Several weeks ago, the topic of Taser use was initiated on this blog. The widespread adoption of their use by police authorities across the nation has raised many grave concerns. One of the most crucial, is the potential for confusion between electronic "stun guns" and regular service revolvers (pistols).
The video does nothing to establish conclusively exactly why or whether Mehserle "decided" to shoot Grant in the first place. Amateur video recordings of the event, taken from a distance of perhaps 30 feet, appear to show several officers attempting to subdue a group of African American teenagers who had been detained following a ruckus on the BART system. There is screaming and shouting from dozens of patrons on the platform and standing in the open train-car doorways. There's an atmosphere of raucousness and menace. Even a professionally trained peace officer, would have had trouble not feeling intimidated under these circumstances. Was any of these unruly young thugs carrying weapons? The officers certainly wouldn't have known, without searching them first. In the mood of the hour, it would have been prudent to assume that almost anyone at the scene was armed, and, given the angry confusion, capable of opening up on the the officers.
There are only three possible ways one can assume the shooting occurred:
1) Mehserle thought Grant might have a gun tucked into his pants, and that he was squirming around trying to get into position to pull it out, and pulled out either his Taser or pistol in self-defense.
2) Mehserle, unable to get Grant's hands into cuffs, got frustrated and decided to Tase him, reaching mistakenly for his gun (instead) and plugging him in the back.
3) Mehserle, aroused and upset by all the shouting and scuffling, and Grant's uncooperativeness, lost his temper (or his cool) and simply decided to shoot him.
Under circumstances like these, it's important to remember that people don't always act rationally. Surrounded by half a dozen Black youths, all of them drunk or high, "acting up" and threatening, half-resisting arrest, blurting out racial epithets, with dozens more by-standers screaming and dancing around, is it any wonder that an officer might become confused, scared, angry, frustrated, or simply disoriented?
In order to buy the "deliberate" shooting version, you'd either have to accept that he actually thought that Grant was packing (is that an implausible suspicion, given the circumstances?), or that Mehserle simply went berserk.
Considering the range of possible interpretations of the incident, and looking at the available video versions, it's highly prejudicial for any officer of the court to conclude, privately or publicly, that Mehserle's actions, insofar as they are known to us at this point, lead to a conclusion that he "intended to use his gun." Judge Clay's statement in open court, and his peremptory suspension of the hearing, are clearly prejudicial in every possible sense.
Judge Clay should be reprimanded, and the whole matter should be re-tried. He has probably ruined any chance that Mehserle can be fairly tried in the immediate area.
This isn't justice, it's a lynch-mob mentality.