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Mehserle trial verdict draws violence to Oakland, legal scrutiny

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Najee Ali, an LA-based activist, says he is calling for thousands to contact the judge in the case to push for the maximum possible sentence. “Unless he is sentenced to the maximum, there is no justice in this case,” says Mr. Ali. Sentencing is expected August 6.

Confusion on the difference between the possible verdicts – involuntary manslaughter, voluntary manslaughter, and second-degree murder – may have contributed to the outrage surrounding the outcome. "From the legal standpoint, I think there is much confusion about the difference between murder, voluntary, and involuntary manslaughter," says Los Angeles attorney Peter Berlin.

"Clearly, the jury did not believe Mehserle had the requisite intent necessary for murder or voluntary manslaughter," he says. "The fact the Mehserle’s act was 'voluntary' has nothing to do with his intent according to the jury. "Voluntary" and "involuntary" are legal terms misunderstood by many lay people, Mr Berlin adds.

Calm, then violence in Oakland

After the jury of eight women and four men – none black – announced their verdict, hundreds of people gathered in downtown Oakland for planned vigils.

Reports from the scene said it started out quietly, but as the night wore it brought with it an outbreak of violence. Hundreds of law enforcement officers from across the Bay Area converged on the area to help local police quell protests that included looting, smashed windows, ignited trash bins and fireworks.

A Foot Locker store was looted in the melee, which gives credence to claims that the violence was the result of "outside agitators," and not people invested in the case. “Before the sun went down, I was happy with everything," protester Stephen Allen told the Oakland Tribune. "The people who went in there and came out with shoes, that's not about Oscar Grant anymore. What we had before the sun went down, that was justice. This is just pure stupidity."

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