Updated: Oscar Grant Appeals Ruling Implicates Mehserle's Supervisor
Update, 6:18 p.m. : The plaintiffs' attorney, John Burris, said he's pleased with the Ninth Circuit's decision to implicate Pirone. "It was Pirone's needless overaggressiveness that resulted in Oscar's death," Burris said. While Mehserle was culpable for the shooting, he added, it was Pirone's actions that "set everything in motion."
The specter of Oscar Grant floated back into popular discourse this summer, and not only because Ryan Coogler's film Fruitvale Station briefly resurrected the slain 22 year-old. Earlier this week, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on a closely-watched civil rights case that Grant's friends and family launched against the three BART officers who were implicated in Grant's killing, as well as the transit agency and its management.
Grant's friends Nigel Bryson, Jack Bryson, Jr., Carlos Reyes, Michael Greer, and Fernando Anicete, Jr. sued BART in San Francisco district court back in December, alleging that officers Mehserle and Marysol Domenici, as well as their supervisor Anthony Pirone, had unlawfully detained the five men -- and Oscar Grant -- on an eastbound BART platform on New Year's Day, 2009. By arresting them and holding them handcuffed overnight after shooting Grant, they had violated state and Constitutional law. Grant's father filed a separate complaint, claiming that the officers had denied him a familial relationship with his son.
The district court upheld many of these claims and the appeals court affirmed most of them on July 30, in a ruling that spread the blame from Mehserle to his superior officer and to the transit system itself. Citing Pirone for both the unlawful detention and arrest-without-probable cause claims, Ninth Circuit Judge Mary H. Murguia noted the "questionable nature of Pirone's authority to detain the group for a misdemeanor that abated before his arrival."
Commenting on the case last night, San Francisco Chronicle courts reporter Bob Egelko contended that the appeals ruling "could shift some of the blame to the officer's supervisor and perhaps the transit system itself."
We called BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost and the plaintiffs' attorney John Burris this morning, but we're still waiting for their response.