The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Carlos Villarreal 415.377.6961 or Teague Briscoe 510.316.2475

National Lawyers Guild Criticizes Mehserle Verdict As Gross Injustice

Calls On Law Enforcement to Respect Civil Liberties As Community Reacts


The San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of the
National Lawyers Guild (NLGSF) condemns the involuntary manslaughter
verdict in the criminal case against former BART police officer
Johannes Mehserle. The trial judge, Robert Perry, acted
inappropriately by allowing irrelevant information about the
victim, Oscar Grant, before the jury.

"The verdict is a painful example of
what we already know, the criminal justice system treats white, police
officers with deference and poor people of color with hostility," said
Carlos Villarreal, NLGSF Executive Director. "It is shameful that
irrelevant aspects of Grant's past were put before the jury and
troubling that the jury included no African Americans."

There has been much attention on the
potential for violence in the aftermath of this verdict, and the NLGSF
is also concerned with the potential for violence. "We are extremely
concerned with the possibility that law enforcement will treat any
street actions, with or without vandalism, as an excuse to violate the
rights of civilians in potentially violent ways," said Teague Briscoe,
NLGSF President.

Last year, Oakland police made a
number of arrests of activists and journalists during uprisings in
response to Grant's killing and the lack of response from the District
Attorney and other authorities. Roughly 100 individuals were arrested
with fewer than a dozen ultimately prosecuted, mostly for minor
offenses. Most of those were ultimately dropped. Despite the claims of
the Oakland Police Department, the vast majority of the arrestees were
from Oakland and surrounding Bay Area.

The NLGSF has a history of opposing
police violence and regularly sends legal observers to political actions
and protests throughout the Bay Area. The organization has hundreds
of trained legal observers who are on call and prepared to monitor the
actions of law enforcement. Criminal defense and civil liberties
lawyers are also on call.

The NLGSF is an association of lawyers,
legal workers, law students and jailhouse lawyers with hundreds of
members in the Bay Area. See for more information.

The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) works to promote human rights and the rights of ecosystems over property interests. It was founded in 1937 as the first national, racially-integrated bar association in the U.S.

(212) 679-5100