specializes in visual journalism, including photography and data. Reach Lisa Pickoff-White at lpickoffwhite@kqed.org.

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